This January 15th, I will go to the (semi-) famous Arcade Infinity for the last time. AI has had its fair share of skilled players, celebrities, and crowds walk through its doors, but after the 15th those doors will close forever. A long history of rent hikes and waning business has finally driven AI's health bar down to zero, and it was down to its last round.
I've probably been to Arcade Infinity five times in my entire life. Once I went there with an idea for a feature story, and the last time I went just to take in the sights and sounds.
Nearly every game in AI had someone playing on it — often two people, because of AI's reputation as a fighting game community. AI was one of the first places in the U.S. to get Street Fighter 4 as well as Blazblue: Calamity Trigger and King of Fighters 11, and games like these brought in all manner of people to test their skills, from students to businessmen, fair-weather fans to competitors bound for EVO. To me, there was no other place like AI, and it was a miracle such a place still existed. Like a zombie it continued to shuffle forward when all its brethren had long decayed.
Many gamers from before 2000 may remember a time when arcades were widespread. I would look forward to visiting Redondo Beach when I was 10 as much for the beach as the Redondo Fun Center, where I could try my hand at The Simpsons arcade game. But nowadays arcades are a relic of the past. Is history just catching up with AI? Arcades are certainly expensive ventures to run, and consoles make it easier to find competition.
Of course people are bitter about it. One particularly vocal person from iPlaywinner caught my eye — not only is he bitter that such an acclaimed arcade is dying, but he blames so-called "SoCal scrubs" for the lack of support for arcades in the area.
"A whole generation of scrubs that wont leave their god damn living room let AI die. Everyone claims they love the arcade culture and what not but their full of shit. SoCal has so many fighting game players and are you telling me you couldn't go down to your local AMAZING Japanese style arcade once a fuckin week so it could stay around."
One thing is for certain: It was an amazing run. Whenever someone would talk about the death of arcades, I'd always think about Arcade Infinity as the exception. Regardless of the support it received, the service it gave, and the acclaim it earned, Arcade Infinity will always be one of my fondest memories.
Regardless of whether or not arcades are still relevant in an age of online gaming and instant connection, the arcade is like a grandfather to modern consoles, much like the much-beloved Atari 2600 or the NES. Is it really the fault of the local community for letting such an iconic place disappear? After all, no matter how good business was or could be, rent in that the area has been on the rise.
I personally think a reaction like the one above is just the voice of a particularly bitter fan. One who blames the new and refuses change. Blaming the console version of Street Fighter 4 seems a bit much. After all, SF4 coming to consoles was singlehandedly responsible for breeding new interest in the long-stagnant fighting game genre.
How do you feel about this news? And where do you stand on this issue of supporting a long extinct breed of gaming?