Let’s get this out right off the bat: I’m not touching the controversy surrounding Mass Effect 3. From the day-one DLC to the ending, I want no part of that. I’m going to finish the game, enjoy it for what it is, and move on.
Good, since that’s out of the way now I can move on. I thought maybe I’d wax poetic about the glory days of being a kid when arcades were still a regular sight. Movies gave the arcades a bad image. Most adults saw them as one of the more wretched hives of juvenile scum and villainy. The arcades I frequented were not like that. Honestly, how could you look like a total badass in a place called Aladdin’s Castle? I loved the arcade and dropped tons of quarters there. It was a place where the screens were bigger, the games were better looking, and the music was deafening. This was before 42-inch LED TVs with 3D capability. This was before the days of high definition graphics and systems nearly powerful enough to run military-grade weaponry. Arcades were the hip place to be.
I remember going to the mall with my mom. She would need to do something boring like shop for shoes or clothes, so she’d hand me some cash and I’d go on my merry way to the arcade. The change machines were finicky so you’d have to run your cash back and forth along the corner of the machine to flatten it out. Once you were able to coax the machine into swallowing your paper money, it would spew out either tokens or quarters. The jingling sound they made was music to my ears, but then the hard part came. It was time to make a decision on what game I would spend my mom’s hard-earned cash on. Some might say it was my first test in money management and economics. Which game would give the greatest return?
Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat were the big games around this time. NBA Jam was pretty popular too. So I’d usually try my hand at these games and get totally rocked by either the computer or some smelly punk teenager (I hadn’t hit my teen years yet). Then I’d move on, defeated, to something else. The X-Men Arcade Game was another one of my favorites. I usually picked Nightcrawler for his ability to teleport around the screen and knock out everyone in his path. Not only was it fun to play, but if you had friends with you they could join in without having to wait. The Simpsons Arcade game was also a lot of fun and had the same perk of being able to play with multiple friends. And, if I remember correctly, these games were usually cheaper than Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat.
One of my fondest memories of the arcade was when Mortal Kombat 2 was released. After playing MK1 on home consoles – which costed me less in quarters – my friends and I actually got pretty good. When MK2 was released I actually went to the trouble of creating move-lists for my friends and myself for every fighter, complete with fatalities, babalities, friendships, and every special move. So, after careful study of the lists, I went to the arcade. Of course, there was only one MK2 cabinet since it was just a mall arcade and there was a huge crowd of people around it. To keep some semblance of order, players waiting for their turn would place a quarter on the bottom edge of the part of the cabinet that bordered the screen. The rule was “winner stays, loser pays.”
Finally, after a long wait, it was my turn. I put my quarters in the machine and hit the Player 2 button. I picked Liu Kang. Round one began. My opponent was another one of those cocky punk teens that picked on little kids like me all the time. He wiped the floor with me the first round with a flawless victory. While waiting for round two to begin I hit the joystick back and forth, which was the style at the time. Round two started. I had my bicycle kick charged up and unleashed it quick, followed by a flying kick and a low fireball. This round was much closer and ended with me coming out on top by the slimmest of margins. I had my cheat sheet on hand and found the button combo to Liu Kang’s dragon fatality, which I practiced in the short downtime between the rounds.
The next match started the same way: bicycle kick to flying kick to low fireball. It was fun to see my opponent get frustrated. And I spammed the crap out of that combination. I was a kid and didn’t care about being cheap. Needless to say, I beat him, successfully turned Liu Kang into a dragon, and took a huge bite out of his ego and his character. It was glorious. The glory lasted all of a few minutes because the next guy wiped the floor with me using Sub-Zero.
It’s a shame that the arcade scene doesn’t really exist today. Of course, I understand why. The advances in gaming tech: improved graphics, better gameplay and especially online gaming, have made the arcades obsolete. I’m not a huge fan of not seeing who I am playing with or against. The arcade allowed for a social interaction that online gaming can’t. It was the place to be. From Street Fighter to Mortal Kombat to the Simpsons Arcade Game, there was something magical about the arcade. Maybe it was the smell of sweaty socks and lack of deodorant. Or maybe it was the nachos with liquefied orange goo for cheese and jalapenos. Whatever it was, it’s a shame that my kids won’t be able to appreciate it. Hopefully, when I do have kids they’ll be able to at least experience an arcade before all of the arcades are gone.
Just In Bailey –an homage to the secret code from Metriod, which allowed you to play as Samus Aran without her suit– is an editorial column at Vagary.TV brought to you by Joey Alesia. Each week Joey will challenge you to look at a different perspective of the characters, gameplay, and/or plot in your favorite games. Chat up your thoughts below, or send Joey an e-mail at Joey.Alesia@vagary.tv and remember to follow him on Twitter @wrkngclsswrtr.