The Old-School Charm of Arcade Games
The rich history of video games started with the concept of simulations. Pong, the very first successful arcade game in the 1970s, was a digital adaptation of a tennis game. Video games, in the past, reflected many different aspects of life, but it was the arcade game that rose to popularity because it didn’t merely simulate, it created a genuine communal experience. Usually found on bars and places of social gathering, arcade games created a community comprised of gamers; one might say that arcades were the forefathers of modern social gaming.
However, technology evolved and so did the gaming landscape. The 1990s signaled the death of traditional arcade games as consoles were developed. The PlayStation was released, along with new titles for the personal computer, leaving only a handful of arcade fanatics feeding quarters to arcades in pubs, bowling alleys, and casinos. Social gaming ended, only to be revived decades later when the Internet entered ubiquity.
The rise and fall of ‘social’ gaming
Fast forward to modern times, we find ourselves in an environment where technology is driven towards the concept of ease-of-use. This means that innovations are centered on portability. Gone are the times when gamers would make effort to travel, pocket full of coins, and wait in queue to have their turn on an arcade game. In effect, the social aspect of playing video games has been reduced into a sort of impersonal version of what it used to be. Now, with the advent of social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, video games incorporate social features to mimic the olden ‘arcade experience.’
Community hubs, Twitter hashtags, online portals – video game developers attempt to create a community out of their titles. The rise of smartphones and tablets also made an impact to this revival. All sorts of video game genres – from massively multiplayer online role-playing games to sports betting apps, all incorporate social media functionality and community interaction. Bet Fair, developer of a mobile gaming arcade app, acknowledged the role of ‘going social’ in the realm of gaming. Ben Carter, Bet Fair’s central online marketing head, mentioned how they used comedy writers to push the brand’s social currency. "It is something of a social experiment," he said. As a result, the modern demographic of young, hip, tap-and-swipe experts are easily penetrated.
Back to basics
However, some video game enthusiasts took the other, less digital approach when it comes to building a gaming community. Taking inspiration from the sports pubs where arcades were also initially found, a few brave investors ventured into creating eSports bars themselves.
Brought about by the increased interest in electronic sports, new opportunities were opened to sort of revive the real-life gaming community. BarCraft, pubs catering to StarCraft fanatics have been widely successful in London. Europe’s Meltdown pub chain is also seeing much success, thanks to the rising popularity of online game tournaments like League of Legends Championship Series and World Cyber Games. Defense of the Ancients-crazy Philippines is also expecting its very first eSports bar. All around the world, the interpersonal experience of gaming communities is being fostered.
Both online and offline, avenues for gathering gamers are being developed. This can only mean that the video game industry has found that old-school charm of the arcade, signaling the growth of this special medium of entertainment.