When I was 14, I could often be found in malls. No, I never set foot in a clothing store. I dodged the perfume-wielding kiosk workers like they were Pac-Man ghosts, and we all know food court offerings are not what lured people to malls. Yet there I was, from open to close - in one spot. The mall arcade, playing Cruis'n USA.
If you were also a kid in the 1990s, chances are you spent at least one birthday party at an arcade or similar venue with at least a few cabinets featuring the hottest games. As soon as year 2000 hit, though, these places seemed to all but die off. Perhaps kids were too busy playing games at home (Duke Nukem, anyone?) No matter the reason, my favorite hangout met the same fate of so many other arcades..
Fast forward 20 years, now there's a growing trend that takes the kid-friendly environment out of the equation and combines the venue with something everyone over 21 can appreciate.
Enter the barcade, which is just what it sounds like: a hybrid of a bar and arcade, a.k.a. a place to enjoy and spend money on beer and video games at the same time. As small-town Nevada paper Elko Daily pointed out, barcades have been more of an East Coast thing over the past few years. Specifically, there are several you can find in New York and the surrounding area—like this one. Barcades are clearly headed on the Oregon trail, creeping west across America like a pixelated wagon train (with less dying of dysentery, I assume).
To those who have kept an eye on the arcades of the web, this rise in real-life arcades is nothing new. Most recently, the almighty Internet Archive leveled up their status as a digital library. In addition to finding all things web-related there, the site is now home to a slew of gaming options including, yes, a virtual arcade. The Internet Arcade is home to more than 900 games in total, all of which can be played in your browser, for free, whenever you want. I played Marble Madness for the first time in more years than I want to admit.
Before the Internet Arcade's existence, though, there were other options that provided even more serious gamers with the chance to raise the stakes. At the arcade section on Betfair, players have the chance to dig into a number of titles, some of which even hearken back to the best arcade games of the '90s. In particular, there's a Street Fighter II-themed slot that allows you to pick your favorite fighter and watch as he or she battles M. Bison.
Possibly most exciting (for me, at least) is the the DIY community of arcade aficionados that's been thriving for quite some time! For those unfamiliar with the premise, geek tyrants of arcade cabinets have started building them for use in their homes. In addition to costing less than buying an actual cabinet, this approach allows gamers to create any kind of machine that they want. You can take a look at some truly interesting DIY arcade projects on Instructables.
Could it be that we're all in the middle of another arcade boom that's doomed for destruction? Could Barcades be exactly what arcade gaming needs after all? Perhaps this hybrid approach will keep arcade games back in the public eye and, even better, breathe new life into them. That would make me happier than getting the high score on Space Paranoids.