I was born in 1979. Growing up in the 80's was a wonderfully dreamy experience: NES, Master System, Atari 7800... Video game consoles had managed to find mainstream success and those early 8-bit era games molded me into the type of gamer that I am today. But experiencing the early 80's also meant that I was able to witness another monumental event -- the glory days of the Arcade Era (or at least the tail end of those days).
Modern games have the internet instead. Sure, online you can play with people all over the world, and that's great, wonderful even (especially for RPG's and competitive games), but the personal face-to-face experience is something the internet cannot duplicate.
Back in the 80's the arcade scene was alive and well, but by the 90's some serious trouble was brewing. Home consoles were becoming popular and people figured,
"Why go to the arcade when I can play at home?"
Arcade machines were becoming more sophisticated and expensive, and by the late 90's it was a dying industry.
And ugh! it's been painful trying to find something other than Deer Hunter or the latest golf game decorating a bar. Our last bastion seems to be hotel lobbies, bowling alleys, and the occasional restaurant. But these are not the real deal...
Critical Bits misses arcades something fierce. The last authentic arcade in our home base of Cedar Rapids, Iowa died out years and years ago. But with a bit of googling we happened to stumble upon a very very cool arcade in North English, Iowa. Mike's CarnEvil, was the name of the place. Past tense, because after a series of unfortunate events Mike had to shut the place down. He was nice enough to let us take a tour and play a few games, and boy did we appreciate the opportunity.
Mike says he might just reopen this gem of an arcade of his in the near future. Hats off to him and anyone who is willing to try to make a go out of such a noble business. North English is a small town, and Mike says that is part of why his business was profitable--there was nothing else for the kids in town to do. Let this be a lesson! The idea that arcades can only thrive in large communities may just be a fallacy.