Years Ago, Video Game Players Trekked to the Arcade to Play
Today, gamers can play virtually any game from their own home thanks to the different video game consoles, streaming game companies, and online play. They can even take their games with them via handheld gaming systems and smartphones. But years ago in the 1970's and 1980's, this wasn't an option.
Yes, video games did exist then, but there weren't gaming consoles in the home. The first home computers were just appearing, and they were mainly for work, not for gaming. The Mangavox Odyssey started the home gaming console industry in 1972, but even when the Atari 2600 came out in 1977, most people didn't have one because of the price. Instead, they played arcade games down at the local arcade.
While kids did play some of these games, many adults went down to the arcade, too. The first video game arcades appeared in the late 1970's thanks to games like Galaxian and Spade Invaders. But the Golden Age of video arcades really started in 1980. That's when Midway licensed a popular Japanese game and brought it to the U.S. This little game featured a little yellow mouth that went around eating dots while trying to avoid ghosts. Pac-Man was a huge hit, and it was followed up by Centipede and other arcade games that people loved.
Even when the Nintendo and other gaming systems came out later in the 1980's, people still want to the arcades. Part of this was because some of the games that came to the Nintendo started out in arcades, and it was the best way to get a taste of the game before shelling out the money to actually buy it. But there was another aspect to it as well: socialization. In the pre-internet world, gamers had very few ways of meeting each other. The arcade was really the only place video game players could meet others who enjoyed the same hobby. It became a social area, and most arcades had a snack bar and places for players to sit and chat when they weren't playing.
During the 1990's, arcades declined in popularity because home consoles were more affordable and more powerful than the machines that ran arcade games. The internet also made it easier for gamers to socialize without leaving their homes, and some of the earliest online games were introduced. However, arcades did get one last hurrah as a social center with Dance Dance Revolution and similar games. Today, most arcades are closed, but they'll always hold a special place in the hearts of older gamers.