Extended Play: Hands on With Forty Years of English Amusement Arcades

Wade, Alex (2019) Extended Play: Hands on With Forty Years of English Amusement Arcades. In: Hands on Media History: A new methodology in the humanities and social sciences. Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 145-159. ISBN 1138577499 (In Press)

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Abstract

Recent games scholarship (e.g. Guins, 2014; Newman, 2012) examines how videogames have aged over time and the risks to conservation that they face from the time increments of lack of technological capability (e.g. bitrot), rights protection (e.g. suicide chips) and unintended consequences (e.g. ultraviolet degradation). In spite of these threats, antique videogames continue to thrive both in domestic collections, and, perhaps, more surprisingly, in what Kocurek and Tobin (2014) have termed the ‘undead arcade’, the more mechanically vexing public environments of retro arcades.
Theoretically positioned as a genealogical approach to the research of videogame histories (see Suominen, 2016), this chapter examines the past and present methods by which arcade games are used, preserved and presented across time and space. This is achieved via primary data from arcade workers (e.g. floorwalkers, cashiers, refectory staff) who made a living in the videogame arcades in the 1970s/1980s and continue to do so in the 2010s.
Drawing on interviews and observation from individuals in arcades in the south and north of England (Happidrome and Astro City in Southend-on-Sea; Arcade Club in Bury), the chapter reveals how arcade videogames were and continue to be used and mined as a site for sub-cultural capital. Much of this draws on the site of the arcade as being a venue of grey practice. Shortcuts to play (e.g. arcing a cigarette lighter on Moon Cresta), hacks (e.g. ice-shaped 50 pence pieces in change machines) and workarounds (changing coinslots on shovellors) demonstrated mastery and prowess of the machine. These were located in - and can never be separated from - socially grey practices of sexual harassment (lifting up a woman’s skirt during a game of Donkey Kong), financial irregularity (working with the ‘faces’ to acquire cash from token machines) and the illegal propagation of ‘pop-up’ arcades, indicate an equal mastery of the intensely competitive social environment of the arcade. This continues to be the case in arcades in the 2010s, where it is almost incredulous that the antique arcade machines preserved and nurtured at Happidrome and Arcade Club by the same people who extracted maximum capital from them in the 1980s.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: L300 Sociology
P300 Media studies
V300 History by topic
Divisions: REF UoA Output Collections > REF2021 UoA23: Education
Depositing User: Alex Wade
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2019 11:30
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2019 11:30
URI: http://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/7824

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