October 12th, 2006


A Thousand Words?

I was told by several people recently that I don't post enough pictures of my trip in this here blog. I reckon that this is true, and I think the reason for that is that I think of this blog as primarily a verbal medium. I post pictures when they accompany a story or an event, to illustrate or to explain. They can be the focus of an entry, but I wouldn't post them if I didn't have some sort of commentary to go along with them.

But these people are right, and sometimes pictures can stand simply by themselves. I'll post a few in my next entries, for those who just want to see some of the sights I've seen recently.



One of the rivers that criss-cross Vancouver, hosting a large marina. Mountains in the background. Some clouds. Yes, you can go see for yourself. Click it. It's fun.
The Granville Island Public Market, which I think I mentioned before. As seen from the bridge. I think it's the same bridge from the last picture.  
It's late September and the Canadian Maple leaves are falling, changing color to glorious reds, purples and pinks.  
Why do people always recycle their boat's name? If I have 5 boats over the years, wouldn't I want to think of a new and original name for each one of them? God knows I always agonize over finding a good name for my computer every time I reinstall.  
This man has a silly bike. End of story.  

People in Motion

The Bay Bridge (top) connecting San Francisco and Oakland.
The Golden Gate Bridge (bottom) connecting San Francisco and Marin County, including Sausalito.

Bonus fact #1: The ugly color that the Golden Gate bridge is painted is called "International Orange".

Bonus fact #2: Even though the Golden Gate Bridge's San Francisco end is inside a park, and even though there IS a Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, there is actually no connection between the bridge and the park. Huh.

Northern beach in San Francisco, along the bay.  
Fishermen on the pier, the Financial District behind.  
You feed pigeons too much, you know what you get? Fat Pigeons! 

"Put another dime in the jukebox, baby" - I Love Rock'n'Roll / Joan Jett

Jukeboxes are fun. Whether they're the old spinning-45's getting-stuck-until-The-Fonz-hits them Wurlitzers or the more modern CD based ones, they give you a feeling of participation. Especially if the bar isn't too full and several people work the jukebox in turn, responding to the other's selections.

And the coolest bits? When the jukebox is entirely digital and has a large MP3 selection, and lets you (for another quarter)  download on the spot anything that it doesn't have locally. THAT is cool.


Let the games begin

It is easy to put a finger on 1995/6 as the beginning of the end for the glory days of the arcade. When Sony released the Playstation, it took video games out of the kids' hands and into mainstream culture. In a few years you could find Playstations in bars alongside pinball machines, and rappers playing PS on their videos.

What did it mean? It meant that the video game arcades, already suffering from Sega and Nintendo sales, plummetted even further. The technological advances of the 32bit consoles meant that the arcades no longer had any advantages in gameplay, while the growing popularity combined with video rental shops stocking video games meant that they were easily available at home. Why waste quarter after quarter when you can play the game to your heart's content at home?

The 90's were a rough time for the video arcades, indeed. Manufacturers returned to the drawing board to think how they can compete with the home video game market. One of the first solutions came earlier, with shoot-'em-up games that featured a light gun for a more realistic shooting experience, rather than the traditional joystick-and-button combination. Speciality hardware was harder to come by for the home gamer (despite the original Nintendo's classic light gun and its accompanying game, Duck Hunt), and especially if each game had a specific input controller.

In 1998 Konami made history with a bigger revolution - the Dance Dance Revolution. Suddenly games weren't only about shooting stuff and, well, hitting stuff. This opened the market to a whole new demographic of gamers - girls - and also needed dedicated arcade hardware. A whole slew of beat and rhythm games followed, with favorites such as the air guitarist's dream Guitar Hero and the Nintendo-franchise-drumming-game Donkey Konga. It's interesting to note that many of these controllers - from DDR mats to Guitar Hero guitars - are now available for the Playstation or PC as well. But by now, arcades have built up their niche - specialty controllers.

In sports games you can step on a pair of ski simulators, ride a dirt bike or even, in an expo I've been to, play ping-pong against the screen. Shooting games got bigger and better light guns, shotguns and machine guns. I've seen games with virtual pool cues and enclosed chambers containing a complete gun turret from the Millenium Falcon. Arcades suddenly need more space to house all of these contraptions, and get more expensive to cover all the equipment.

This brings me to the original point of this post (which was supposed to be a 4-row post without all the exposition above) - GameWorks.

GameWorks is a chain of video game arcades across the United States, which finally give video games proper respect for the serious, dedicated gamer. GameWorks arcades are bigger - usually multi-floor complexes with many halls and rooms, sometimes underground. They have restaurants and bars in them - real bars, with real drinks. The locations I've seen don't even allow kids under 16 to come in without an adult - this is oriented for the post-teen market, and it shows. Rather than mucking about with quarters, you simply buy a member card and swipe it in the game slot - and can win more credits, get more for buying in bulk, and generally make it a very convenient place to hang out in and play.

In short, it's a really fun place to hang out in, except for one thing - I really don't like most of the new games. I don't like sports games or driving/flying simulations, and get bored quickly by gun-based shoot-'em-ups after the original novelty of paying double and using BOTH players' guns has worn off.

I played mostly the oldie games - fighting games from 5-6 years ago, just after my arcade-going days. Beat-'em-ups like Soul Calibur or Capcom vs. Marvel. Interestingly enough, the most popular games in the place, with people lined up for a space, were in the legacy games section - Atari-era classics like Pac-man, Asteroids and Galaga.

Would I like a GameWorks to open in Tel-Aviv? Certainly.
Will I go there on a regular basis? Probably not.