Why Arcade Machines Of The Past Rock

 DisneyQuest in Downtown Disney - you owe it to yourself to hunt down the retro arcade section and bathe in the pixel-joy and bit-tune soundtracks.
 DisneyQuest in Downtown Disney - you owe it to yourself to hunt down the retro arcade section and bathe in the pixel-joy and bit-tune soundtracks.
Holidays are wonderful things. They can be eye-opening, for starters. Being back in the UK after my two week visit to the glorious shores of the US of A, I realise that there are things which totally seperate our two countries. The US has a myriad of marshmallow-infested treats which will joyfully tell you of their healthy content to make you feel less guilty during breakfast time. Your videogames? Cheaper. I picked up the wonderful new Zelda - Spirit Tracks game for my DS from a friendly GameStop (I had a long chat with the bloke behind the counter about the merits of Street Fighter 4). This game saved me from the 8 hour-long flight back home and transported me away from the screaming babies and the whole, horrible touristy vibe which went on in there.
The thing which really opened my eyes was a place in Downtown Disney called DisneyQuest. I heard about this place from people as it has a vast array of arcade machines which are free-to-play, albeit after the entrance fee. There's other attractions too. There's a horribly unfair and painful VR game called Ride The Comix where you swish a lightsabre around trying to hit the lowest of low polygonal enemies. It's responsive, but the immersion was ruined somewhat by the torture-helmet which gave no room for my spectacles. They have another VR game based on Aladdin which is just as painful and almost claustrophobic in its nature; you ride on a piece of modified gym equipment searching for sparkly 2D gem sprites in a "immersive" 3D world. This game had a lot more to figure out, and although it looked like a decent PSOne game, it was still horrible to play.
Seriously, the Virtuality thing was a mis-step for videogaming. Sure, the Hackers vibe suits such a thing, but it always felt like a gimmick.
The epiphany to this story, dear reader, materalised when I chanced upon the retro arcade section of DisneyQuest's five floor complex. Pac-Man caught my eye. The machine was pristine - if you ignored the Buzz Lightyear bumper car game which also inhabited the gaming space, you'd swear you were in an arcade of the past. The cacophony of multiple arcade machines is an intoxicating sound for a videogamer. Now there are people out there who have only ever played on their PS3, their 360 and their Wii consoles. They may have sampled the Championship Edition of Pac-Man, but here's the thing - you've not really experienced Pac-Man until you get your hands on the arcade itself.
I have to admit, I only ever played Pac-Man on my Atari 2600. It was very, very addicting. There's something about those chunky sprites which makes me realise my continuous love for the pixel. The unforgiving Atari 2600 joystick though, that's no way to play it. My six-year-old hands often cramped up during long play sessions - why would this fun be so painful? I didn't understand. Pac-Man Championship Edition on the 360 is a truly brilliant sequel to the original, but is also hampered by the 360 pad. I was totally frustrated with the loose feel of the LS, the abhorant alternative being the shitty d-pad. There's a disconnect which is all too apparant. Deep down inside, I know I can complete those challenges. "A bad workman always blames his tools" is something I strongly disagree with if the tools themselves aren't up for the job. You can't have a controller which is universal for every gaming experience.
Arcades provide, by their very design, different experiences and different methods of control. Trackballs, joysticks, steering wheels. There is nothing more satisfying than the stab of an arcade button. A huge, generous arcade button. The buttons on the current crop of consoles pale by comparison.
Back to Pac-Man. That joystick. Ohmy. It was a revelation. Not once did I mis-direct the hungry yellow orb. I was in perfect harmony with the machine. I was totally immersed, and realised that I was actually pretty good at the game. Same thing happened with Galaga too; after a short time, I soon got into the zone and was dodging bullets and ships like a pro. I'm not bragging. I really am not. I don't want to appear like the idiot who reviewed Blur for IGN. I think more isn't necessarily better; arcade machines are blessed with a pure simplicity which rewards the player instead of punishing him. Too many videogames these days appear to be unharmonious and fractured in that respect.
If you love videogames and haven't yet enjoyed the pleasure of a classic arcade machine, please do. It'll make you think differently about your passion and pasttime, and perhaps give you some inspiration to hunt down more varied gaming experiences. It saddens me that arcade machines aren't as prevalent as they used to be - we have consoles to blame for that.
You owe it to yourselves to investigate further. Expand your gaming horizons!