Little Torture Devices of Antiquity

Tyler Gilcrest

My experiences with arcade games are definitely not as extensive as those of other people.  I was no arcade rat.  Part of this is because there was no arcade like the amazing Funspot that I could spend my days at.  Part of this was the fact that arcade games had lost much of their grandeur by the time I rolled around on the gaming scene.  And part of this was my parents unwillingness to give me quarters that were only to be subsequently eaten by  “those machines”.  Nonetheless, I was able to play some arcade games.

Arcade games were and still are always fun initially.  Arcade games are simple and easy to sit down at and start playing.  They have lights and sound that entertain the gamer as they start playing.  The simplicity is fun for me because there’s practically no learning curve.  But that’s basically all they have.  But after a little while of playing, they definitely lose their appeal.  Now I may be someone who is easily frustrated, but after a while arcade games just genuinely anger me.  As the game gets progressively harder, it finds new and creative ways for me to die.  “That barrel appeared out of nowhere!” or “This game just hates me” are common utterances I might make (even though I know full well it’s just my lack of skill that caused my downfall).  Getting beat is never fun, especially when it’s a 8-bit polyphonic simpleton arcade game dealing out the punishment.  And the fact that all the time it’s eating my money just kills me.  I forget, in the heat of battle, that there is no possible way to beat this game.  All I can do is try in vain to get close to the ridiculously high scores set by some other loser who spent even more of his time, effort and money on this machine.  Eventually I’ll give up against the arcade beast.

 Maybe that’s why I like console games more.  Console games and arcade games start out at different levels of difficulty in the very beginning.  Console games usually start with more of a learning curve than arcade games.  A lot of the time, console games have controls and stories to which the player will have to orient themselves before playing.  Arcade games, in their simplicity, can just throw you at the bottom of Donkey Kong’s tower and say, “Don’t get hit by barrels or flames, go.”  I can handle the learning curve at the beginning of the game if I can beat the game later on.  Console games have an end.  They have a credits screen and a message of congratulations for your achievements.  Arcade games just kill you over and over and say, “Continue? :20” (waitng with an open mouth to eat your twenty-five cent piece).  Even Steve Wiebe gets to the “end” of Donkey Kong gets killed.  There’s no reward, no congratulations.  It just gets tired of letting him play and kills him.  Another thing about arcade games is the level of difficulty they reach.  If you graphed difficulty as a function of progress in the game, arcade games would be an exponential function whereas console games would probably only be a straight line (that might even plateau from time to time).  If console games were as hard as arcade games, no one would ever pay $60 retail for them.  That’s why the arcade only charges a quarter, because no one would ever subject themselves to such torture for any more than that at one time.  They make money because suckers feed them quarters in pursuit of the impossible.  Anymore, I see arcade games as fun little torture devices of antiquity.


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