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The focus of this guide is on video arcade games, usually operated by a coin, a token, or a credit card, that are typically found in family entertainment centers, bars, restaurants, and hotels.

The first arcade games were probably the midway games available in amusement parks, and featured ball-toss games or shooting games. The first coin-operated arcade games were not computerized, and included a variety of pinball games.

In the late 1960s, electronics were introduced to many of the arcade games, and used for operation and scoring.

In 1971, two students at Stanford University released Galaxy Game, based on Spacewar, an early video game. Later that year, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney introduced the first mass-produced video arcade game, Computer Space, which was manufactured by Nutting Associates, and marketed by Syzygy Game Company, a venture begun by Bushnell and Dabney, which became Atari. The following year, they released Pong.

The first video arcade games were built on discrete logic, an early computer chip that contained only one logic gate or a small number of logic gates. They were based solely on competition between players, who often competed for the high score on a machine. These early games did not utilize artificial intelligence.

First released in Japan as Puckman in 1980, Pac-Man is a maze game that was hugely successful in video arcades, and continues to be one of the most popular arcade games, complete with sequels and a couple of television series. Although the game did not use AI technology, it was cleverly scripted and designed to have no end. As long as at least one life is left, the game was intended to continue indefinitely. Also unique to video arcade games was its use of different personalities for each of the antagonists (ghosts) in the game, Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde.

Released in 1981, Donkey Kong spawned several sequels and spin-offs featuring the adventures of a gorilla character and Mario, who was later featured as the Super Mario Brothers. Originally appearing as the antagonist, Donkey Kong was later featured as the protagonist.

For the most part, arcade games have short learning curves and are designed to reward players with short bursts of adrenaline rushes, in contrast, to console games, which are all about in-depth gameplay and well-scripted storylines.

Newer arcade video games may employ artificial intelligence. Arcade racing games use what is known as a rubberband AI system, which is programmed so that players don't get left far behind or move too far ahead of the computerized opponents. Arcade flight games, like Crimson Skies, also employ AI techniques, but they are much more simplified than flight simulators.

Released in 1991, Street Fighter II, a sequel to the 1987 game, prompted a resurgence in interest in arcade games, adding multiple playable characters with unique fighting styles and more sophisticated gameplay.

The first commercially successful arcade game was Pong, and they evolved around a simplistic design and crude gameplay. Later games made use of newer technologies, including artificial intelligence and sophisticated graphics. However, arcade games were designed to be played with a group of friends in a public place, such as an arcade room, a mall, or the lobby of a movie theater. Many of the more popular arcade games crossed platforms, appearing in game consoles, with versions that can be played on home computers or online.

Today, there are large followings for online arcade competition, with thousands of tournaments held each year. However, for the purpose of categorization arcade-type games designed to be played online or on a computer will be listed within the Arcade subcategory of the Game Genres category, with the focus of this category on the arcade games that are encased within physical arcade cabinets, known as video arcade machines or coin-operated video games.

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