Every now and then an event occurs that brings up fond memories of past gaming lives. It may be a HD re-release, a new movie or even a sequel to a beloved classic. It is at moments like these that the nostalgia strings are pulled and the joys of games gone by flood our conscious thought. So in the immortal words of Deckard Cain, stay a while and listen as our writers take you back to a favourite moment in their gaming past. Welcome to “Those Were the Days”.
Those Were the Days – Arcade Party
As I look back at my time growing up in the coastal NSW town of Port Macquarie there are two locations that I remember spending a significant amounts of my free time. The first was obviously the beach but the second is what I want to talk about today. This local spot held an allure to me that was unmatched by any other possible location within the town. The bright lights, the unique noises and the promise of unconquered worlds all served to draw me to this bastion of my youth. That spot was the local arcade and it captivated me for a good portion of my childhood.
Like many I was guilty of squirreling money from wherever I could find it to play a few matches of Street Fighter or a few levels of Final Fight. But there was one instance that I remember more clearly than ever, it was as if I had won the jackpot. Scratch that because at the time I don’t think winning the lotto would have made me as happy. I was around 11 at the time and I received an invite from a friend to their Birthday party. The exciting part? The Arcade was closing for 2 hours so we could have the whole thing to ourselves and we would have…..wait for it…….UNLIMITED CREDIT.
I was almost frozen with indecision when I first walked through the front doors. What do I play? Would I use the time to hone my skills and finally take down Shang Tsung? Would pick up my six shooter and take down FMV bad guys in Lethal Enforcers? Would the queen Alien die at the point of my Kitana? It was almost too much for my game obsessed 11 year old mind to handle. Luckily I was saved by a mate who dragged me out of indecision and straight to the NBA Jam unit. The first thing we did was press that start button until we both had a full game ready. It is hard to explain how good that felt, as a young chap purchasing a full game of NBA Jam was a luxury that I couldn’t often afford (for those that don’t know, to play NBA Jam you had to spend one credit per quarter). We reveled in this new found freedom, a world without monetary limits. A world where the game over screen didn’t mean a pocket pat and a sad face but a new challenge waiting to happen.
NBA Jam was a blast without a doubt but the highlight of the day was four of us and our quest to defeat the X-men Arcade game. Each of us grabbed a joystick (after a little fight over who was going to be Wolverine) and away we went. Lives were lost but we didn’t care. This was our opportunity to beat the unbeatable, our chance to conquer Everest. So we ploughed on taking down bosses, dominating enemies and dodging traps. We swapped positions so everyone got a chance to play as each of the characters (It was at this time I made the controversial choice that Cyclops was far better than Wolverine in the game.) and yelled with pre-pubescent joy whenever a difficult enemy was defeated. When we finally reached the end of the game our fingers and wrists were aching but we had smiles on our faces that could not be removed. Not even the realization that our time in the Arcade was up could dampen our spirits. We had beaten the game and it was our triumph. We didn’t care that we had probably used the equivalent of Zimbabwe’s GDP in credits to do it. That fact was unimportant. What was important was that we had done it together as friends.
As I look back on this it makes me sad to realise that my kids will likely never experience this feeling. Sure Arcades still exist but they are a very different beast in this day and age. Gone are the joystick based video games of old and in their place are giant racing cabinets and small games in which tokens can be won. Sure there is fun to be had but I am sure most will agree that it is hardly the same. It makes me cherish this party even more as key moment in my gaming life. One that helped define my idea of the perfect multiplayer gaming session for years to come.