Thursday, October 03, 2013

Vegas Arcade

Here's something I never thought I'd see in Vegas:
Atari's 1981 hit Centipede is an antique in the video game world, but it's the hottest new thing in the casino industry.

Slot machine manufacturers are rolling out a raft of games inspired by the penny arcade, hoping to attract middle-aged gamblers with a dose of nostalgia and the promise of finally cashing in on all those hours spent in front of a screen.

A Centipede slot machine to hit casino floors soon is more than just a clever licensing deal, or a sign of gambling's cosmetic change from one-armed bandits to touch screens and digital music. It's part of a new generation of models that let users show off a rare casino trait: skill.

The game, developed by International Game Technology, the industry's largest slot manufacturer, converts points earned shooting digital insects directly into money. If two gamblers sit down at an identical machine, the better shot will walk away with more cash.

Don't pack your bags for Vegas just yet, because no one is going to make a living playing Centipede, but I like the idea that skill matters. My only problem is that the only game where I was above average was Stargate (which was a sequel to Defender). "Not a lot of call for it round these parts," as Monty Python would say.

Actually, that's not correct. I was entirely decent in Konami's Hyper Sports as well. I still remember the events, too: Swimming, skeet shooting, gymnastics vault, archery, triple jump, weight lifting, and pole vault. I don't remember the exact order, except that swimming was first and pole vault was last.

I spent long hours at the 7-11 near my apartment playing Hyper Sports. And I remember it all--I even had a favorite pencil for the pencil trick, which was essential for a high score.

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