The proof is in the picture: retro arcades unite generations! | Image: Neon Retro Arcade
When did arcades featuring classic video games make a comeback? I’ve been happy to come across several in recent months, as these places and the games of yesteryear remind me of my youth.
I recently visited EightyTwo, a video game bar in the Arts District in Downtown LA. I was walking around the area with some friends when the lights and the sounds from the machines drew us in. The place was packed, and I marveled at the site of young adults playing older games – most in the crowd looked as though they were born years after "'82."
Nearly every historic game was on hand – Pac-Man, Centipede, Frogger, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Asteroids, etc. I jumped on Frogger, one of my old favorites. I’ve always loved the bright green, red, and purple color palette. My first few games didn’t last long, as I hadn’t played in years. By the third game, however, I got the hang of it and I had some success.
One friend said to the other, “He’s good!” I beamed with pride.
A few days passed, and I was still basking in my experience. I was anxious for more, so I Google searched “retro arcade.” I turned up the appropriately named Neon Retro Arcade with locations in Northridge and Pasadena. “An old-school arcade with your favorites from back in the day,” their website beckons. In contrast to EightyTwo, this is an “all ages” establishment – the only beer they’re probably serving is root beer. I have yet to make it there, but it’s on my to-do list between Disneyland and the Griffith Observatory.
EightyTwo and Neon Retro take me back to the spots I used to frequent while growing up in Metro Detroit.
There was also my town’s recreation center where I spent time after school and on weekends. They had pool, ping-pong, and air hockey, but the young 'uns quickly abandoned those pursuits the day the 8-bit contests arrived. There were three units and they were almost always in use. Those who weren’t playing hovered around those who were – merely watching was excitement enough. Unfortunately, the games were removed when parents complained that their children were blowing their allowance one quarter at a time.
And there was Chuck E. Cheese's. There was a time when I was a kid that seemingly every other birthday party was held there. For me, the pizza and singing animatronic puppets were merely an opening act to the main attraction. And that, of course, was the electronic fare. Some youngsters enjoyed played Skee-Ball or Pop-A-Shot, so they could earn tickets and redeem them for a Rubik's Cube keychain or a Mr. T pencil eraser. I, however, was more intent on the high score on Dig Dug.
So, I love the experience of classic video games played in an arcade for a myriad of reasons. Some folks have tried to convince me of a better way. “You gotta play Fortnite on the couch in your pajamas!” they say. “It's totally lit!” Fortnite? Couch? PJs? That's not me. As for leaving the house to crash dots into one another and while hearing assorted “blips” “bleeps,” and “bloops”... I'm down!
I'm Eli Natinsky and I'm a communication specialist. This blog explores my work and professional interests. I also delve into other topics, including media, marketing, pop culture, and technology.