When I was young, I carried in my head a mental map of every 7-11 and AM/PM that had my favorite video game machines. If I had even just one quarter, I would grab my bike and head out to one of those places, just for the chance to waste it. But my responsibilities changed if I ever had more than a few quarters. Because if that were the case, I wouldn’t be wasting them in a mere 7-11. I would be wasting them in an arcade.
Arcades were in malls, mini-malls, and sometimes (though at a smaller scale) movie theaters. They weren’t fancy, like Dave & Buster’s, or Jillian’s, or those fake bowling alleys that take reservations. They were seedy little retail spaces, filled with row after row of standing video game machines, drivers of a very real moral panic of the time. These devices were nothing like the triple A titles one might load on one’s Playstation or XBox today, but are more like the decomposing Galaga machines you sometimes see in bars that cater to young and not-so-young adults whose sophisticated consumer tastes require that their nostalgia-centers be stroked before they do anything that might result in a Yelp review. These were games of twitchy but ponderous, repetitive stress-causing, side-scrolling delivery devices for conceptual 8-bit violence and silly storylines. And the arcade was the cave where those old machines lived when they were new. It was their natural habitat. And as such this cave was also a honey pot, because these machines, and this place, didn’t exist to amuse mere adult children, as those machines do now. They existed to lure actual children—unsupervised children…
…and avail them of their precious quarters.
(Read on: Part 2)