ArcadeTales Part 1
I decided to write this last weekend when on a trip to the Metro Centre (a shopping centre here in the UK). While there I went to the Namco Funscape Arcade. It is pretty cool in there, but the current crop of arcades really is not a patch on the 80’s when I was a kid throwing down my 25 pence to play some arcade games. I know that the current consoles are able to give us what we would get in a arcade anyway, but it still does kind of suck when arcades today just consists of racing games, dancing games, shooting games, and games like Guitar Hero. At least this arcade had Tekken 6 (more on that in a later episode). The purpose of this article is to provide an account of some of my fond memories I had as a kid growing up in the arcades. I enjoy playing online today, but it just lacks the charm that playing in an arcade once had.
As a kid there was little doubt that the guy who was king of the StreetFighter II arcade machine was “the man”. When I was twelve a video store down the street from my high school at the time had a small arcade in the back, and there were about eight machines total including a pinball machine, and of course StreetFighter II. Every lunch break there would be a group of at least twenty kids lining up to play Street Fighter II, and all waiting anxiously for their own turn. It got so crazy at times that the lady who owned the store would temporarily shut down the actual video store section so that she could keep an eye on all the kids playing the games.
StreetFighter II was a serious game in the arcades where I grew up in Scotland, so the appeal of StreetFighter II was truly worldwide. Growing up we only had one unwritten rule while playing, and that was no instant rematches. If you lost then you had to go home and be with your family, or you could just go to the back of the line and try to reclaim your honour a little bit later.
It was crazy how competitive it was back then, and it would take me awhile to get used to being watched by so many kids all shouting at me and critiquing about the way I was playing (all the while trying to steal my secrets and strategies). I really had to keep a cool head and try and block all the noise of the crowd out. In addition many players would try to play mind games with me, and distract me while I was playing.
Also at this small arcade there was one guy named Gareth who was the “top dog” at school. Gareth was a 6th year which would have made him about seventeen at the time, and despite our games of StreetFighter II, we never had any other interaction at school. During game time it was odd for a 6th and a 2nd year to be seen together. While he was the top dog for Street Fighter II, the place for 2nd was never quite settled. There was myself and a guy named Paul who was also twelve like meself. Gareth was an expert with Ryu, I had Ken, and Paul had Guile.
Since Paul and I were the same age we shared a lot of the same classes, and we would always trash talk each other about who was going to kick each other’s butt during lunch time. When Paul and I ever managed to fight each other it felt like it was some kind of super showdown. We were so evenly matched that we pretty much knew what each other’s best moves and tricks were, that it was almost felt like a game of chess. While we always trash talked each other during class, while we actually played there was a great deal of mutual respect during game time (a very vast contrast to when kids play online day).
I would spend hours upon hours practicing Street Fighter II on my SNES, and I am sure Paul did the same. The truth is it never really prepared me for when I stepped into that line in the arcade. I never fully knew what to expect. Maybe today was one of those days when I was going to be pumped up by the people watching me, and I was just going to destroy everyone who dares drop 25 pence of theire lunch money in the machine to face me. Or perhaps the pressure from the crowd would make me crack and I would make a bunch of rookie mistakes and get beaten by someone spamming the E Hondas slap.
It can be fun playing Super StreetFighter 4 online, and I do enjoying play it. It however lacks that experience of being surrounded by people all having a good time, and watching and learning from other’s mistakes and successes. It is one thing to be a master on Xbox live, but the stakes are so much higher when your standing there side to side with your opponent confident that when the next fight takes place, it will be me facing a new challenger and not them.