If you’ve been a fan of arcades your whole life, you might have even experienced all the changes this type of entertainment went through over the years. However, if you’re someone who just recently got into the world of arcades and would like to learn more about its history, you’ve come to the right place. Keep on reading to see how arcades have changed since their inception.
The history of arcades
As you probably know, arcades are venues where people can go to play various kinds of games. These games are typically games of skill but can include some element of chance. The games you can encounter in arcades include pinball machines, electro-mechanical games, arcade video games, and sports games. However, you might also be able to find slot games and pachinko as well, while they might be categorized as gambling devices and unavailable to minors in certain jurisdictions.
So, how did arcades become what they are today? The late 1800s and early 1900s saw the first types of arcades where various types of games could be played simply by inserting a penny into a machine. Everything from shooter games to fortune-telling machinery was available. However, in the first half of the 20th century, arcades were mostly associated with pinball machines. While pinball was banned in many areas for a few decades, the interest did not seize. Then, in the late 1970s and 1980s, we reached the golden age of arcade video games as they now came with great sounds and graphics. The industry hit a slump in the mid-90s and continued to receive less and less attention as people started migrating online. Moreover, while the industry is not completely dead and there are still many arcades around the world that people can visit to enjoy themselves, the recent pandemic did not help the overall situation either. However, once COVID-19 is under control and people are free to be in crowded, indoor spaces, chances are that this type of entertainment will soar once again.
With all that in mind, let’s go through some of the most popular games that you can find in arcades.
For starters, there are slot machines. From the 1891 precursor to the modern slot machine that had no direct payout mechanism and Charles Fey’s Liberty Bell that came with an effective automatic payout mechanism to electromechanical slot machines and video slot machines, it’s safe to say that slot machines came a long way in the approximately 130 years they’ve been around.
While they are still popular in land-based establishments, at least those that weren’t shut down due to the pandemic, slot games have also seen a huge explosion in the digital realm. SkyCity online slots, for example, offer their players countless different themes, inspired by films, tv, literature, history, music etc. With titles like Peaky Blinders, Beowulf and Ozzy Ozborne, these online slots are not just diverse in theme, but often include better paylines and multipliers as well.
As we mentioned earlier, pinball machines were banned for a while in history as people in power associated them with gambling and criminals. However, before they were banned in 1942 by Fiorello LaGuardia, the mayor of New York City, they were seen as a cheap way of entertainment by people during the Great Depression as they only required a coin to operate.
In 1933, electrification and active bumpers were introduced while 1947 saw the appearance of flippers. The ban in New York was only lifted in 1976 but the game kept developing in the interim and two-player machines became available in 1953, multiball in 1956, and digital scoring in 1974. When it comes to popular titles, you might find Medieval Madness from 1997, Attack from Mars from 1995, and Monster Bash from 1998. In terms of more recent games, there’s 2019’s Jurassic Park and 2021’s Godzilla, both made by Stern.
Arcade video games
Pinball machines were mostly replaced by arcade video games in the late ’70s and early ‘80s. While the first commercial arcade video game, Computer Science, was released in 1971, this creation by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney did not take off straight away. The duo went on to establish Atari, one of the most influential video games developers of all time, and release Pong, which is often thought of as one of the pillars of arcade video games. Due to its cultural impact, it’s part of the Smithsonian Institution’s permanent collection. Other staples in the sector include Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Street Fighter II.
Finally, we should give an honorable mention to sports games that can also be found in arcades. For example, you can play air hockey or indoor basketball games. These games can be electronic, electro-mechanic, or mechanical. Basketball games like Super Shot are very popular among players.
Although arcades were once bustling with visitors, the widespread availability of the internet, as well as a global pandemic, resulted in a drop in popularity. However, once we’re allowed into crowded spaces again, what’s to say that arcades will not be exactly what we need to have some fun? We’re keeping our fingers crossed and our coins ready!