Arcade paradise is a job simulator within a job simulator.
Your father gave you, Ashley, his teenage offspring, the keys to his beloved coin-operated laundromat in a shitty part of town. You will now run the place as if it were yours while he led a life of leisure, enjoying the fruits of his lye-based labor. He did this in order to help you “make something of yourself”. Yes, the laundromat is boring, but, he claims, it’s a way to make money. The business is bubbling, and although it only brings in a modest amount of day-to-day money, you can depend on it.
Life in the laundromat business is mundane. You get off the bus at 8am and open. Waiting baskets should be thrown in the washing machine. While the timer is ticking, you move through the laundromat, clean up all the discarded trash, and take it to the dumpster. Chewing gum stuck to various surfaces should be removed. The washer rings, its contents ready to be moved to a dryer opposite. From time to time, the toilet gets clogged and you will have to clean it. Each of these activities comes with a mini-game, ranking your performance from level S to level C. It’s a nice touch. Another: the closer you get to customers, the less distinct they become, fading until they disappear completely. Like a real customer service job, you’ve already forgotten people the moment you stop looking at them. Arcade paradise understands the little mental exercises that customer service employees invent to entertain themselves.
A few arcade machines in the back net a bit of passive income, but your old man doesn’t care much about it. They are distractions and wastes of time that take the mind away from the much more important work. So just empty their coin hoppers at the end of the day when you do the banking. See you here tomorrow.
But over time, you start to notice a gap. Yes, laundry revenue is reliable, but it’s also outpaced by what the two arcade cabinets in the back can do in a day. Thus, an idea begins to form.
Winning in business by lying to your father
That much, Arcade paradisethe most interesting ideas come into play. Your character dreams up a business plan to turn his dad’s run-down old laundromat into a bustling downtown video arcade. The archway starts off as little more than a claustrophobic storage closet. After using the profits from the laundromat to buy a new machine or two, you’re already running out of space.
The business plan is, of course, entirely misleading. Your dad can’t know what you’re doing. This is where your sister, who works at the town hall, comes into play. Also eager to throw the old man under the bus, your sister advises you on how to work out the finances to keep him from wondering. She also helps you access the building plans for the laundry room. It starts with identifying a wall you could knock down to gain access to unused space. The bet pays off. With laundromat visitors spending more in the booming arcade, your secondary income stream quickly becomes primary. Over time, the arcade expands to fill all available space unused by the laundromat. With nowhere to expand, your character makes an improvised decision: sacrifice space in the laundromat to expand the archway.
The story of two coin companies, both worthy
A standard work simulation would choose either of the two sets contained in Arcade paradise. Typically a game like this would launch like Laundromat Simulator Where Arcade Management Simulator without any overlap. Arcade paradise marries the two, juxtaposing the work we take on against the work we want to do.
Customer service workers will be acutely aware of this difference. Work is what you do day to day to get by. It is not considered worthwhile work. Work is often nothing more than a dull list of to-dos, but it pays the bills. Work is what you prefer to do, a personal project that lights a fire in the back of your mind. The Work is a noble enterprise, which enriches the spirit. Work robs you of time that is better spent on other things in exchange for meager pay.
Arcade paradise also juxtaposes, but without necessarily commenting, that its two main activities work with coins. While it’s obviously a vintage piece, with its boxy computers and even boxier cars, the game doesn’t comment on the real-world flaw in its economic logic. In the gaming world, the arcade takes off and continues to take off. The laundromat starts making more money too, but never at the party level in the back room. It is ultimately left behind, replaced by a super-profit New World Order.
In the real world, we know it wasn’t sustainable. Arcades were eventually devoured by home consoles and video libraries. Video libraries were then devoured by the retail sale of games, themselves devoured by digital storefronts. Now, even consoles seem to be disappearing for years to come as cloud streaming comes to the fore. Today, arcades are rare and visiting one immerses you in a space unrecognizable from the arcades of the 80s and 90s.
But do you know what else I can find in 2022, usually within a short distance of any suburban home? A coin-operated laundromat. In the end, dad was right, but Arcade paradise (like its protagonist) isn’t really interested in having this conversation.
A few notes on the economy and expansion
There are several gameplay observations I want to make here, and they’re not all related.
First: the player is supposed to load, transfer, and deliver customers’ laundry as they enter. I don’t know what laundromats are like in the US or UK, but I’ve never been to one where the staff loads your laundry for you. If you put an Australian in a laundromat where the staff takes care of our clothes for us, I think we would crumble to dust from embarrassment. I would rather die than give my dirty underwear to a stranger for any reason.
Absolutely insane storyline. It can’t be real, can it? Friends from the UK and USA: react in the comments, please. I need to know that’s not a thing. This will keep me up at night.
Second: The game has two economies, one in USD and the other in GBP. USD are collected from coin hoppers in the Arcade and Laundromat. GBPs are wired to you by your traveling dad every time you check something off your to-do list. The to-do list is explicitly designed for fun during company time. It’s about ditching the work of the laundromat to play your own arcade games all day. GBP can be spent on upgrades for both the business (a car to get to work sooner, or a better safe for a faster end-of-day procedure) and your character (like sprinting, or a watch that doesn’t beep every damn day as tasks are completed).
What I will say about the task list is that I wish I could banish or swap tasks that I don’t want. If I have to play a game I don’t like for ten minutes, I just won’t, and it slows my upgrade roll. Also, since many upgrades are quite expensive, it would be nice to earn more money to complete them. It’s the only part of the game where progress doesn’t look like a bar graph on a meteoric rise, and because of it feels endlessly slow.
Third: Goofing around during work hours isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Every game in your arcade is playable. This creates a design playground for Nosebleed Interactive developers, opening the door to play with many different design ideas and tropes. Playing the games in your arcade scores milestones, which increases their popularity, which means they will earn more money. Once you’re up and running, leaving the laundry room unused for a day while you wander around the arcade from cabinet to cabinet starts to make economic sense. Customers see you sitting on a piece of furniture all day and think, “Damn, that must be pretty good.”
All of this relies on a third quiet economy within the arcade, that of cabinet placement. Players are encouraged to move their arcade cabinets through multiple expansions. Placing popular and less popular machines next to each other gives a passive boost, with the popular machine attracting the other’s interest with it. This means that there is an optimal cabinet layout on each version of the arcade floor plan. It’s up to you to find it.
Arcade paradise is a job simulation that has put a lot of thought into what it means to create and play a job simulation. His ideas are interesting and he moves fast, so you don’t feel the grind setting in too hard. It also grants a particular kind of geeky fantasy. Who among us hasn’t thought of opening a nerd establishment before? Like a comic book store or a board game place? Sign a Games Workshop license agreement or, yes, even open a game room? In Arcade paradise, you can do it, without any economic consequences that could arise in the real world. It’s a rose-tinted throwback to a time when the industry was booming and arcades ruled the world. For gamers of a certain age, it tugs at something in the heart. For those who are too young to have visited a real game room, to have seen them only on stranger thingsit will be a kitsch retro diversion.
Arcade Paradise is available now on PlayStation and Xbox platforms, Nintendo Switch and Windows PC.