Monday, May 10, 2010

Arcades! Arcades! and more Arcades!

In our action plan, we mentioned that we would try to focus on the 4 main areas of Shibuya, Aoyama, Roppongi and Harajuku. However, since arriving in Japan, we realized that by focusing only on those 4 areas we may not be able to fully encompass the widely diversified canvas that is a Student’s Nightlife Experience. So while we will undoubtedly try our best to follow our original game plan, if an activity arises that is prominent in another area and is also highly connected with a Student’s Nightlife we will not hesitate to write about it.

With that said, this week, Team Blue (Abby Ovid= AO=) traveled to Japan’s “Electric Town”, Akihabara, to investigate the age old phenomenon, The Arcade. Before we get to the results of our epic foray into mystical world of cabinet gaming, let us first partake in a brief history of arcades if you will.

The first coin-operated arcade game appeared in the mid-1970s and blossomed shortly with the invention of time honoured classics such as Space Invaders (1978), Pac-man (1980) and Donkey Kong (1981). However, by 1983 video games began to diminish in popularity, this decline was short lived as the invention of two player fighting games in the 1990s quickly revitalized the industry.

In these days the word Arcade conjures up different images for different people. Some may recall fond hours spent playing games with friends in Summer Vacations past, while others may think of them only as time wasters reserved solely for children. The truth of the matter is in North America, Arcades are of a dying breed, with the advent of better and better video technology available through home consoles such as the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, people are getting similar experiences from the comfort of their own homes. Thus, arcades have slowly lost their magic over time.

One exception to this downward spiralling trend are the Arcades of Japan. Instead of fading away, Japanese Arcade are thriving and steadily increasing in number. In fact, one of the newest arcades in Japan officially opened on April 28th and consists of 6 floors and over 300 machines.  Much of this popularity is owed to the plethora of innovative ideas and technology which is able to bring fresh ideas into the arcades to captivate the attention of an ever evolving audience. The current trend is towards rhythm games such as Guitar Freeks and Drumania, while we do have similar games in North America such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero, they are usually played on game consoles rather than game centers. In fact in Calgary, there are, for all intensive purposes no arcades, aside from the small ones attached to movie theatres.

The success of arcades in Japan may also be due to the Japanese lifestyle. Since a majority of Japanese people take trains and walk to get around, more traffic is provided for businesses including arcades. This is apparent in the strategic pricing of the games; in more populated areas, like Akihabara, arcade games usually range from 100-200
whereas in less populated areas these games are only 50-100.

In our investigation, we visited various arcades in Akihabara but focused mainly on a well known arcade known as Club Sega to gain a better understanding of the arcade scene.

Club Sega consisted of 6 levels. The basement floor consisted of newer fighting games, the street level was comprised of crane games. The games on the second floor consisted of games that required some kind of game card to play (Video to come when youtube is working)

 The third floor was more or less the same as the basement level however the games were a little bit older. 

The fourth floor was dedicated to the popular rhythm and music games.

Lastly, the 5th floor was a special kind of game which used cards of soccer players as players in the game.

Club Sega opens at 10:00 am and closes at 1:00 am, making it an ideal location to visit for night time entertainment. Also of note, is that only the only floor where smoking is prohibited is the street level floor, and that the male washroom is located on the fighting game level while the female washroom is located on the rhythm game level.

In addition to games, most gaming centers contain purikura, which is more popular among girls. With the absence of gaming centers in Calgary, most of these picture booths have also disappeared. These booths allow users to add designs on top of their pictures, making them their own creations and setting them apart from regular pictures.

Gaming centers provide a place for many people to relax and enjoy. Furthermore, because people are not required to be of legal age to join in the activities, many younger people also spend their free time at these locations.

Team Blue Out

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