The new millennium is the millennia of PC games. But before PCs became a household phenomenon, the only games of its kind that kids knew, and a whole generation of Americans have grown up playing, were arcade games.
Arcade games consist of a simple, yet bulky machine, with a colorful screen, and some sticks or buttons to play with, and a device to put coins in, which allows the game to be played for a particular period of time.
Today, you can find arcade games that run on computers, using emulators. But before that had happened, arcade games were typically found, apart from the especial entertainment centres and video arcades, in restaurants, malls and movie halls. Kids and grown ups alike played mainly three types of arcade games: the famed pinball, video games or redemption games.
Yet, the ancestry of arcade games could be traced to the hugely popular games commonly known as the “amusement park midway games” like ball toss game and shooting galleries which were popular at the beginning of the 20th century.
The 1930s saw the first coin-operated pinball machines. Though being made of wood with all functions mechanical rather than electronic and being a far cry from the electronic ones that were to come much later, they were still quite a hit. The late seventies would see these mechanical pinballs being replaced by electronic games.
The change in fortunes of arcade games happened with the formation of a company called Atari in 1972. This company created the coin-operated machines, beginning with the electronic ping pong game, called Pong. Pong was a huge hit, and led to even more home video game systems being introduced onto the market.
Many games like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Space Invaders became huge hits in the late seventies and early eighties, paving the way to a revolution. The last breath to the arcade games was provided by the emergence of two player fighting games like Street Fighter II , Mortal Kombat¸ Fatal Fury, King of fighters etc in the early 90s. However, this was not to redeem the fate of arcade games completely, as the growth in computers and video technology saw the emergence of new type of games, including PC games and games that ran on special consoles such as the Playstation, Game Boy and the X-box pushing arcade games into the sidelines, to almost the end of their existence.