Arcades vs. Casinos


As you sit down to consider the title rivalry, I suggest you pour yourself a cotton candy cocktail. Personally, I’ve never had one but I’ve decided that,  in theory, this concoction may have a lot to teach us about our subject.

Why? Because the cotton candy cocktail represents the intersection of childhood and adulthood. Cotton candy is fun-flavored fluff; a sweet kids’ treat. And cocktails make adults feel sweet.

When we grow up, we realize that stirring, mixing and sipping offer our adult sensibilities much more than the sticky, fluffy spun kind ever will again. But if we stop writing off our abandonment (cotton candy) as unrefined to our “refined tastes”-  or the attitude that “Trix are for kids”  we  see that personal tastes, preferences (and addictions) don’t disappear. They grow up.

When Gaming Grows Up

So I’ve applied this logic to gaming: Pac-Man, air hockey, Tetris, laser tag, skee-ball, go-kart racing, online gaming, online gambling, casino resorts, roulette, blackjack, Texas Hold’Em… hold it….

Life is a four letter word. I learned this when I used to teach elementary school kids. One”educational” field trip we took was to a place called Boomers. It’s similar to Dave & Busters- a real monster of a building- offering all the classics of indoor and outdoor gaming. Boomers is an arcade.

Since I was tasked with having at least one eye out for a bunch of kids, I couldn’t enjoy the place for what it is. So instead, I stood around in awe of the place- for what I realized it is:

Bright lights blinking, screens flashing, motion everywhere. Everyone in motion. Kids in full sprint from batting cage to video game to lazy river… from lazy river to miniature golf to Pop-a-Shot and back to batting cage. Everyone standing around. Adults on the sidelines, on their phones, amused spectators, silent witnesses, bored supervisors, reluctant participants. Fun! Win! Try again! Would You Like To Play Again? Insert more tokens! Earn tickets! Prizes! More tokens! Win! Fun!

There are no clocks, there are no windows (but who needs to know what time of day it is?) There are no long lines, just other choices. There’s food and soda but no one’s hungry unless they’re out of money. And if they’re out of money they probably have a lot of tokens. There’s no television and not much conversation. Despite loud noise there’s intense concentration. There’s machine interaction but hardly any human interaction.

And then you’ve grown up.

Game is four letter word too. I think it’s meant to stay with you for Life. I realized that  kids at an arcade behave almost exactly like adults at a casino. Sip on that.



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