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Ready, Set, Game: A Short History of Arcade Games

Arcade games in Smyrna, TN, have existed for a long time. They’ve been through a lot over the years,from getting banned by worried parents to falling prey to bad business decisions. But, no matter what happened, they always pulled through to provide entertainment. Here’s a brief history of how they came to be:

For Amusement Only: Pinball Machines

In 1931, the Gottlieb company introduced Baffle Ball, the very first pinball machine. It rapidly gained popularity, especially after designers added flippers and bumpers to make it more challenging. But,some parents and legislators associated it with gambling, organized crime, and delinquency and attempted to ban it.

To clear up the negative image, owners placed “For Amusement Only” signs on their machines. They also printed custom tokens that couldn’t be confused with actual money. But, these efforts did nothing to sway naysayers. Despite public disapproval, pinball flourished well into the sixties along with electromechanical games such as Speedway (1969) and Motorcycle (1970). Then, a new player emerged.

Space War and Pong: Electronic Games

It was November 1971 when Computer Space, inspired by Space War, became the first commercially available, coin-operated arcade machine. People weren’t interested in it initially because it was too complicated. So, inventor Nolan Bushnell made something simpler called Pong, which became successful.

Despite their popularity, the machines still didn’t have a dedicated venue. They just stood in random restaurants, bowling alleys, and gas stations. Everything changed when Space Invaders burst onto the scene.

The Golden Age of Arcades

Arcades in cities, as they’re known them today, only emerged after Space Invaders came out in 1978. It was soon followed by Galaxian and Asteroid, which had similar success. By 1979, arcades were popping up across North America, Japan, and Europe for people who wanted to play the latest games.

The years between 1978 and 1983 marked the Golden Age of Arcades. This was when 8-bit games ruled pop culture. It seemed like the pinball machine finally had a competitor. And, not just one.

There were coin-operated machines at every major mall, and several companies produced home video games. Well-loved classics like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Defender, and Frogger came out in this period. Things were getting exciting. But, it didn’t last forever.

The Not So Fun Decline

In 1983, several American video game companies went bankrupt because of business mistakes. Many low-quality entertainment products were also quickly developed to take advantage of the hype. In the end, there were too many options and not enough interested consumers, so most manufacturers faced losses.

Arcade games in Smyrna TN never quite regained the popularity they once had. But, they firmly established themselves as a significant part of more than one generation’s childhood.

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