Let me keep this short because I have a wash – a wash full of panties! Arcade Paradise is a game about running a laundromat – that’s how it was at first. It’s one of those jobs that a lot of us start out with, even if you don’t, as is the case here, have a family in the laundry business. You run the laundromat, day in and day out, busy in and out. You collect trash, wash and fold clothes, unclog the toilet, and empty the coin hopper in the coin machine. You put your laundry’s earnings in a safe and chat with your friends via an instant messaging app accessed from the 56k settings in the back office.
But in another secret room there are arcade games – cabinets with playable games! It’s like opening a door and finding out that aliens have landed. You can play these games – play smart spins in Game 3, Mr. Driller and many others – but you can also earn money from them. You can collect money in their coin hopper and put it in a safe. If you collect all this money, what if you use it to expand? Buying new cabinets to create more space to store them? forward.
So Arcade Paradise moved on, keeping pace with the Katamari that commerce and capitalism rolled. More, brighter, shinier. But also faster and more efficient. The right upgrades open up more free time during the day so time and money can be reinvested.
There are dozens of cabinets that at first seem to be the obvious attraction here, beautifully designed and walk a neat line between imitation and reverence. Did you know that the original GTA was based on the pinball game? I doubt the makers of Arcade Paradise know — maybe they’re already doing it — because here, top-down GTA mixed with Pac-Man, the pairings are so sweetly balanced that I could play for hours . That was just one of those games, and the only one that I even partially ruined. So yeah, that’s the core attraction, right? Slowly turn the laundry into an arcade and rake it in. (Just playing the game and ticking achievements helps make them more popular with bettors.)
of course. What I didn’t expect, though, was to be so constrained to run a laundromat in the first place. For the first few hours, this is the main game here. I like to pick up the trash, fill the trash bag, and toss it at the target in the outside bin. I love the bouncy mini-drama of pulling apart an old piece of gum. I really enjoyed the time challenge of doing laundry, tumbling them, stacking them and picking them up. The sheer ostentation I threw away the laundry basket at the end reminded me of David Lynch’s pride in his thesis bout. All of this stuff is a matter of button presses and lovely feedback. (No more talking about newspapers.) It speaks in its own way about the shameful joy some of us have found in drudgery over the years.
Where did this game come from? I’d call it a nostalgic piece if it weren’t for the less firm tap-tapping of the grime of detail and the steady taps of business. Instead, let’s call it: a game shaped by nostalgia’s less-compromising sibling, memory. Arcade Paradise is a fiction and abstraction that feels like memory. Perhaps this is because of the way it understands memory is also fictional and abstract.
For me, it’s a way of looking at games that’s rooted in age and circumstances. Arcade Paradise, especially in the early hours of the morning, is constructed in a way that provides a sense of play, like you’re stealing time – stealing minutes or even seconds from other things in the world, like washing and drying Dry, need to pick up trash and do finances. Compared to that world, the game is scary and vivid – rainbows appear in the old work textures.
More importantly, it suggests that games can be a way of seeing the world. Laundry quickly becomes a game here – an S rating for a tumble dryer is as satisfying as an S rating in a platinum game. Later, the arcade machine as an entity also became an interesting fix: where is the best place to place the machine? What is the best price and difficulty? Hey, what’s the business, buying and tweaking machines, expanding the field, finding the best environment to create it, if not gaming?
what. Arcade Paradise reminds me of Outrun, GTA and Mr. Driller, and my own working life as a teenager as a dishwasher and double glazing salesman, of course. But it also reminds me of those mazes on the Wallen Street subway wall. Warren Street! get it? Small puzzles to solve between trains, but tricky enough to encourage you to miss the train in the first place. Then you solve the labyrinth and you enter the wider labyrinth of the underground network. Maybe, who knows, there’s a maze in addition to that.