The arcade was once a mythic place of joy and fun. The amount of fun had was directly proportional to the quantity of tokens one possessed. The tiny pieces of gold granted access to every attraction an arcade possessed. The problem inherent in the situation was that, as a child, the flow of tokens was controlled by adults. It was never enough. Now that we have a theoretically near unlimited supply of tokens, we begin to realize how deep this con goes. First, they force you to trade in your real money for fake money that has no clear value and can’t be used anywhere else. How much is a token worth? I have no clue. At the arcade we frequented back home, they might have been roughly equivalent to a quarter. Might have! All I really know is that you got a handful of them for five dollars.

In these modernized and comparatively fancy restaurant arcade hybrids, the conversion is muddled even further. The tokens, which possessed physical weight in our pockets, are gone and replaced by temporary credit cards which are swiped on every machine in the arcade. The points stored on the card have a value I haven’t even been able to consider translating the value of a point. My intuition is that it is somewhere south of nothing. Without the diminishing girth of the coins, I also have no concept of how much money we are spending. I know that it is a lot though.

In the old days, these arcades had more powerful versions of some great action and fighting games. These were games that home consoles could not handle. Now that the console hardware has evolved, these games are rendered irrelevant. There is no reason to go out and spend money per play on a game that you can own at home and play as long as you want. All that is left is the aforementioned shooters and ticket gambling.

I call it ticket gambling because most of the games that provide tickets are built on so much randomness that you can never assure a return based on skill. They are reminiscent of the most nefarious game show tools. One of them actually is the spinning wheel from The Price is Right. Deal or No Deal seems to be a fixture at these places, and at least it has images of pretty ladies to look at while the game is stealing your money.

Even if you happen to obtain the inordinate volume of tickets required to purchase something more than a single Twizzler, the prizes are not much to write home about. At the Wolf’s 111 in Albany, I think the most interesting item was a giant keyboard like the one in the movie Big. I remember seeing NES and SNES systems at arcades in my youth, and now Dave and Busters has a variety of home gaming options. The problem is that you’d have to play for days to afford them, and by then you would have spent enough money to buy them at a store three or four times over. You might have gotten drunk in the meantime, but would you have had any fun?

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