Arcade Paradise Is A Game About Lying To Your Dad For Fun And Profit

Arcade Paradise Is A Game About Lying To Your Dad For Fun And Profit

Arcade Paradise is a job simulator within a job simulator.

Your father has given you, Ashley, his teenage progeny, the keys to his beloved coin-operated laundromat in a crappy part of town. You will now run the place as though it is your own while he lives a life of leisure, enjoying the laundry-based fruits of his labor. He has done this in a bid to help you ‘make something of yourself. Yes, the laundromat is boring, but, he argues, it’s a proven moneymaker. The business bubbles along, and though it may only bring in a modest amount of money day-to-day, you can depend on it.

Frustrated, Incorporated

Life in the laundromat business is mundane. You get off the bus at 8 am and open up. Waiting baskets must be thrown into the washing machine. While the timer ticks down, you move around the laundromat, clean up any discarded rubbish, and take it to the dumpster. Chewing gum stuck to various surfaces must be removed. The washer dings, its contents ready to be moved to a dryer opposite. From time to time, the toilet clogs, and you’ll need to clear it. Each of these activities is accompanied by a minigame, ranking your performance from S to C tier. It’s a nice touch. Another one: the closer you get to customers, the less distinct they become, blurring until they disappear entirely. Like a real customer service job, you’ve already forgotten people the moment you’re no longer looking at them. Arcade Paradise understands the little mental exercises customer service workers invent to entertain themselves.

A couple of arcade machines in the back bring in a little passive income, but your old man doesn’t put much stock in them. They are distractions and timewasters that pull the mind away from work that is much more important. So just clear their coin hoppers out at the end of the day when you do the banking. See you back here tomorrow.

But over time, you begin to notice a discrepancy. Yes, the laundromat’s income is reliable, but it’s also being outstripped by what the two arcade cabinets in the back can make in a day. Thus, an idea begins to form.

Winning at business by lying to your dad

At this point, Arcade Paradise‘s most interesting ideas come into play. Your character dreams up a business plan to turn their father’s dilapidated old laundromat into a buzzy inner-city video game arcade. The arcade begins as little more than a claustrophobic storage cupboard. After using the laundromat’s profits to buy one or two new machines, you’ve already run out of space.

The business plan is, of course, entirely deceitful. Your father cannot know what you’re up to. That’s where your sister, who works at city hall, enters the picture. Also keen to throw the old man under the bus, your sister advises you on how to work the financials to keep him from asking questions. She also helps you access the laundromat’s building plans. This begins with identifying a wall you could knock down to access some unused space. The gamble pays off. With visitors to the laundromat spending more in the burgeoning arcade, your secondary income stream quickly becomes the primary. Over time, the arcade expands to fill all the available space going unused by the laundromat. With nowhere left to expand, your character makes a line-in-the-sand decision: sacrifice space in the laundromat to grow the arcade.

A tale of two coin-op businesses, both alike in dignity

A standard job sim would choose one or the other of the two games contained within Arcade Paradise. Typically, a game like this would launch as Laundromat Simulator or Arcade Management Simulator without any overlap. Arcade Paradise marries the two, juxtaposing the Job We Take versus the Work We Want To Do.

Customer service workers will be acutely aware of this difference. The Job is what you do day-to-day to get by. This is not work considered worth doing. The Job is often little more than an uninspiring list of tasks to be completed, but it pays the bills. The Work is what you’d rather be doing, a personal project that lights a fire in the back of your mind. The Work is a noble endeavor, one that enriches the spirit. The Job robs you of time better spent on other things in exchange for a meager pay packet.

Arcade Paradise also juxtaposes, though doesn’t necessarily comment on, that both its primary businesses are coin-operated. Though quite obviously a period 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 game’s world, the arcade takes off and keeps taking off. The laundromat starts making more money too, but never at the level of the party in the back room. It is eventually left behind, replaced by an ultra-lucrative new world order.

In the real world, we know that this was not sustainable. Arcades were eventually eaten alive by home consoles and video stores. Video stores were then eaten by games retail, which were in turn eaten by digital storefronts. Now, even consoles look like they’ll disappear in the years ahead as cloud streaming moves to the fore. Today, arcades are few and far between, and visiting one puts you in a space that is unrecognizable compared to the game halls of the 80s and 90s.

But you know what I can still find in 2022, usually within a short distance from any suburban home? A coin-operated laundry room. In the end, dad was right, but Arcade Paradise (like its protagonist) isn’t really interested in having that conversation.

A few notes on economy and expansion

There are several observations that I want to make about the gameplay here, and not all of them are connected.

First: The player is expected to load, transfer, and deliver laundry for customers as they come in. I don’t know what laundromats are like in the US or the UK, but I’ve never been to one where the staff loads your laundry for you. If you put an Aussie in a laundromat where staff handled our clothes for us, I think we’d actually crumble into dust out of embarrassment. I would rather die than hand a stranger my dirty undies for any reason.

Absolutely unhinged scenario. It can’t be real, can it? Friends from the UK and US: sound off in the comments, please. I need to know that this isn’t a thing. This is going to keep me up at night.

Second: The game has two economies, one in USD and the other in GBP. USD is collected in the coin hoppers within the arcade and laundromat. GBP are wired to you by your traveling father whenever you tick something off your to-do list. The to-do list is explicitly built for goofing off on company time. It’s all about ditching laundromat work for playing your own arcade games all day. GBP can be spent on upgrades for both the business (a car to get to work earlier, or a better safe for a faster end-of-day procedure) and your character (like sprinting, or a watch that doesn’t beep all goddamned day as tasks complete).

What I will say about the to-do list is that I wish I could banish or swap out tasks I don’t want. If I have to play a game I don’t like for ten minutes, I’m just not going to do that, and it slows my upgrade roll. Also, given that many upgrades are pretty expensive, it would be nice to earn more cash for completing them. It’s the one part of the game where progress doesn’t feel like a bar graph on a meteoric rise and, because of that, feels interminably slow.

Third: Goofing off on company time isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Every game in your arcade is playable. This creates a design playground for developers Nosebleed Interactive, opening the door to playing with many different design ideas and tropes. Playing the games in your arcade ticks off milestones, which increases their popularity, meaning they will make more money. Once you’re up and running, leaving the laundromat to sit idle for a day while you slouch around the arcade from cabinet to cabinet begins to make economic sense. Customers see you sitting on a cabinet all day and think, “shit, that one must be pretty good.”

This is all built on a third, silent economy within the arcade, that of cabinet placement. Players are encouraged to move the cabinets in their arcade around across multiple expansions. Placing popular and less popular machines beside each other grants a passive boost, the popular machine pulling interest in the other up with it. This means there is an optimal cabinet arrangement on each version of the arcade’s floor plan. It’s up to you to find it.

final thoughts

Arcade Paradise is a job sim that has thought a lot about what it means to create and play a job sim. Its ideas are interesting, and it moves briskly, so you don’t feel the grind setting in too hard. It also grants a particular kind of geek fantasy. Who among us hasn’t thought about opening a nerdy establishment before? Like a comic shop or a board game place? Signing a Games Workshop licensee agreement, or, yes, even opening an arcade? In Arcade Paradise, you can do just that, free of any economic consequences that might crop up in the real world. It’s a rose-tinted throwback to a time when the industry was booming and arcades ruled the world. For players of a certain age, it tugs at something in the heart. For those too young to have visited a real arcade, to have only ever seen them on stranger thingsthis will be a kitschy retro fun.

Arcade Paradise is out now on PlayStation and Xbox platforms, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PC.