It’s no secret that arcade business and its culture in the United States had been on life support since the ’80s to mid ’90s, with the expansion of the home console market, lack of promotion, and the advent of online play being key contributing factors. There has been a recent resurgence of arcade gaming in the form of “barcades” in various parts of the country in the last few years, but the boom can’t compare to when arcades were in their golden age.
Fighting games, of course, were a huge part of the arcade industry back in its heyday. You couldn’t go anywhere — be it a mall, liquor store, movie theater, or family amusement centers — without seeing (and probably popping quarters into) Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, Virtua Fighter, Tekken and many others. With the decline of the arcade business starting in the ’90s, however, fighting games went through a “dark age” of sorts. Sure, there were still titles being made and released in the few surviving arcades scattered throughout the United States despite the decline in the business, but none that took fighting game community or the mainstream by storm until Street Fighter IV was released in late 2008 — and not only revitalized the FGC, but I would daresay partially reignited mainstream public interest in arcades.
That being said, arcade and video games in general had long been scrutinized and looked down upon as something that was a bad influence on young kids: wrongfully blamed for violence and other woes in American society, with shooters and fighters being the genres the mainstream media and politicians targeted as the main culprits. Even though arcade and video game culture have become somewhat more accepted by the general public in the United States, it is still experiencing the same problems it faced at the beginning.
This two-part documentary titled “Why Arcades Died in America” by Jabril Power examines this period of decline in arcades with deep insight into key factors. In the first part, he explains how the mainstream media portrayed arcade and video games that came from Japan, through archived footage from various new outlets and the negative — albeit subdued — prejudiced language reporters used to convey that it was an “addiction, “invasion, or “craze.” In the second part, Jabril Power goes over the decline of malls and department stores due to big online retail websites such as Amazon taking over, and relates it to how arcade and video games are being represented in a negative light in the United States — as opposed to how Japan embraces and celebrates the culture instead.
If you ever wanted to delve deeper into the decline of US arcade culture, watch both parts of this intriguing documentary in the two videos below. This one definitely hit close to home for me — as I’m sure it will for a lot you, who grew up playing at your local arcades — and how much of an impact it had in our lives as a hobby we still enjoy now.
Source: Jabril Power