This incident happened over a year ago, but it demonstrates the importance of one of the most hallowed and timeless cultural conventions in arcade gaming: the coin-queuing system. Whoever invented this meme, this cultural nugget of information and behaviour patterns, was a genius (probably British as well). The coin holds your place in the queue. It’s rather organised: you see a neat line of coins (be they tokens, quarters, pound coins, or what have you) on a visible part of the arcade cabinet, usually near the screen. Each person knows which coin is theirs. The person who’s coin is behind your coin, knows that your coin is in front of theirs. When it is your turn, you pick up your coin, put it in the machine, and play your game. This queuing system seems to be fairly universal, as I’ve found it to be the standard operating procedure in Asian, European, and American arcades, regardless of whether you’re playing a fighting game or Dance Dance Revolution. This system works marvelously, because space is often tight and crowds are heavy at the arcade. You keep an eye on your coin, you respect the others in the queue, and you wait your turn.
This is an account of what one should not do at the arcade, because it makes mild-mannered people like me angry. It happened on a Saturday in February. Here is my story…
At the time, I hadn’t been to the arcade in months; the previous autumn, in fact. I go very infrequently, because the location is inconvenient, and there are relatively few of them in my area. I was queuing up to play DDR Extreme, and I dutifully put my token on the machine in order to hold my place in the queue.
At arcades in the West, and especially with DDR you often have gangs of regulars who hang about the place. They can be obnoxious young males of the urban hip-hop culture variation, and can be of any race. Usually, at least at the arcades I have visited, one sees an inordinate number of Asians (mostly male) around the DDR machines. Many of these guys are obnoxious, and they act like they own the place. Roving bands of arcade regulars can become loud and rowdy, which is fine. They’re having fun, and I probably would be the same if I had a large group of friends who enjoyed going to arcades. I don’t mind people having some sort of territorial familiarity with areas which they frequent. I admit to it myself. When I frequented the Trocadero in London, I felt like it was a second home, but I was always mindful of others precisely because it was a public place. Territorial familiarity does not grant one ownership over arcade machines. Being able to play the Expert/Maniac/Heavy difficulty level on DDR does not grant one the right to move ahead of others in the queue.
My turn for DDR came, so I stepped up to the platform. Then this Asian kid in his oversized, white (unbuttoned over a white t-shirt) button-down shirt, slicked-back, over-gelled hair, and baggy white UFO-brand rave trousers quickly edged right in front of me, and began to put his money into the machine!
Me: “Uh… I’m next”.
Rave Trousers Guy: “Yeah, but I haven’t played in a long time. It’s been like an hour since I’ve played”.
He then put his money into the machine and pressed ‘Start’.
I was speechless. What could I do? Launch a protest? I’m not the kind of person who likes to cause a scene or make a big fuss in public. I don’t particularly like the attention that sort of action would bring to me. It all happened so quickly, too. Asian Rave Trousers Guy also had about five of his arcade buddies around him who didn’t protest his blatant and unseemly disregard for the queue. One of the regulars, who appeared sympathetic to my plight, then announced that I would be next after the Asian Rave Trousers tosser. Thanks a lot, non-conformist!
When my turn came, the Asian Rave Trousers Guy saw that I was playing alone, and he decided to join me. That’s fine. There is no sense in ‘wasting’ a space on the platform when someone else can play DDR as well. But this wanker then added insult to injury by picking the first song. If you play DDR at all, you know that when you’re playing with strangers, you usually take turns choosing songs. Him choosing the first song meant I picked the second song, and then he picked the final song. He utterly usurped my game! Two songs! I was on the platform first. I should have chosen the first song. His rudeness was overwhelming.
How does “not playing in a long time” give him the right to cut ahead of me? Why did he do this? Was it because I’m not a regular? Was it because I was not in a group? Was it because I’m female? Was it because I don’t appear to be aggressive? Because I look ‘nice’? Maybe I should wear a perpetual scowl on my face to scare people into acting properly. Would that work? Doubtful, since my features are, quite simply, incapable of instilling fear in another human being. Surely it couldn’t be because Americans can’t grasp the concept of the queue. Surely not. I grew up in America, and I know how to queue. It’s not that difficult a concept. Perhaps he was raised by wolves? Finally, after attempting to figure out the rationale behind his behaviour, I could come to no conclusion except — he’s a jerk.
So there you have it. An account of a most severe and grevious transgression of the coin-queuing tradition. Do not try this in public. A lot of people might not be as tolerant as I was. If this ever happens again, though, I might be less averse to making a fuss.