One of the most famous stereotypes about Japan is their love for arcades. It is seen in many different forms of media often in not so well perceived light. Many times it is shown that arcades are full of over the top competitive gamers that spend day and night in these places. Others glamourize arcades and showcase an area where many people go to enjoy themselves and maybe win a prize or two. For some it might be strange that arcades are relevant, for instance in my hometown of Los Angeles, arcades are seen as a thing of the past and often are associated with nerds or retro heavy individuals that can’t let go of the past. While that may be the case for some cities or countries my experiences in Japan have shown that there is no chance of them going away soon.
Media and public perception of arcades have been complex and mixed to say the least. Some see them as a communal space that brings joy and entertainment for all. Unfortunately many people, including parents, view arcades as a waste of both time and money, a location that does nothing for a community but distract the youth. In some cases even the government has stepped in to ease the minds of the worried public. In Japan government intervention came in the form of the Entertainment and Amusement Trades control Act, this law made it illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to enter an arcade after 6pm, even if accompanied by an adult or guardian. I used the word “made” because as of June 23, 2016 this law has been revised. Now most prefectures will allow individuals under 16 in arcades until 10 pm while some, including my old prefecture of Saitama, will allow it until 8pm. While there were still 3 prefectures,(Iwate, Ibaraki, and Tochigi), that kept the old law in place and will still kick out teens and children at 6pm, it is nice to see Japan being more lenient and allowing teens and families the opportunity to enjoy arcades after dinner.
Many people, at least back in the States, would wonder why go so far as to have a law for minors and arcades. In the US arcades have seen a steep downfall to the point of near extinction due to a loss in popularity. Over the years arcades have gone from the place to hang out with friends to a place where you find “nerds and no lives” fixated on a world that does not exist. Luckily this perception has begun to change and arcades now appear to be coming back from near death. Although now a days arcades have begun to make a come back with round one having arcade and bowling centres pop up around various areas, there is still nowhere near the support for arcades in the States like in Japan.
In Japan arcades are everywhere and seem popular no matter what city you visit. This is partially possible because of the vast selection of games to choose from, from dancing and following a song’s rhythm, to stepping into a capsule and piloting a Gundam to battle, arcades have a lot to offer many different demographics and bring the together in one area. Here in Japan the arcades are energetic and full of life they give joy and excitement. Meanwhile also giving people a wide option on how to spend a day outside of the house or even kill time before going on about their day. There are many different types of games to play at arcades Rhythm, simulation, fighting, prize, to even “gambling” style games. this wide variety of games makes it so that many different age groups and demographics have something they can enjoy when they visit arcades thereby maintaining a steady popularity over time that has continued to bloom.
I feel it is important to mention that gambling style games does not mean pachinko which is very popular in Japan and is restricted to adults only. These games are the same as the ones in pachinko but do not have the gambling features like pachinko parlors. Instead these games will give you tokens that can be used to continue playing in that arcade unlike pachinko machines that give balls or tickets that can be exchanged for prizes. These machines are just one example of how far arcades are going to insure that they have machines that will bring in consumers and enthusiast from different backgrounds and interests.
As the slow but evident resurgence of arcades in the US continues to gain traction, one can only hope that they will look to the success in Japan and try to work off of that template. This method of bringing in and taking chances on different styles of games as well as reaching out to more than just the youth community has shown to work well. If arcades are to make a comeback it be with not only the support of youth and enthusiast but also the older generations a market that seems to be ignored in this topic overseas. Japan and their Game Centres have the right ideas and mentality when it comes to longevity. Hopefully the countries that have struggled to maintain arcades around the world will look to Japan and try again to bring back these communal entertainment areas in an era where smartphones and mobile games have taken over.