In the days before video games, amusement arcades were filled with a panoply of analog entertainment, from shooting galleries to skeeball to mechanical fortune tellers to endless varieties of pinball. These photographs of a conspicuously empty Wonderland Arcade (located in Missouri) were created as exhibit evidence in a federal case brought against the arcade related to taxation of its penny bingo games.
The Golden Age of arcade games is commonly referred to as the peak of the arcade game industry, due to the advances in technology and rapid popularity. Although the exact date range of this time period is unknown, many experts agree that the era occurred from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s.
In comparison to the video games we play today, the graphics and technology used in arcade games during the Golden Age were quite simplistic. Instead of flashy graphics, audio, and controls, the games relied on fascinating gameplay, storylines, and notable characters.
During this time period, the arcade game industry experienced massive growth in revenue and popularity. For instance, the entire revenue of the industry tripled to approximately $2.8 billion in 1980. In addition, the number of arcades across the globe doubled between 1980 and 1983.
In the mid-’90s, though, the scene was slowly losing the interest of the people because many of the games in arcades were slowly being ported over to home consoles, which gained popularity because it’s a cheaper, easier way to play games than going to the nearby arcade or food chain and dropping quarters.
The decline of arcade games was so great that many arcades went out of business and many establishments aside from malls almost completely removed their arcade cabinets.
(Photo credit: National Archives).