The Golden Age of Arcade Video Games came during the 1980s; mostly thriving in the US and Japan. It wasn’t until the 1990s, however, that arcade gaming would come to China. Out of fear that the games were corrupting the youth, arcades in China were banned in the year 2000; but in 2009, that ban was lifted.
Today, there aren’t many hardcore arcades left. Much of the arcades that you’ll see now have newer machines and have a heavy focus on virtual reality games. One of the last of these hardcore arcades in China is Liehuo (烈火), Shanghai’s most famous arcade (and probably the best-known in all of China).
Boasting several rooms full of classic arcade titles, Liehuo is a historical site, and a necessary pilgrimage for any avid arcade explorer. Being one of China’s gaming headquarters for casual players and competitive masterminds alike, Liehuo has been able to actively preserve arcade culture for decades.
Liehuo’s titles run the gamut of well-known classics such as Time Crisis, Metal Slug, Street Fighter II, and a ton of King of Fighters cabinets. There’s also a thriving contingent of gamers who come to play music games like EZ2DJ and Dance Dance Revolution.
When compared to the great players in other countries like Japan and South Korea, China’s esport athletes and arcade savants have not received the amount of press from international publications as they probably should, but esports and arcade discourse in China is beginning to open up.
At Liehuo, we met with some of the arcades’ most passionate players:
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