I am not a gambler. I don’t make sports bets or play the lottery. I enjoy playing poker and blackjack, but I can take or leave playing either for money. Gaming with money on the line does change the stakes, however, and often in a way that I respond to positively (even if I also respond with lots of swearing and yelling to). There’s no better example of this than when I was a kid playing games like Galaga in the arcade.
My mother never carried many quarters nor did she care to go out of her way in giving me dollars to exchange, so each one of my quarters counted. Live or die, the amount of time I got to play in the arcade depended entirely on my skill and the size of my wallet. Though I was never good enough to attract an audience, I can remember watching older kids (sometimes my own cousins) getting extra far than others. The sense of respect and excitement of watching others succeed where you had expensively failed many times before was in its own way a cathartic experience.
These days, that feeling is mostly lost. There are some places you can spend a quarter or two to play a game, but those games are often old, outdated, and terrible. A local pizza place here still has a working Mortal Kombat 3 machine, but it hasn’t aged well. The theatre I worked at had a small arcade that featured a light shooter and a bike-controlled games, neither of which got much play. Arcade machines can no longer compete with modern consoles, especially with the arcade culture completely gutted.
I won’t bemoan the death of the arcades too much, but I am saddened to see that nothing has really risen up to replace arcades here in the states. Other countries have a rich culture of net cafes which can at least function somewhat as a replacement arcade when it comes to playing games (MMOs, MOBAs, Starcraft) in a more public space. Perhaps when Gamestop realizes that the future of gaming is going to be digital, they’ll start converting stores into show floors that let players demo entire games along with their friends before buying them online, along with having more local events and tournaments. If there is a future-proof niche, it may be something like that.
This article was inspired by a thought I had the other day: I miss the chance of losing a quarter and having my game cut short by bad luck or bad play. Instead of doing a typical group play game stream, maybe it would be more fun to put some money on the line. There could be a quarter buy in, quarter penalties, etc. All the proceeds could go to a charity too. It wouldn’t be the same as playing a game in an arcade but I think it could add a fun, positive element to an otherwise regular evening of gaming.
As with most ideas I have, it may never come to fruition. Still, I thought I’d toss it out there for my blogger friends to discuss. However loose and spread apart, I consider everyone on my blogroll to be one community. I trust your thoughts, opinions, and insights!