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The Nerd Manual is meant to be both a useful resource for nerds and a guide for the people involved with nerds. If you're a nerd you can find information here that will help you improve your life and perhaps better understand yourself. If you're close friends with, dating, or married to a nerd, I want to give you insight into things nerds do that a lot of people have difficulty understanding.

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Nerd Q&A: Arcades of the Future

Chris Ainsworth - TRON
What will arcades look like in the future?

This is a really cool question.

Judging by the fact that stand-alone arcades are nearly extinct--apart from a few high profile places that manage to stay alive to host tournament play, or are run by collectors with deep enough pockets to operate at a loss--I don’t think arcades will ever be as prominent as they were pre-1990s. So I imagine there will be some arcades that cater to nostalgic game players and tournament players, there will be digital gambling, and there will be arcades connected to establishments that offer additional services like cart racing and children’s entertainment.

What does this mean for the types of games in arcades? I think you’ll see arcades specialize, much like they already have, into a few groups: nostalgia, cutting edge adult, gambling, and heavy-duty child entertainment.

Types of arcades likely to survive into the future:

Nostalgia Arcades - will be fairly large gaming floors with pinball games and old cabinet games from the 70s through the 90s, possibly adding newer games as we enter the later half of the 21st century. These places will stay afloat due to the dedication of owners who want to preserve the old machines and share them with people of similar age groups. They might make a little money, but smart owners will set themselves up as non-profit gaming museums and let people play games for free.

Cutting Edge Adult Arcades - will likely be attached to restaurant/bars that attract adults in their 20s to 30s who want to play fully immersive games with groups of friends (or co-workers), but don’t have the room in their homes to do so. These arcades will constantly swap out games for the latest and greatest new and improved cabinet games with lifelike peripherals that mimic guns, swords, magic wands and whatever else you can think of. I believe they will also have large multiplayer areas, perhaps like a movie theater or maybe with individual “pods” where groups of 20 or more players can compete. There will be some VR in these arcades—wrap around screens and possibly treadmills—but not goggles or suits because this would require a lot of expensive maintenance and most people won’t want to wear something that just came off a stranger’s sweaty forehead.

Gambling Arcades - these exist already, but I think this is where we’re going to see growth. Gambling is a huge money maker. Pachinko arcades are super popular in Japan, and while we still call them casinos in the US, there sure are a lot of video games in Las Vegas. It won’t be long before most states decide to tap into the gambling revenue stream and we’ll see digital casinos opening up all over the place.

Children’s Arcades - these will continue to operate much like they already do--attached to inexpensive restaurants, mini-golf, bowling and go-cart racing centers where there are a variety of entertainments available that appeal to families with children of different ages. I imagine that we’ll see more interactive games geared toward a variety of under-12 age groups. You’ll probably have the old stand-bys like Skee-Ball and Whack-a-Mole, but also digital games constructed of heavy-duty materials, with large controls, and simple game play. I imagine most of these games will have some sort of payout/reward system that doesn’t count as gambling, but gives users a sense of accomplishment and reinforces the game play behavior. (Nefarious corporate execs may want to take note: design your children’s arcade games to lead into your casino games so you develop lifetime users of your products.)

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