We trawl Scottish arcades for Sega games,
then film & write about them.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Elgin, Arbroath, not Lossiemouth but almost Nairn

One common theme shared amongst the arcades we've visited is that most of them are only notionally arcades. They're bowling alleys or fun-fairs quite often, but the idea of a building dedicated to video games is as alien to Scotland as it is exciting to me.

The upshot of this is that the places you find video games often seem pretty confused about what to do with them. Elgin's Bowl 2000 only had two games during our visit, one of which was Ford Racing (ugh), awkwardly placed right next to the children's play area making any adults who want to play it look really creepy. Putting aside that wanting to play the charisma-free Ford Racing: Full Blown is actually kind of creepy, what's the message here? These games are for children? Are they for families to play or groups of people out together? The placement and selection of many of the games we've found seems to suggest that arcade owners aren't really sure.

I can't help but wonder if this apparently confused attitude is part of the reason we very rarely find any games with themes beyond the easily relatable driving and shooting now. If a game is only supposed to be part of a wider entertainment experience perhaps expecting players to invest time in narrative or high-level play is considered too time consuming and anti-social. Everyone knows how a gun or a racing car works on some level and can most likely pick up the mechanics of a basic simulation of these things pretty easily, but the giant mechs and duel-joystick control of Virtua-On? Perhaps not so much.

It seems that the idea of learning a game and becoming immersed in its depths seemed to dwindle in arcades in the late nineties as it increasingly became the domain of home gaming. This is actually pretty understandable; it potentially takes a lot of time and money to become really good at games such as the Virtua Fighter series and games like Crazy Taxi and Afterburner: Climax do the whole short, sharp adrenaline-rush thing incredibly well. Sega became masters of spectacle in the early 3D era with their Virtua franchises, but this almost seemed to be at the expensive of character. The settings and cast of Virtua Fighter and Virtua Cop are almost aggressively generic in comparison to some earlier Sega games like Golden Axe or Shinobi. I remember being struck by this as an adolescent wiling away holiday afternoons in Silversands Caravan Park's games room. Virtua Fighter certainly looked cool, but it almost seemed to go out of its way to avoid having a cast with the charm of Vega or Blanka. Luckily, as 3D games technology progressed, life returned to Sega's arcade games, even if the Virtua Fighter games do still strike me as oddly sterile.

Perhaps the enduring survival of games that offer experiences rather than challenge or role-play in Scottish arcades is related to their placement in locations we're supposed to pass through rather than linger in. It would explain their presence in motorway service stations and cinema lobbies, but also why arcades persist in towns many of us visit for day trips but most likely don't stay in. It's hard to resist driving a Crazy Taxi for a few minutes before moving on to another distraction as part of a fun day out. I would often get irritated as a child when arcades were referred to as amusements, but the term makes perfect sense. Their role seems to be a (hopefully) important part of attractions, but not the entirety of the attraction itself.

I've been negative in previous posts about the ancillary function that games seem to serve in a lot of the venues we've visited, and I stand by my assertion that anyone who puts no thought into planning their arcades or who lets games fall into sad, blank-screened disrepair should be ashamed, but it's in a supportive role that perhaps some games function best. It's also the reason some arcades still have 15 year old games up and running, or Space Harrier just sitting there blowing your mind, something that might not happen if arcades were constantly struggling to stay current. Scotland maybe never took to the idea of dedicated arcades, but it does make the good stuff you can find out there even more special.


So the old Arbroath OutRun machines gone? I stopped by on a trip up North about 5 years ago and was amazed to see it....if I'm remembering correctly you had to get old 50p pieces from the change desk to play it. It was the sit-down hydraulic version too.

It was gone, yeah - it was still on the flyer though, which just added to the sadness :( Thanks for the info though.

Post a Comment

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More