King of Kong: Arcade Gaming Culture vs. Modern Gaming Culture

By Jo Kim

When I was in elementary school in South Korea (back in 2001), I was, too, a part of this “arcade gaming culture.” Though as not as intense as one portrayed in this movie, I too had my taste of arcade gaming. Every time I got out of school, I would rush to the nearest stationery store (or Moongoojeom in Korean), and insert my coin in to the gaming machine. Normally, I would play something like Tekken or FIFA. Normally, when I played a game, other kids would surround around me just to watch me play games, and at times, other kids would join in the game from the other side to play against me.

Like portrayed in the movie, the Arcade Gaming Culture seems to be more group-oriented (or social) than the modern gaming culture, which revolves around computer gaming/console gaming.


This is not to say that modern gaming culture is not social. There are PC cafes and console cafes where people gather around to play their favorite games on the PC or game systems (shown below [an internet cafe]).


As seen by comparing the above photos, you can see that the modern gaming culture relies less on group communication and focuses on the individual’s game play experience. Because of this, there is less pressure playing games in the modern gaming culture than there was in the arcade gaming culture. In the movie, Steve was constantly pressured under the viewing eyes when competing for the Donkey Kong title. However, nowadays, unlike in the movie, one does not have to make oneself vulnerable to such causes by playing at home (online tournaments). There are times in the modern gaming culture where one has to play in front of large audiences (offline tournaments), but these are limited to the select few only.

In conclusion, the modern gaming culture has shifted away from the arcade gaming culture’s group-oriented way of gaming to more of an individual-based way of gaming. I personally favor this change, as I am more comfortable in a such setting than I am in front of a mass group. What about you guys? Which type of gaming culture do you prefer?


2 thoughts on “King of Kong: Arcade Gaming Culture vs. Modern Gaming Culture”

  1. With no past gaming experience, I find it interesting that you prefer the solo gaming experience. I don’t argue that the trend you identify is real, but I’m curious why you enjoy gaming on your own. You mention less pressure, but at the most elite level, doesn’t the same type of pressure shown in King of Kong apply (ie the NY Times article we read last week where the Staples Center was completely sold out for the League of Legends tournament)?

    There seems to be a difference in the reasons behind the spectators for arcade vs. modern game culture which I find especially interesting. In King of Kong, spectators exist to regulate the game: make sure the device is “to code,” that no one is cheating, etc. However, technology has advanced so that these in-person regulators aren’t as needed (or has it? I’d assume there’s a fair amount of hacking that goes on in the gaming world today). My point is that there seems to be a shift from spectators-as-judges to spectators-as-audience, which again points to the broadening of the gaming world which we keep coming back to.

    -Emma Baker

  2. I think this is a very interesting observation you’ve made. I also recognize a shift from the group mentality in gaming, that there used to be an inherent part of gaming that included conversation and interaction with others, often as you watch others play. My example for this is thinking back to when most of the games were 2 player, and everyone would sit around and watch as two people faced off, or in a game like Super Smash Bros. where everyone rotated turns getting to play.
    I think the shift comes from the advancement of gaming technology to allow almost everyone to be included and to be able to link people without them having to leave their homes. This gives everyone equal opportunity to play and improve, thus shifting the emphasis to how good the individual is. Since games have made it easier to find people to play with, there’s no need to seek friends willing to play, and often times people get so competitive about the game that they feel time playing with a worse friend holds them back from being their best.
    That being said, there’s nothing like getting online and playing video games with your close friends and/or people you know in “rl” and working together with them. To respond to your question, I think I like the new direction. The advancement of social media and other technologies is rapidly limiting human contact in today’s society, and I think video games provide a uniquely insightful and personal way to interact with friends.

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