Book Review: Brian Ashcraft, ‘Arcade Mania: The Turbo-Charged World of Japan’s Game Centers’

Paperback released on November 28, 2008 by Kodansha International.

Without question, the center of the video gaming world is in Japan. You just have to look at the powerhouse industry names birthed there: Sony; Sega; Nintendo. And in Japan the focus of game culture is the gemu senta. The North American equivalent would be an arcade; a concept that has largely died out in the style of the drive-in theatre. But the gemu senta hold far more in-depth experiences and continue to rule in Japan with over 9,500 in operation.

Despite it being a quick read, Brian Ashcraft, editor of the uber-popular Kotaku gaming blog, offers up a very enjoyable guided tour of the Japanese phenomenon in Arcade Mania. This includes in-depth discussions of each of the nine major styles of games housed in each gemu senta, as well as interviews with industry pros and fans and a variety of stunning images.

Ultimately, this is a book for gamers and will probably not click with those not interested in gaming on any level. But it does give those of us who spent good portions of our youth in arcades a strong sense of nostalgia. The arcade was a social focal point for gaming culture, as the gemu senta still is.

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