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Like so many things which are illicit, though, the attraction of pinball only increased in the prohibition years following World War II, and, by the s, the quickest route to proving your rebel status in America was to be seen within a few feet of a pinball machine.

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In many municipalities and towns where pinball was not illegal, a required paid licensing system which made the machines taxable at rates of up to 50 percent was put into effect, limiting the number of machines in one location. Most machines now bore an ominous sign reading, "For Amusement Only," to make it clear there that the money changed hands in one direction only.

Pinball flourished where it could, even while its reputation with the concerned citizens and parents of America was overwhelmingly horrific. Mothers and small PTA groups formed bands which demonstrated at candy stores and tiny arcades where their young ones were whiling away hours and cash in lieu of doing their homework. Much like their later counterparts with video games, parents feared "zombified," disconnected children unable to "think logically" as the pinball racket "bleeds millions of dollars from youngsters each year.

The period between the late s and the introduction of a new type of arcade game in the early s — the video game — was one of continued controversy, growing attraction of games for young people, and innovation for the machines. The Supreme Court in California overturned the pinball ban in , and on May 13, , the City Council in New York City voted 30 to 6 to overturn the ban on pinball after nearly 35 years. Sharpe recalls that the demonstration lasted about fifteen minutes.

His aim in the demonstration was to prove, once and for all, that pinball was a game of skill, and he was successful. Times had changed, seemingly in favor of pinball, and arcades dedicated just to games were once again a realistic business proposition.

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Unfortunately for pinball, something new was on the horizon. It was a world he knew well by the time he graduated from the University of Utah in with a degree in electrical engineering. Bushnell had spent his summers working at Lagoon Amusement Park in Farmington, Utah, and had unsuccessfully applied for a job at Disney after gradution. I think that you kind of get the carnival ideas into your blood. In summers I was working in the arcades," he says. I knew how much it had to earn. I really understood the economics of the coin-operated game business, and I think that I was perhaps the only person that had those two experiences, which allowed me to synthesize it.

This game, Bushnell says, "got all his juices going.

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It was Dabney and Bushnell who created the Spacewar! Computer Space was the first commercial arcade game released by Palo Alto-based Nutting Associates in The complicated game failed to catch on with the "guy with the beer in the bar," and Nutting was ultimately disappointed with sales of Computer Space. Their intention was to license their games to bigger companies, not make them on their own, and they quickly hired another young design engineer, Al Alcorn. My first game out of the box made about three million dollars and the royalties from it really allowed me to start Atari.

The first deal Syzygy struck was to produce games for Bally, one of the largest manufacturers of pinball in the world. Bushnell had seen Magnavox demo its upcoming home console, and its first game, Ping-Pong. Ping-Pong was transformed, under Alcorn, Dabney, and Bushnell, into Pong , a game with only one rule: "avoid missing ball for high score. Pong was released in the end of and it was so successful that Atari — which had just six employees — could not keep up with orders, and many companies rushed to copy it.

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Home Pong , a dedicated home version, was released exclusively through Sears for the holiday of , selling more than , units during the season. The success of Pong had wide-ranging effects in the months which followed: it made Atari the money it needed to continue producing games, it made the video arcade a viable business almost overnight, and it proved to be the beginning of the home console business. It also signaled the decline of pinball as companies rushed to produce video games. Arcade operators and games distributors quickly realized that video games had an advantage over pinball: they were far more reliable — and easier to repair — than pinball machines, which had many moving parts.

By the end of , there were more than fifteen companies actively producing video game cabinets, and technological innovations followed quickly, ushering in what became known as the "golden age" of the arcade. Gun Fight was the first game to use a microprocessor the Intel , and when he saw it, Nishikado knew the future of gaming was in the microprocessor.

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He would use one in his next game, Space Invaders , released in The game was so popular that some arcades in Japan were dedicated solely to Space Invaders cabinets, and within two years, it was the most successful game ever created. The introduction of high resolution vector graphics and the use of color, both in , formed, with the microprocessor, the foundation upon which all arcade cabinets would be built moving forward.

As with pinball before it, though, controversy was never far away from arcade games. The years between and saw unprecedented growth across the entire video game industry. The arcade chain Tilt began opening locations in the growing number of shopping malls across America. Beginning with Space Invaders in , a string of now legendary games see graphic above were released in rapid succession. Simultaneously, the home console business blossomed: from the primitive Magnavox Odyssey in , the concept of home gaming erupted with the Atari and the Apple II in , the Intellivision in , the Commodore 64 and ColecoVision in , and the NES and Sega Master System in Unlike previous video games, which seemed to appeal primarily to male players, Pac-Man appealed to everyone, allowing the hardcore player to mingle with casual gamers.

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  8. The idea of professional gaming also took root, and shows like Starcade pitted opponents against one another to play the newest games on prime time television. Arcades in the late s and early s held a particular place in the American way of life. Like shopping malls and roller skating rinks, they were safe, isolated areas where kids and teenagers could hang out, and, with a reasonable amount of money, spend hours without their parents.

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    But the golden age was destined to be a very short one. The industry was off the rails, and Walter Day told writer Tristan Donovan, author of the book Replay: The History of Video Games , that there were "too many arcades," with owners ordering more machines than their players could ever support. Day's hometown had four arcades with a population of less than 10, The video game industry relied on novelty, and on games that challenged its players. One person could only pump so many quarters into a cabinet before he mastered the game and began to look around for the next challenge.

    Many arcades, Time writer John Skow noted, "keep one [ Space Invaders ] around as a gesture to the good old days. If however, a game was extremely difficult, casual gamers were put off. This dilemma would plague the industry for years. The arguments about arcades, however, were identical to those of the s. In March of , one hundred people demonstrated at an arcade in Franklin, New York, telling the New York Times that since it had opened a year earlier, vandalism and drug use in the area had risen, though no statistics were forthcoming.

    The arcade was closed down for lack of proper permits — a common tactic. In another Times article about a different arcade, a mother in Long Island, New York was quoted saying that arcades were run by the "scum of the earth," that they "teach gambling to children," and "encourage aggressive behavior" which could lead to criminal activity. This is almost identical language to that used in the issue of Better Homes and Gardens , which described crazed youngsters driven "to crime" to obtain pinball money, enabled by operators who use violent tactics like "bashing in heads, or even murder" to get their machines into good locations.

    Everett Koop gave a speech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on the subject of domestic violence and child abuse. After concluding his remarks, he fielded a question about the harmful effects of video games on children. By February of , psychologists were positing that the "intensity of the experience" of video games was worrisome, as was the fact that the games "seem[ed] to be real. But the content of video games was changing. A study by Iowa State noted the "first phase," dominated by Atari, was all about abstract violence, and rarely Death Race being the one notable exception about violence against human beings.

    Bushnell is quoted in the study as saying that this was intentional, that he felt there was a difference between "blowing up a tank The outcry over gaming and arcades happened almost simultaneously with a crash in the video game industry on the heels of the Pac-Man bubble. More video games were produced, for arcades and consoles, in the lead up to , than had ever been previously.

    The market was flooded with games, and arcade operators, who often bought machines on credit or on loan from distributors, saw massive decreases in profits. The crash hit arcades and home console businesses, and no game signifies the failures of the industry more than the notorious E.

    Millions of E. The New York Times reported that the media was kept away from the spectacle by guards as concrete was " poured over the merchandise. The crash of nearly killed off the entire video game industry. History has told us that the rise of home gaming killed off arcades, and so our own laziness is to blame. If this were a history of video games, it would be time to talk about Nintendo, and the epic release of the revolutionary NES console in This event reinvigorated a decimated industry, and ultimately gave birth to the video games ecosystem we all still live in.

    They had just entered a long, deadly hibernation that would last almost 10 years. It also brought a new wave of enthusiastic players out of their houses and into arcades. It was important that, while home versions were typically available the next year, they were simplified: arcade technology was simply better than what the SNES or home computer versions could offer.

    To get the full Street Fighter II experience, you had to be in an arcade. The arcade, to some extent at least, was back, and the cabinets showed up in whatever businesses remained, grossing millions of dollars for the companies that developed them in the process. Niche, fighting game-only arcades sprang up in the cities that could support them. The scale, this time around, was much smaller, but it was still significant enough to constitute a "boom" of sorts. Not all arcades were equally fertile ground for such tactics, and some may not have required it much at all, particularly those more casually run establishments.

    The tactics of the hangers never reworked the arcades permanently; tactics never do. Rather they create pathways and moments of alterity.

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    We find this sense of play in recent studies of video gaming by Apperley and Lorke , and in my own study of Nintendo DS usage But in the video arcade, a space designed for play, the powerless, the other who must use tactics to evade control, is not the player but instead the one who does not play.

    The arcade is designed and designated explicitly as a space for play. And play, at least for classic theorists Johan Huizinga , p. For all but the employees, the arcade was a place that we chose, rather than being compelled to go to. In the urban and suburban milieu of the teenagers of the s, the arcade, like the mall, was a place where young people could interact and live outside of the differently controlled territories of the home, the school, and the workplace.

    The importance of places to go and hang out would likely have only increased after , when most states raised the drinking age to 21, effectively closing off the bar as a social locus for older teens. With this in mind we can see how even a relatively free and open space, even one explicitly meant to be a site of play, was ripe for the kind of tactics de Certeau ascribed to controlled spaces.

    Perversely these tactics, rather than inserting play into spaces of work, would, in the arcade, amount to a refusal to play as expected or required by the arcade control apparatus attendants, coin-operated game play, even individual game mechanics. This critical perspective which decenters the figure of the player in favor of an expanded scope which includes a more complex set of practices and artifacts and figures can help us better understand the tensions around use and misuse of the arcade space we see in news reports of the time.

    Local communities attempted to ban arcades because they viewed them from the outside as wild and dangerous Huhtamo, ; Nasaw, ; Kocurek, , The view from inside the arcade, from the skybox, bullpen, or back office, is the same image reversed. The arcade for operators was a place not of excess and disinhibition, but of manicured, harmonized play. It is well and good to pine for outlaw spaces, but the reality of such spaces is that they are not equally open to everyone see Cunningham, ; Sefton-Green, The video arcade was a space designed for profitable play, and owners, managers, and operators sought to create an environment that encouraged videogame play and discouraged non-play related activities.

    However, hangers, did not participate in this ordered play, and resisted in minor and major ways this regime of play-based activities. We have a quick, tense, stilted exchange before I head off to play a game. Perhaps it was Forgotten Worlds.