Monday, March 9, 2009

PDP #8: The 'Cade

I grew up in a time when there was still a place for video arcades. I know that even then they were nothing compared to what they had been in the first days of electronic entertainment, back when Space Invaders and Pac-Man and Pong kept the quarters rolling, yet they were something to me. In the early 1990s, home entertainment systems weren't yet sophisticated enough to deliver an experience superior in all respects to what you could find in a bleeping cabinet hungry for two bits. Before multiplayer gaming, the social atmosphere of the video arcade was the best you could get.

It wasn't just the atmosphere that kept bringing me back to these arcades, though. It was the variety. In one long room you could go from a 1990s smash-'em-up to polished pinball machines and video poker units, but the biggest draws were always the racers. Sending your car, or high-performance jet boat, roaring through the turns with a flick of a joystick is one thing, and actually jerking the wheel is something else again.

When I stumbled upon it on December 5th, the lights had already gone out for Funland Arcade on the Yonge Street strip. Technological progress had left it behind, as progress always does. There's only one arcade left in the entire city of Toronto that I know of, a simple amusement center on the arrivals level of Union Station. A pale shadow of how things used to be.

You wouldn't be able to take a photo like this anymore. There's a clothes store under the CADE now.

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