Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Arcade is Back!

Ah, how I wish this were true. I know, I know arcades are still around here and there. We have Dave & Busters, Chuck E. Cheese and a slew of smaller arcades in shopping centers and strip malls. But these are only shadows of what were the glorious arcades of the 70's and 80's. These newer "arcades" are missing a lot of the ambiance and soul of their predecessors. Instead of dimly lit, music thumping, snack-bar smelling, neon caves we have bright lights and bare walls. Instead of a large variety of gaming genres we have shooters, driving and dancing games. Oh, and ticket redemption games. Ugh.

But for a couple days each summer the Arcade is back. And I mean back in a big and bad way. You see every summer old school arcade gamers are treated to the largest arcade ever. And, with a couple hundred arcade games and pinball machines all set to free play. Yes, I said free play. This would have been like heaven back in the early 80's. Something that kids everywhere dreamed about. Add to that a bunch of unreleased prototype games and rare arcade games, it feels like you are experiencing these games for the first time, much like it would have been back in the day at your favorite arcade when they featured newly released games. Remember the first time you saw Donkey Kong or Pac Man? I had a similar experience this weekend seeing Teeter Torture and Atari's Firebeast.

California Extreme, or better known as CAX, just wrapped up it's 2009 expo in Santa Clara, CA this past weekend. It was held at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara Convention Center and was truly a show floor to behold. I spent two days meeting with other gamers and playing tons of arcade games and pinball machines from my youth. It was also amazing to see the number of small children enjoying these gaming relics and truly having as much fun as they would by pulling off insane combos on DDR. It was an opportunity to play many games that I never had the experience of playing way back when. Growing up in Nebraska, we did have a good selection of arcades, but even then, there were many games that for one reason or another were no-shows on the arcade scene.

Arcades will never exist like they did before. But for one week in July the Arcade was alive and well. And with this, it will have to carry me for a year until I can once again step into the arcade of my dreams. Wakka Wakka Wakka.

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