Why do we love arcade games?

15 Aug 2011

I know it seems like it was a long time ago, but there’s plenty of good reasons why we shouldn’t forget the 1980s.

You couldn’t get me out of the arcades when I was a kid…

If you’ve ever found yourself singing along with Tom Cruise when Maverick belts out Lost That Loving Feeling in Top Gun, or you’re hooked on Bon Jovi and Iron Maiden, then it really is a decade that brought you plenty of joy.

Although I still love wearing my aviators and pretending to be in Top Gun, I long for 80s arcade games much more than cheesy movies. But what is it that’s so good about these retro games?

I think the simplicity of the likes of Space Invaders and Asteroids is what makes them special. While we love Call of Duty: Black Ops for its attention to detail, huge maps and substantial armoury of weapons, there’s an awful lot of learning to do before you can competently set foot on the battle field.

Pick up ‘n’ play

Arcade games were made with ‘pick up and play’ in mind (nobody wants to put a quarter in to get humiliated), so all the controls are intuitive and simple to understand. Perfect for casual gamers.

The simplicity of the controls extends to the gameplay. Classic arcade games like Pacman are so addictive because the next level is always within sight. Many a happy hour in my youth was spent just trying to escape the ghosts for a fraction of a second more to make it to the next level… before doing it all over again.

Pacman is just such an iconic figure, you can put him on a t-shirt and 90% of people will recognise the little yellow guy. As good as some modern games are, say Metal Gear Solid, how many people would pick out Solid Snake on a garment?


But the biggest attraction of arcade games is the nostalgic feeling they give us. How many kids turned their nose up at the prospect of a day playing in the sand on a beach, in favour of taking as many 10p coins as possible from their parents, and heading straight to the seafront arcade?

So it’s no surprise to me that one of the biggest gadget accessories of the year is an arcade game cabinet for the iPad – called the iCade. You can download all your favourite Atari games to the iCade and get on with the real task of button bashing, without worrying about getting in trouble with your mum for ‘wasting all your pocket money’.

If you need me, I’ll be locked in my bedroom playing Asteroids until dawn. Thanks.

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