The Story of Video Arcades

Did you enjoy going to the arcade for hours, spending all your allowance on games to try to win tickets or prizes? If so, you’re not the only one – arcades have a long history.

Early versions of arcades started in the late 19th century. The 1880s saw the invention of coin-operated vending machines and “games of skill” were already staples of fairs; both were factors in the opening of penny arcades.

Penny arcades housed machines that only needed one penny to operate and had what were called “mutoscopes,” which were motion picture devices patented in 1894. However, these arcades had a bad reputation, as some of the mutoscope videos showed raunchy material (in fact, mutoscopes dominated the peep show business). The birth of the film industry in the 1910s and 1920s eventually drew people away from penny arcades.

Today, you can find most modern arcade games, also called coin-ops or coin-operated games, in places like bars, restaurants, and of course video arcades, as well as other locations. Most of these games fall into these general categories:

Games of skill:

Games of skill are games you can win by using a mental or physical skill instead of winning by luck, much like carnival games. Two examples are redemption games, like Skee-Ball™ or Whac-a-Mole ™, where you win tickets that can be redeemed for prizes, and merchandiser games, like claw cranes or coin pushers, that display merchandise that can be won.

Skee-ball. iStock.

Games of chance:

Instead of using your skills, you win these games purely through luck. They use randomizing devices like dice, spinning tops, playing cards, and roulette wheels. Arcades try to avoid this label, as many of these machines are considered gambling, which is regulated by the government.

Arcade video games:

Video games use controls that are processed through electrical or computerized components, like Pac-Man™ and Centipede (by Atari®). Video games were first introduced in the early 1970s with the debuts of Pong™ (by Atari®) and Space Invaders™ (by Taito®), and saw a surge in the 1980s. This period was considered the golden age of arcade games. Video Arcades rapidly spread across North America, Europe, and Asia, and the number doubled from 1980 to 1982, with 10,000 across the region.

Pac-Man. iStock.

Other types of coin-operated devices found in arcades include pinball (which was more popular than video arcade games until the latter hit the golden age), photobooths, slot machines (although they were more commonly found in casinos), sports games like Air hockey and Super Shot™ (basketball), fortune teller machines, strength testers, and racing games.

The 1990s saw a rise in fighting games like Mortal Kombat™ (by NetherRealm Studios) and Street Fighter® and sports games like NBA Jam™ and NFL Blitz™ (both owned by EA Sports™). However, there was a slump in the mid-1990s due to the rise of at-home gaming consoles.

Super Shot. iStock.

By the 2000s, arcade game machines had added features like motion sensors, and at the same time, there was a small resurgence of interest in classic video games, due to young adults feeling a sense of nostalgia.

What were your favorite games to play?


Source: Wikipedia