|A long time ago in a galaxy far, far
away... arcade machines cost you a quarter. Now, the only games you can find at that
stunning price are Ms. Pacman and Asteroids (at least here at the Seattle Gameworks).
Needless to say, if you want to jump into the cockpit of an X-wing fighter or go
one-on-one with Law in Tekken 3 it's going to cost you.
Is the buck worth the snazz? Not really. Video arcades, at least large ones like Gameworks (GW) of Seattle, seem to be investing more of their money into creating a Gibsonian cyberpunk mecca than into maintaining a lower rate on those "quarter-crunchers." When you walk in you're hit with loud pop music, a dozen video monitors nested together in a hive-looking thing reminiscent of that horrible movie, Johnny Mnemonic, and flashing lights, while people harbor themselves near the card machine which takes your money and spits out a GW credit card. No more tokens. This is the modern arcade, the babysitter of the 21st Century. Got mom and pop's card, you've got game (but that's another editorial).
Snazz comes with the bright lights, four story arcade games with no real appeal and a multitude of digital noise turned up to the point you cannot converse with friends (or enemies) while you kick their ass. Let me embellish the four-story video game, Vertical Reality. The attendant, for this $3.00-five-minute game, straps you into a chair that has a joy stick positioned in such an awkward way that you find yourself getting carpal-tunnel syndrome. Five minutes later the game is automatically over. It isn't based on how long you live; it's based on a certain amount of time you are allowed to play. If you want to play again, go to the end of the line and make sure you have another $3 on you. Arcades are not a place of sheer gaming, they're technologically advanced carnivals. There should not be time limits on video games, or at least time limits that can't be bypassed by defeating an opponent or some such thing.
Here's a run down on some of the pricing: Star Wars Trilogy Arcade, $1.50. Basically, you last through the first level (3-5 minutes) and die. House of the Dead 2, $1.50. Same story as Star Wars. Indy 500, $4.00. You race around the track and hope to win, while an announcer commentates on your performance. Each of these games can suck you in and, before you know it, you've spent your $50 for that week.
One of the traps of the arcade is the game card. These dandy items are handy in the sense that you don't have to root around in your pocket for change -- it's all stored digitally on the card, but that's the trap. See no money; hear no jingle... You get my point. Another drawback to the card is that you have to be a quick hand at inserting it, letting the reader read it, then hitting the 1 player button. Most of the time, in my experience, I've not been fast enough and the 10 second countdown finished before I had a chance to push continue, forcing me to start over. It's almost as if the readers are designed to move slow, sucking the card for all the money it's worth.
Enough ranting. Here's how to work around this arcade farce: buy a console system. In the long run, you'll save more money by avoiding the arcade. As the prices keep going up on stand-up machines, they keep going down on the console and PC end. Just weigh the ratio of dollar to minutes earned.