Montageman: A dude who writes

March 6, 2007

Arcades & the Drift

Filed under: barthes, videogames — montageman @ 4:44 am

Going to the arcade as a kid was always a reward – all A’s on the report card, got all of my chores done on time, or mom was out for the night so dad would go for pizza and videogames as a night out.

Galaxy Family Fun Center

The logic of the arcade is not unlike that of the casino – loud noise and flashing lights emanate from the machines, which functions to give a feeling of discomfort. It is impossible to ignore the lights and sound, so rather than being bombarded by this sensual onslaught all night, you play a game. Arcades are, for the most part, public spaces. A place where people come together to compete in the arena of gaming prowess, Galaxy would always have the latest fighting game – back then it was Street Fighter 2. People would crowd around the game hoping to get a shot at the winner. Fifty cent buy in, but unlike a casino, there is no money at stake. Street Fighter supremacy is strictly a bragging right. There is a lack of pressure when playing videogames – playing a videogame is much different than playing Blackjack at a casino. Players can have fun learning to play Street Fighter, but learning to play Blackjack in a casino is a high stress job that inevitably will involve making others angry. Raph Koster: Fun is about learning in a context where there is no pressure, and that is why games matter (98).  While there is decidedly more pressure in a public space like an arcade, the economics of the arcade are far less stressful than those of the casino.

Additionally, if a player is not happy with his gaming experience at a particular machine, then he can move on to the next machine virtually seamlessly.  The arcade encourages the drift.  Roland Barthes defines the drift as the moment when we do not respect the whole (18).

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