The Seven Deadly Sins of Arcade Gaming

Many of you reading this are probably seasoned arcade-goers, like me. We already know the smell of the machines, the sound of fifty games being played at the same time, and the way that the flickering neon lights the room, illuminating someone doing something unsavoury in that corner over there. Arcades are in our blood.


To some readers, however, arcades may be an alien place filled with strange sounds and sights, where strange magic clearly happens but much of it is incomprehensible. To those people I say: step in! Enjoy yourself! Take a big stack of 50p/£1 coins and have a blast. Firstly, however, you need to learn the etiquette of an arcade. That’s right, places where people gather to pump money into flashing electronic machines do have etiquette, in much the same way as a restaurant, a club or a public lavatory. Some of you really need to learn that last one, too.

To educate the newcomers, and to remind some of the less scrupulous arcade attendees, it has fallen to me to compile a guide on how to behave in an arcade. There are seven basic rules which you should follow at all times. Seven cardinal commands which you must obey, so as not to ruin the arcade for everyone. You might even call them…

Seven Deadly Sins of Arcade Gaming

I can’t help but feel that that would have been a much more dramatic reveal if I didn’t have the title of this blog post at the top of the page. Let's get on with it, shall we? The biggest sins in arcade gaming are:


You’ll sometimes find that you love a machine so much that you want to play it all day. Alternatively, you may find that you hate it so much that you’re determined to beat it. Either way, this can lead to machine-hogging.

Stack of Coins

There’s nothing wrong with putting down a couple of coins on a machine that you know is going to need them; if you want to beat the boss on Silent Scope, or try multiple routes on Out Run to know which is best, for example. Before you do, however, take a look behind you. If there’s a queue forming already, then maybe you shouldn’t put down enough money to keep you playing for the next hour. Be mindful of other people in the arcade and don’t ruin it for everyone else.

Hogging doesn’t apply to fighting games where the winner stays on. In that scenario, do your best to take down anyone and everyone foolish enough to go against you! Ruling over a machine like Street Fighter III or Marvel vs. Capcom can be one of the best feelings you’ll get in an arcade.


Speaking of fighting games brings me nicely to the second sin of arcade gaming. An arcade cabinet isn’t usually a huge thing: joysticks are right next to each other and you may be crammed right up next to another machine to save space. This can put you in close proximity with your opponent on a fighting game, leading to temptation…


Always remember to respect your opponent’s personal space as best you can. This isn’t professional football, or shopping at Asda on Christmas Eve. Elbows are not allowed. You might feel the urge to just nudge your opponent as he tries to pull off a shoryuken but you’ll be branded a cheater, shunned by your friends, and possibly beaten up by your opponent in real life. Leave the fighting to the digital world.

Note that while this is always a sin in arcade gaming, elbows are perfectly acceptable (and in fact encouraged) in “Johann Sebastian Joust” on the PS3.

Stealing Credit or Progress

Sometimes it happens. You run out of 50p and £1 coins, and your arcade fun is over for now. Maybe your mum wouldn’t give you any more, or you’ve used up everything you found down the back of the sofa, or you’ve already spent your whole month’s salary on Contra. However it happens, if you’re not yet ready to leave, you wander the arcade forlornly, watching other players have fun on that Point Blank machine you didn’t notice by the drinks machine. But wait! What’s this? They’ve walked away with a credit still in the machine…

Stop Right There

Don’t steal their credit! They might not immediately realise that they left money in the machine, but if they work it out a moment later and come back to find you playing with their credit, someone’s going to get upset. Call them back over, tell them that they’ve still got a credit left, and who knows? Maybe they’ll give it to you because they’re bored of the game, or maybe they’ll thank you and play on, and you might make a new friend. Be good to everyone in the arcade!

Even when a player runs out of credit, they might walk away with a "CONTINUE?" screen offering them a chance to play on. This is not your cue to put in money and carry on from where they were. Let the timer run out. If you want to beat the game, or get to the final boss, do it yourself. Unless it’s Dragon’s Lair or Space Ace, which were specifically designed to steal your money. Feel free to abuse those games if you really have to play them, because they’re mean.

Physical Abuse Toward Machines

When I say that you should abuse Dragon’s Lair, I do of course mean abusing the game’s continue mechanics, not the machine itself. Dragon’s Lair is one of the most frustratingly difficult games ever to enter an arcade, and you may feel it deserves a swift kick in the coin slot. Make sure you don’t do it!

Smashed Arcade Machine

I’m sure many of us have wished this sort of fate on a machine at one point or another. Contra is a classic example of a game that’s supremely hard but fair, while Dragon’s Lair is supremely hard and unfair. In neither case can physical abuse be permitted, however. You might damage the machine and make it even harder to play, you might injure yourself (those cabinets are pretty robust) or you might, worst of all, get thrown out of the arcade. No amount of infuriation is worth getting banned from your favourite gaming spot, surely?

There’s a cathartic satisfaction in performing percussive maintenance on a particularly recalcitrant machine. Put simply, hitting the damned thing feels really good. Remember that it’s just a machine and you should either walk away, armed with the knowledge that the game’s too frustrating for you, or you should complete the game and walk away triumphant. Physically abusing a machine will just make everyone judge you harshly.

If you want to see how absurd you’ll seem if you scream and smash a machine, purely over the unfairness of a game, look no further than internet classic, Angry German Kid:

(watch out for bad language if you speak German)

Turning It Off at the Socket

When you step up to a machine and watch it playing its demo, almost inevitably you’ll see a table of high scores. These will be filled with the initials of the best players (or, in some cases, filthy three-letter words, entered by the best players). You don’t think you can beat them. You want that high score but you’re never going to beat 1,138,600 points on Donkey Kong*.

Wait… some of these older games don’t save the scores if the machine’s turned off, right? The socket is right there…

Plug and Socket

This really is the lowest of the low. Some gamers will play for an hour or two to get a high score, which means an hour or more of solid concentration. It’s a well-documented fact that a gamer’s brain uses up more energy while concentrating than a medium-sized nuclear reactor, and so by unplugging the game and wiping their score, you’re undoing something that took more energy than a large city uses in an hour. Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating slightly.

In reality, wiping someone’s high score is like spray-painting over the Mona Lisa. Maybe that’s an exaggeration too. It’s like trampling over Neil Armstrong’s boot prints on the Moon. In short, if you’re not good enough to be at the top of the high score table, then you shouldn’t be there. Practise and get better, and give yourself a genuine feeling of satisfaction when you're number one. Be like Steve Wiebe, who fought for the world number one score on Donkey Kong.

Steve Wiebe


So, you’ve played your game of Street Fighter III against the guy who’s been ruling the machine for the last hour. You queued up, eagerly put your 50p in, chose your favourite character, and got beaten within 10 seconds in both rounds. You were totally outclassed. What do you not do now?


That’s right. No sulking, even if they cheated or used your favourite character, or even if you were distracted. Arcades are a place to have fun, and if your opponent really did cheat, then everyone else will have seen it and shun them. If not, don’t be a sore loser. Remember that you just got to see a great player in action, and will have hopefully learned something from them. Go and practise your moves, come back and queue up again, and take them out with your new-found expertise. Revenge is a dish best served with an Ultra Combo perfect finish in straight rounds.

The same also applies in reverse: if you’re the winner, be a good winner. Don’t rub it in your opponent’s face, or gloat, or do a little dance. Allow yourself a smile, shake hands if you like, and get ready for your next game. Always remember that the arcade is a place for everyone to have fun, not just you.

Wherever you’re gaming, remember that you’re meant to be having fun!

Fake Gamers

If you’re not having fun, you could just fake it like these people.

Joining Uninvited

The final sin is one that applies to multiplayer games where you work together to beat the computer. I’m talking about Final Fight, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Golden Axe, Bubble Bobble, even Contra, among many others. You may see a spare joystick while someone’s playing, and want to get in on the action. Hold your horses for a moment there, gamer!


It can sometimes be fine to join in with another player, but ask first. They could be practising a new technique, or challenging themselves to complete the game solo. They could be waiting for a friend to come back with more 50p coins, or they could be on a completely different skill level to you. You wouldn’t want to get stuck with a rubbish partner on a tough game any more than they would.

“Mind if I join in?” takes only a moment to ask, and can prevent an awkward session of ruining someone’s game. Respect that even though it’s a multiplayer game, it’s still their turn and you don’t have an automatic right to join them. You wouldn’t get into a stranger’s dodgem car at the fair, or sit at their table in a restaurant, or share their toilet cubicle, without asking first. Hopefully you wouldn't do that last one at all, but I’m not here to judge you on that.

If they invite you to join in, you can have a multiplayer blast and maybe make a new friend. Even if you never see them again, a shared session of gaming together can be a beautiful thing.

Now you know how to behave in an arcade. I hope you’ve learned something today, whether you’re an old hand or you’ve never been to an arcade in your life.

Nothing says we have to restrict ourselves to seven deadly sins, however. What else do you think every arcade-goer should know? What do people do that really gets your goat? Do you want to repent for any of your own sins? Let me know! You can get in touch with me through the comments below, via Facebook, Twitter, Google +, or email [email protected].

Written By: Dave Morgan

*Highest score in the world at time of publication, held by Hank Chien

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