Quality of Life Features We Need in Modern Arcade Games

May 18, 2020

It should come as no surprise that I think arcade games are pretty great. (I mean, have you seen my blog?) That being said, I certainly don’t believe that all arcade games are perfect all the time. There are some universal issues affecting a large number of arcade games that I’d like to see addressed—hence the existence of this lovely article.

            While I obviously can’t and ever try to force manufacturers to bend to my will, I still think it’s important to share thoughts like these publicly, given that many of you might agree and push for the same changes. So, without further delay, let’s dive into a few quality of life features I feel should be implemented into most, if not all, arcade games going forward.

Headphone jacks

Headphone jacks are something I’ve wanted on all arcade games for a long time now—and to be perfectly frank with you, it’s borderline ridiculous that this minor quality of life feature isn’t already ubiquitous.

            If you’ve ever been to an arcade—which, you know, I’m guessing you have—you’ll surely know that arcades can be noisy, bustling places. A lot of the time, this means that it’s darn near impossible to hear the sound coming from the very game in front of you. As a video game music diehard, this is something I really don’t like.

            In my eyes, the most obvious solution would be the inclusion of headphone jacks—or, for the modern men and women among us, Bluetooth headphone compatibility—on every arcade game that can handle it.

            Whereas headphone jacks are pretty commonplace on Japanese arcade games, I can’t think of many games released on this side of the pond with the same functionality. (Good ol’ reRAVE offers a headphone jack with its own volume control. Now, that’s what I’m talking about.)

            At the end of the day, it’s just odd to me that almost every ATM has a headphone jack but only a handful of arcade games bear the port. (Yes, I know ATM headphone jacks are an accessibility feature. Just let me make this point, darn it.)

Mobile save data

Before I dive into the deets, I want to make clear exactly what I mean when I say “mobile save data”. Mobile save data, for the purpose of this discussion, is the ability to move geographically from machine to machine and carry your game progress with you. While mobile save data is typically facilitated via internet, this can also include portable storage mediums such as USB drives and memory cards.

            The ability to carry player saves from machine to machine would be an invaluable quality of life asset that would propel this lagging industry into the present. After all, there’s no conceivable reason I should still be using machine-dependent PINs to save my racing game profiles in the year 2020.

            The sheer lack of online connectivity in the modern Western arcade is something I’ve discussed before at length—but my word, does it bear repeating. What makes this phenomenon all the more staggering is that Japanese arcades have been connected for years now. Who’s to say we can’t make it work, too?

            Even if we had to buy offline memory cards—because goodness knows this industry is scared silly of the internet—I’d just be grateful for the opportunity to partake in modern society like the home console players do. As such, I’m pleading for mobile save data to hit our arcade scene sometime soon.

Selection buttons on racing games (et al)

Just like headphone jacks, it’s beyond a wonder to me why selection buttons are often absent from racing games or other arcade genres known for their less “conventional” control schemes.

            In the vast majority of examples, we players are forced to navigate menus with steering wheels, tilting motorcycle shells, and the like—but hardly ever are we given, say, arrow keys to more easily zip through these selections.

            Although this may seem silly or even superfluous to some, I personally would appreciate the implementation of this relatively simple quality of life fix. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve screwed up name entry on a racing game due to trouble selecting letters with a steering wheel or bike before time ran out.

            I know this is possible—Konami, for example, tends to include separate selection buttons on most of their rhythm games—so I’d really like it to be more widespread.

Although features as (arguably) trivial as headphone jacks, mobile save data, and selections may not seem to warrant an article, I honestly haven’t seen many others discussing these points, so I wanted to bring them to light through my platform. It’s like always suggest: All ideas are worth sharing.

            Of course, as I mentioned earlier, arcade games in general are still plenty good and well—more or less—but that I do see room for improvement in some regards. I’m genuinely hopeful that, by sharing these thoughts, I can generate discourse around them and nudge the industry toward desirable outcomes. You never know what may happen, my friends.

            If you enjoyed this article and have some thoughts of your own, I’d be overjoyed if you shared them with me on Twitter or Discord.

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© 2017-2020 Dustin Wilcox.

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