The iCade And The Generation Gap

"Oh man, how cool is that," cries Ben.

Ben works in our office. I don't usually get much more than a gruff nod from him in the morning, but something has caught his eye.

"That's awesome."

He's talking about the iCade. A device designed to make your iPad look like a tiny arcade machine. When I opened the iCade box I actually thought that my wife had hypnotised me, dragged me kicking and screaming to Ikea, then erased my memory 'Men in Black' style — because the box was full of all those terrible implements of torture I normally associate with Swedish purveyors of cheap furniture: allan keys, screws, random pieces of wood, instructions for putting it all together.

I honestly couldn't be bothered.

The iCade is a solid idea. But it's one that's built on a false nostalgia, a nostalgia targeted at those a generation above me. For me Arcades meant Street Fighter 2, Turtles in Time, Daytona — they don't mean Centipede and Pacman. Those are games I played on a handheld. So when Ben walked past and began gawping like a toddler watching Bear in the Big Blue House, the effect was all but lost on me.

It just felt like so much effort for little return — I had to build the iCade, then I had to sync it, then I had to enter a password using the arcade stick buttons itself, then I had to download the games from the App Store then I got... a handful of free games and the opportunity to buy old games I had no interest in.

"What games does it have," exclaimed Ben. I hate to say his eyes were 'sparkling' but they were totally sparkling.

I rattled off some of the games that supported the device: Asteroid, Centipede, Tempest. (A full list of officially supported games can be found here).

Ben lost his mind. I sat there feeling a little bemused.

"I'm not a fan of this," I mentioned to another member of our team — ex-Gizmodo Editor Danny Allen. He was massively surprised. Everyone who has one of these absolutely loves it, he told me.

I just don't get it. The iPad is supposed to be a portable device, the touch screen a revolutionary new interface heralding different game mechanics, a new way of navigating our digital world, yada yada yada. The last thing I want to do with my iPad is plug an arcade stick into it and play a limited amount of games originally released on the Atari 2600.

But I look at Ben. He's taken the iCade up to his desk. He's so excited. He's almost 40 years old, he has two kids. He grew up playing Centipede and he loved that game more than anything. I ask myself: if someone created a SNES controller for the iPad and gave me access to all my favourite games from that era, how would I feel? I'd probably be reacting a lot like Ben — losing my mind, giggling incessantly.

But with the iCade? I feel nothing. I'm an age apart from Ben, currently blasting his way through Centipede, playing the games that enchanted him decades ago, reliving his childhood. I can only look on in utter confusion, pondering the generation gap, and the difference between myself and Ben. Happy Ben, bashing away on a cutting edge device, encased in an collection of parts designed to look like they were built 30 years ago.


    I cant believe it connects to the iPad via bluetooth: it's in the thing, why not just hook it up with a cable and save battery??

      Apple do not provide app developers with the necessary interface to program anything through the cable interface, so it's not iCade's fault.

    I'm 28 and I played a lot of these old Atari games back in the day at arcades and stuff. I actually get pretty sad going into a 'modern' arcade because they don't have cabinets with these old retro games any more. It's all Time Crisis and crap like that. Give me 1942 or Defender or Tempest any day.

    I'd probably not get a huge amount out of one of these though. If I was getting a cabinet I'd want a proper arcade-style upright with MAME. The thought of playing Tempest on this makes me sad too. Tempest was designed to be played with a dial for movement, not a joystick.

    But can I play MAHVEL on it?

    I don't have an iPad but I think the iCade is pretty silly too. I think it's the kind of thing that holds your amusement for 5 minutes but it's too much effort to actually own one. It's impractical - I can see you setting it up for giggles at a party or something, but beyond that, what's the point?

    Aliens Vs Predator and Super Street Fighter 2 please

    But it supports WarBlade HD. How can you not love something that plays WarBlade?

    FYI: WarBlade = Galaga Deluxe with extra fruit and secrets

    I'm wondering if that's part of the reason that the xbox game room failed?

    I would totally think about getting one of these if I didn't already have a MAME cabinet set up.

    YAY I can't wait :)
    Will you guys send an email to confirm the postal address for sending the iCade prize?

      congrats btw - Ive got one of these babies and love it like the pet puppy I never had. I've got a JB'kn iPad 1, with iOS 4.2.1 & iMame4All on it - cupla 100 ROMs (illegal kiddies) and can be found playing Metal Slug on a nightly basis...


    I'm 21, and I once broke the Space Invaders world record.
    You don't have to be old to enjoy arcade classics, you just need taste.

    Another poorly researched 'talking outta my ass' article from Mark Serrils.
    Hey Mark, here's a tip; if you don't know shit about the product, don't write about it.

    Writing about how ignorant you are about something is not your job

    Jailbreak the ipad, install any number of compatible emulators for any number of home consoles or arcade games, including imame4all which will play literally thousands of arcade games, and you can play whatever the hell you like on it.


      1. "Jailbreak the iPad" -- should I have to jailbreak the iPad, an act that is against the terms and conditions, to get value from a product? Is that right? Does that make sense to you?

      2."Writing about how ignorant you are about something is not your job?" Where did I say I was ignorant about anything? Honestly? Where? And what ignorance did I show here?

      3. "Mark Serrils" - Talk about not knowing shit about the product. My name is everywhere on the site, at least spell it right before you run your mouth like the pointless, illiterate idiot you are.

        No one cares how you spell your name you wannabe. And the fact you're confused about being called ignorant is pretty much the point. Do you not know what "ignorant" means?
        I can hardly wait for you to burn out and leave this site and this industry, you pretentious wanker.

          Easy there, no need to be an arsehole.

            Some people cant help being what they are :(

          The only wanker around here atm is you "Beb".

          a lot of anger going on here... Apparently Beb somehow is paying a lot of money to view kotaku articles. It's the only way it can explain why he'd be upset by reading subjective opinions on a newsfeed. Someone make him a sandwich

      I think you might've missed the point there, sport.

    Your only 6 years yourger than me and i grew up with and would LOVE to play those games on a cool arse ipad accessory.

    Are we divided by the gen X, gen Y thing. You young scottish fart.

      Yeah, but would you pay $150 to do it? I wouldn't. I just don't think it's worth the hassle. :)

        While I'm from the era in question, I wouldn't pay that for the nostalgic experience. It'd be something to have a play with and probably then get put aside, thus recognition of the $/hour of play cost puts it on the "interesting product I'm not in the market for" list.

    It's been a dream of mine to have an arcade cabinet in my house. I'm sure I'm not the only one. I assume that's the target market.

    Yes, it sucks that it only comes with really old-skool games, but it has all the right button to play Street Fighter.

    Still: I guess I'd want two that're synched, then.

    I'm in two minds about it. Like you, I feel that arcades came alive during the days of the early 90s. That's when I remember hanging around Timezone with my friends playing the games you mentioned above. But having said that, I have vague memories from the early 80s when I was tiny, of playing games like Pacman and Rampage on arcade machines. I guess the iCade addresses the lack of tactile input on the iPad for gaming, but uh, I don't want to pay the $79.99 that ThinkGeek is currently charging for it. That doesn't seem worth it :/

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