In the early to mid-1980s, the popularity of games like Super Mario, Pac-Man, and Space Invaders had every kid either talking about video games or obsessively playing them. A 1982 cover of Time magazine excitedly screamed that video games were blitzing the world. Children were writing to Santa for an Atari and begging their parents for a few coins to drop in an arcade game coin slot. Even the movies of that era presented video arcades as the model teenage hangout. 

Some experts of the time even saw arcade games as more than toys or just a diversion for children, but as essential tools for preparing them for a digital future. A popular magazine article even posited that arcade games might offer more valuable lessons than conventional studying. 

Online Expansion
Decades later, love for the 1980s is of course still very much alive. Arcade games are being re-released on most platforms, and retro arcades are opening up left, right and centre. We even see that some of the most popular game providers on point to retro-themed games. NetEnt recently launched “Hotline” featuring a unique multi-level bonus slot with a high-quality retro soundtrack. At the same time, Relax Gaming has released “Hellcatraz” a slot adventure inspired by the pixelated games of the ’80s. There are retro themes and inspirations everywhere you look.

Today, both children and adults are benefitting from playing retro arcade games the same way the generation born in the 70s and 80s did. Here’s how:

Problem-Solving Skills
As electronic toys, arcade and video games were usually the first way in which kids in the 70s and 80s were introduced to computers. These games required children to plan, search, and negotiate their way around mazes and storylines. They also had to memorise all the ways that didn’t work and try a new approach each time they tried to play again. Such a strong foundation in problem-solving set up children with a strong foundation for thinking outside the box in their future workplaces. Some arcade games involved the use of in-game coins to modify gamer appearance and abilities. This function encouraged kids to understand game rules and structure and allowed for creative self-expression. Many children who started as avid arcade game fans graduated into coding and creating software. Some of the children who couldn’t get their parents to buy lots of video games for their home ended up creating their own and selling them, leading to the phenomenon of the bedroom coder. 

Social Skills
In sharp contrast to what their parents thought, the 70s and early 80s kids saw playing games in the arcade as a way to make friends and not an isolating activity. Arcades created a common ground for kids to meet like-minded peers, make friends, and hang out. It also provided a structured platform to create a lasting relationship—much like how work, church, or bars works for adults. Moving further in the arcade game sometimes required sharing ideas with a friend who’d tried a different approach. Such sharing of “secret” ideas and strategies forged strong bonds between children. It perhaps even also set the platform for how to create business partnerships as adults. 

In the 70s and 80s, few things were as respected among young kids as having reached the furthest stage or holding the local high score at an arcade game. It’s typical and healthy for children to compete with their peers for bragging rights and recognition. Besides making friends and just having plain fun, kids start playing video games to compete and win. That is especially true for boys and is partly the reason why multiplayer games are often more popular than single-player options. Arcade games, therefore, provided a safe avenue for kids of all ages and physical capabilities to express their competitive sides. These competitive sides could be nurtured into an inclination to innovate and pursue excellence as adults. 

Teaching Opportunities
The 70s and 80s kids constantly had to bring their friends up to speed on how each game worked and get them playing better than the other kids. You couldn’t learn this stuff from the internet back then, and magazines or books were slow, and few and far between. If you were the best at an arcade game, your high esteem came in part due to your ability to teach other kids how to achieve similar success. They’d be the “go-to” kids who knew how to beat the most challenging parts of the game. Teaching others how to go from one place to another, collect certain things, and combine several tactics to succeed was an excellent lesson in patience, as well as social and communication skills. 

When kids played arcade games and forged friendships, they often had to take turns playing depending on who was best at beating a particular part of the game. Others had to lead others, while others had to follow and motivate the group. Others were better at mediating disputes. It didn’t matter how old you were, as long as your skills furthered the common cause, you could practise your leadership skills. 

So there you go. You’re now armed with arguments for anyone that tells you arcade games were a waste of time!