Last Weekend, I ventured to out to one of the "hidden jewels" of Austin. No it wasn't one of the stereotypical touristic hidden jewels of our great city such as Hamilton Pool, the 360 bridge overlook, or even enjoying the UT student discount at the Schlotzky's on Guadalupe (yes there is one, bring your student ID). The place of excitement for my weekend was the Pinballz Arcade on state highway 183 in North Austin. Now I know what you're probably thinking: 1) This guy is a dork; 2) This guy thinks he's in a Ralph Macchio film; 3) There are better things to do with your Friday night in college. I'll be the first to admit, I'm not the gaming kind of guy, but on the insistence of a friend I decided to give the arcade a try. To my surprise, it was a wonderful time. My friend described the experience perfectly as "social gaming" and that really was what was going on. The golden days of 2-D gaming and pinball machines were in full swing. From families taking time off from the long week of work and school, to couples on dates of a different spin, to the large groups of college students reliving their childhood, the arcade was full of people gaming together.
This idea of social gaming had me intrigued so much that I became infatuated with the culture of Pinball and 2-D gaming. Upon the suggestion of my supervisor here in the UTCS department, I decided to delve more into the history of Pinball to better understand how gaming transformed from the simple ball and plunger machine to the advanced gaming consoles we have today. To my astonishment, pinball wasn't always a wholesome game. Until the addition of flippers, it was considered a game of luck. In the 1930s New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia went so far as to ban the game as he believed it was connected to the mob and was robbing the "pockets of schoolchildren in the form of nickels and dimes given them as lunch money." Despite the ban lasting until the 1970s, the game grew in tremendous popularity. With the help other games, especially 2-D games such as PAC-MAN and Galaga, pinball went on to create an arcade culture that would promote social gaming and the festivity of going out to the games.
With the sophisticated gaming systems of today, the games have come to us. In modern gaming, it's easy to play games with people from all across the globe online from the convenience of our home. Despite this convenience and connectivity, it seems that we have become disconnected from each other as gamers. If you had a chance to read my last week's post about "Connecting to the "Web" of People," you understand my concern with millennials becoming too comfortable in the conveniences of technology. Yet that evening in the arcade was a night of satisfaction as I witnessed people are still enjoying the simple blasts from the past. While some may say that the days of the arcade are gone with such advances in gaming, the sight of this Austin arcade packed on a Friday night was a sweet moment of realization that people are still going out and gaming.
If gaming or the gaming industry is something of interest to you I highly encourage you to look more into UTCS. Luckily at UTCS we have one of the most prestigious game development programs in the nation that students can engage in. So whether you're a novice gamer like me interested in the changes of gaming or you see ways to learn and improve the way we game, you should know UTCS has game.