As one of the resident arcade bloggers on the world wide web, I’ll sing the high praises of my most cherished means of gaming until the proverbial cows come home. Even so, I recognize the experience is far from perfect.
We the players pay varying “fees” to business owners for access to arcade games. Our time with these titles is temporary and subject to withdrawal by the curator, not unlike streaming services. Sure, the cabinets themselves are physical media that won’t fade into digital oblivion, but that doesn’t mean we’ll always get to play them.
Case in point: I’ve had to say goodbye to beloved arcade games a few times in my life, and it never gets any easier. This is a phenomenon I want to discuss in more detail today.
In May, I visited the Southern Lanes game room in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, for the first time in more than a year. I was beyond stoked to try The Walking Dead and, far more importantly, reunite with Dance Dance Revolution Extreme. I frantically peered through the newly rearranged selection, but alas, my darling dance game was nowhere to be found.
I spoke to a Southern Lanes employee who said the machine had suffered daunting maintenance issues before finally getting carted out. I called the operator, Brewer Amusements, who explained the machine probably didn’t earn well enough to justify its floor space. Either, DDR was dead and gone.
Compounding matters was the fact I hadn’t played any form of DDR in an arcade whatsoever across that entire year. With COVID-19 shuttering the Walmart Gameplay in Murray indefinitely, I wasn’t able to play Extreme while away at college, and I most certainly couldn’t drive to Dave & Buster’s to play Ace either.
I now effectively have access to only one known DDR cabinet in my area. This cabinet is a 90-minute drive from my hometown and a two-hour drive from my college town. I wouldn’t call that convenient.
By now, you can likely see why I was so devastated by losing Extreme in Hopkinsville, even if there are other games I enjoy at that particular venue. Unfortunately, this is the reality of playing arcade games. The hand that feeds you—that being the operator—may cut off your supply without warning.
In 2019, I faced a similarly disheartening loss. Up to that point, I regularly frequented the Walmart Gameplay in Hopkinsville, beefing up my Super Bikes profile to previously unfathomable heights. Why, I’d probably spent close to $50 over the course of a year perfecting my track times and upgrading my bikes.
Then, one day, all the games were gone. Not just Super Bikes, but also The Fast and the Furious and Extreme Hunting 2. I’d poured countless hours—and quarters—into that game room. My routine patronage ultimately meant nothing. This was the first time I truly had to grapple with the transience of arcade gaming.
My fondness for arcades is perhaps the single-greatest inconsistency of my overall personality. I’ve always had a gripe with digital distribution and streaming specifically because they’re so impermanent. Goodness know why I blindly accept this impermanence when it comes to out-of-home entertainment.
You all have probably run into similar trouble during your respective tenures in coin-op. Although I wish I could offer better advice on how to handle this problem, there’s not much a player can do when the situation arises. I recommend tracking down another location to play the game in question or transitioning to new games.
Saying goodbye to your favorite arcade games is always tough, but it’s a reality of the business. I might even consider it one of the biggest drawbacks of arcade games as a medium. But hey, no one ever said arcades were perfect.
I hope today’s article wasn’t too much of a downer. Since I’ve had to deal with this dilemma myself recently, I figured I’d write something to which people like me could relate. Sometimes, all we can do to cope is share our sadness with each other.