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12/08/2003

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ClockworkGrue

I wouldn't go so far as to say that video arcades are "dead," as long as you count chains like Dave & Busters as containing arcades. Rather, modern arcades are becoming well-lit rooms containing mostly games that use novel interfaces, be they pump-action laser shot guns, motorcycles, or pod racers. These games succeed because they deliver an experience that you can't simply get in your living room (which has been generally true of all arcade machines in times when arcades do well). A nice side-effect of these sorts of games is that they also tend to appeal more equally along gender lines, and even age lines. Last time I was in an arcade, I watched as a little boy talked his mom into playing the Star Wars Episode I Pod Racer game because he was too little to operate it. I doubt you'd see the same thing happen with Tekken III. And of course DDR and its children (sometimes called "Bemani games") are basically the new kareoke.

In any case, my worry with Space Invaders getting relaunched in the arcades is that, as was shown in the GGA coverage of the Tokyo Game Show, Japan has been marketed too far more heavily, with everything from shoes to skyscrapers featuring the pixelated aliens. Will the average arcade-goer care about the anniversary in the slightest? Will the sort of people who really care just play at home for free on their MAME? The answers to these questions, I feel, will truly determine the fate of Space Invaders Reloaded.

san

Granted, expanded arcade attractions *aren't* dead -- and you're right about the arcade experience continuing to bring the next step in gaming technology forward when it's not viable in the home.

The Space Invaders branding in Japan indeed may carry the revival far. I'm still of the mind that in North America, the rerelease will miss the pseudo-nostalgia crowd -- the ones who were too young to remember Space Invaders as a contemporary experience -- as they are content with console nostalgia titles, 2600 collectibles and the novelty of MAME. On the other end, those who were really there when Pong and Space Invaders rolled out, some have no interest in video games at all anymore, others content with their consoles or PCs: gaming for them has become a living room experience, not an outing.

For me, Pac Man was the real highlight of the dawn of video games. We had Space Invaders and similar at home; but Pac Man I played in Tokyo months before it was installed in stateside game rooms. Compared to Space Invaders, Break Out, what have you, Pac Man looked as revolutionary as Pixar's animation today appears compared to the old Amiga bouncing ball graphics demo.

Jason

Spcae Invaders is a great game so what if it doesn't compare to the whiz-bang power of today's arcade machines. Matrix Reloaded was whiz-bang, does that make it better than Chaplin's Gold Rush?

Suffice to say many of the youngin's who don't suffer from nostalgia may not find Invaders outwardly attractive -- but that's the beauty of an arcade -- it's the social act of seeing another enjoy a game and then feeling compelled to drop quarters to have fun as well.

Don't know if Space Invaders will make megabucks, but a new version of the cab with fresh working parts is a welcome addition to any arcade I say.

Bowler

Retro-style games are making a huge come-back, but that pricepoint is just going to be a deathknell for Space Invaders over here in the states.

While Mame cabs are illegal in bars and arcades (well, anywhere but who's going to check your basement), you can still get legal Mame cabs that license out a few titles on each cabinet for about $500.

As an arcade owner, my decision would already be made for me. I could get five "retro" units with multiple games each on them for the cost of just one Space Invaders cabinet.

It's a no-brainer. I doubt you'll see even one at a Dave and Buster's.

jane

mmm... space invaders yummy!

dan

What's up with all the mainstream media coverage of gaming news? There was an AP review of Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy on Wired a few weeks ago, and now Reuters/CNN is covering a Space invaders re-release? I mean, come on, AP doing game reviews? As a longtime gamer, I'm starting to feel like my avocation is getting co-opted.

I kind of resent that from a gut-level "hey, I was here first!" kind of standpoint, but rationally speaking, I guess it's a good thing. More media attention means more gamers means more games and fun for all, right?

But the problem is that the mainstream media doesn't always know what they're talking about. Case in point: a Google search of "namco space invaders" turns up a page on the Namco arcade site. WTF? That game is a two-fer-one Space Invaders and Qix machine. Now, assuming that's the machine that CNN is talking about, isn't that more interesting from the gamer point of view than a straight-up Space Invaders re-release?

The other thing is that if you poke around, you'll see that this machine was previewed at the Amusement and Music Operator's Association (AMOA) convention in Las Vegas in September...so it's kind of disingenuous for CNN/Reuters to present this as breaking news. Though I guess that a product release announcement from Taito might be a good excuse for that.

And about the photo being from the color version of the game - how much to you want to bet that that's a stock photo from archives? Dammit, they're not lavishing the nerdish love on this news that it would get from the gaming media.

OK, I'm rambling. I guess what I want to say is that although basically it's cool that gaming is getting some love from mainstream media now, I really wish they would cover it right.

san

Dan: There is a gigantic hole in literate, informed, well written and well edited print media coverage of gaming. It's a damn gaping maw. Today, emergency room residents go home after 24 hours and play EverCrack to unwind; it's common to find avid gamers among the professions. Gaming has even *surpassed* the mainstream and wiggled its way in among people who seldom make time for more passive entertainment like broadcast television programs.

In the past couple of months, I've seen the various editors of EGM do short guest spots on CNN covering upcoming titles, alleged analysis of industry trends and the like. Problem is, I don't know what else they do when they aren't on CNN. They certainly don't edit the magazine. Have you read that thing lately?

Casual *and* avid gamers are no longer the braces-and-bubble-gum set. Marketing knows this. Media outlets are on to it. But where is the intelligent and perhaps well read gamer's monthly? Golfers read up-market golf periodicals; the same with yachtsmen and clothes horses: the market is there; where is the publication?

dan

>There is a gigantic hole in literate, informed, well written and well edited print media coverage of gaming.

San, it's funny you should say that. I'm in Japan now and recently met a guy that used to edit "Game Critique," a Japanese industry mag (and sibling publication to "Continue"). Your quote above pretty much describes Game Critique and the first thing I told him was "That's a great magazine - did you know there's nothing similar in the U.S.?" Then I got paranoid that maybe there was and I just didn't know about it. Nice to be reassured.

It does seem like there should be a magazine for gamers that read. But apparently Game Critique has a circulation of about 10,000 (if I remember the figure he quoted correctly). Even if you could double that with a similar magazine in the U.S., it's not a number that will attract many publishers. (OT, but snowboard magazines have a similar problem.)

>Have you read that thing lately?

No...do they need a compulsive proofreader that will work for games?

jane

If games were more mainstream, the circulation numbers would go up.

But gamers resent mainstreaming because they fear being co-opted and watered down.

And yet they want intelligent stuff to read. Very few publications are going to be able to support themselves with a circulation of 10,000.

Can't have it both ways. The market must grow if it's to support a wider variety of niche titles. Otherwise we'll be stuck with game reviews in the back of Maxim.

Personally, I think it's unstoppable. Games are this century's television. Soon enough they will be inescapable - and some of us will hate that, and some will welcome it.

Which side are you on?

san

Gamers, I think, have been co-opted and watered down. The moment has passed. Budget titles sell of the racks while intricately crafted experiences penetrate well at first but languish soon after.

Perhaps the greatest barrier to entry for an up-market gaming magazine is the notion that gamers, casual and diagnosable, can and often do get their gaming information from the Web. Ergo, publishers see no need for "deep" gaming publications as the high-end market, though not satisfied, is saturated by free or quite near free Web outlets. The common perception is that the market will not reveal itself; they'll stay online. Existing gaming magazines are nothing much more than vehicles for glossy prints and demo discs.

Bowler

san: agreed. The one gaming magazine that will always stick out in my mind as one that (originally) seemed dedicated for the more intellectual reader/gamer was Next Generation magazine. Then it seemed to "sell out" and start naming every other game "best game of all time."

I cancelled my subscription, but I still miss the tone of those early couple of years. Hell, even the cover and pages seemed like they were printed on a finer caliber of paper.

Andrew

I think the biggest challenge to "intellectual" game literature is that video games in America were born in the midst of the period when most popular art had been commodified as entertainment (as in popular film or music.) In this paradigm, I think it would be difficult for gaming literature to approach games in any other way, aside from as a product. Looking at the earliest video game magazines (as many of you surely know) they were almost press releases for existing video games, or advertisements in the form of a periodical. Though the idea of a "review" has grown since then, most game journalism still has to work with a limited vocabulary that I think was inherited from popular music and film criticism (i. e. rolling stone.) Since both film and popular music grew up in more "innocent" times (compared to the climate of the 80's, anyway), there has been a bit more room for more "mature" criticism to emerge. But I think that in order for this to happen for games, developers need to make the firt move. Movements in criticism are generally responses to movements that happen in art, and I think the same might be true for games. That's not to say that there aren't "serious" games that aspire to be "artistic", but from a developer's point of view, there is always the bottom line to consider, and that constraint can be severely limiting for an art form.

All in all I'd say that video games are still young, and have a lot of growing left to do. I don't know how much "serious" or "scholarly" literature could be produced about the latest Grand Theft Auto clone, for instance, aside from sociological studies, but that is outside of the scope of gaming, and I don't think it is what we are talking about.

san

But Rolling Stone, dilettantes and nihilists that they may have often been labeled, used to be a better music magazine than they are now; the vocabulary of their early days should have fostered fine and insightful, if rough-edged, gaming publications.

I understand what you mean by the term "intellectual" but I intentionally stayed away from that word and chose instead words like "literate" and phrases such as "for the well read"; although I don't think this proposed gaming literature need avoid the moniker "intellectual" like the plague. Indeed, I think sociological studies, at least coverage of sociological studies, do have a place in this literate gaming literature, just as a look at how, say, the contemporary literature genre has changed over the past decade and influences new readers might belong in the TImes review of books.

It's been said, more than a few dozen times, that some of the best writing in the English language is about baseball. There may yet be room for something that plies its own course beyond the press release and between the workaday previews and reviews to which we're accustomed.

At any rate, one could print out the comments threads from GGA, bind them together with some art, and we'd have a good start on a literate gaming rag...

redice

You can already pick this up as import from play-asia and probably some other import sites as well, Space Invaders 25th Anniversary Bundle on play-asia.com with some screenshots pictures of it as well. also althought steep a 60 dollar price tag isn't all that bad if your a collector.

redice

hrm link didn't work try this here

Andrew

I know this is getting sort of off topic, so I'll try to stay brief.

Why avoid the word "intellectual"? I guess it has some elitist connotations, but I think it's sufficiently descriptive. To say we need "literate literature" is almost redundant (though the words do mean distinctly different things) and certainly very vague. Besides, I don't neccesarily agree with the notion that you need to be "well-read" to appreciate it. I think ideas ought to be able to stand on their own, and though their understanding can be enriched with knowledge of context, the core is still there and is still accessible. Anyways,

At any rate, one could print out the comments threads from GGA, bind them together with some art, and we'd have a good start on a literate gaming rag...

I know you mean that somewhat jokingly, but I say go for it. It would only need judicious editing...

JebusON

TIme seems to march ever forward. Twenty odd years the death of 8 track and then cassettes were heralded. It took almost that twenty years for cassettes to die and some still linger. Console/PC gaming will not kill the arcades. Unfortunely they will reach a sharper decline, but with SAmmy aggressively seeking sega's, as well as their own return to arcade, maybe we will see an upsurge. I may not be the best learn-ed person, but I'll take the odds that if Sammy can pull through, then that will help Taito make better, perhaps fincially (sp?), choices. I hope so.

The mainstreaming of Video Games, I might write my thesis on that, has been a long time coming. However I dont want EA, Rockstar, or even SOny to lead the way. However I am possibly in the minority with that.

Microsoft neutered Rare, Nintendo comes close every year the doing the same to themselves. There are not enough studios, like Retro, Working designs, and the like you make quailty. Instead Your EA's, Rockstars, and the like make Quantity. LAst year out side of a few choice titles from the major consoles, the GBA rocked out with the most best titles. Pleasent, but strange.

And Andrew redundant or not, literate lit. is sorely needed. But that arguement (discussion) rests for an entire class or forum.

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