Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Czech Republic – Two very different gaming paradises

August 30-September 3

Hello everyone!

The sun has just about set on another work-free summer. Another year of English, maths, science and more awaits. As does another year of exploring the wonders of the Czech Republic and its idyllic capital city. The first couple of weeks have led to two experiences linked to games. One adventure is in Prague itself: the other, seemingly a world away.

Working chronologically, I’ll start with the latter. A thirty minute bus ride led us to the outpost of Cerveny Ujezd. There is very little in the village itself; I would argue that it’s a stretch calling it a village. Silence reigned supreme on a balmy Saturday afternoon. Turning down one particular side road, however, led our group to a modern, wooden house: something from an IKEA catalogue.

Inside this shiny hut was arguably one of the stranger personal collections one may happen to come across. The eerie hush of the hamlet was blasted away by pinging, boinking and clattering. The natural sunlight warming Cerveny Ujezd was blazed away by artificial lights of innumerable colour. We had entered a gaming arcade called ARCADEHRY.

Not just any arcade. For what lay before us was a personal collection of enormous machines, assumingly shipped from around the world, hosting arcade games famous from a time before I was able to play them. A personal collection of retro arcade games.

Space invaders
Our undoubted favourite, Sonic the Hedgehog
Even some strange games which I can’t imagine taking off today, such as the 1983 ‘classic’ Paperboy (exactly what you think)…

I’m not sure of the reasoning – whether it’s to pay the electric bill, debts or to raise money for purchasing ‘new’ machines – but you pay 150Kc and have unlimited access to hundreds of arcade machines. What’s more, you don’t need to insert a new coin to continue a game if you perish: I’ve never progressed so far on Time Crisis!

It’s not the easiest place to find, but ARACADEHRY is definitely worth the journey. I believe that it’s actually better to be in its current location; if this place were in the centre of Prague, you would never get more than one try on Sonic at a time, let alone ten.

Much closer to the centre of Prague, near the castle in an area called Sparta, was our other gaming adventure. Very much a watching brief, this time, for if I had been playing I would be either Czech or American. Oh, and a professional football player of a very high standard.

The Czech Republic football team used to be feared across Europe. Almost 20 years ago, they got to the final of the European Championships. Ten years ago, they arguably should have won the same competition but choked against a limited Greek team. However, they have recently slipped from that elite level of the game, failing to qualify for a World Cup since 2006, and lack the star quality of previous teams aside from their goalkeeper, Petr Cech. Better than Wales’ recent record, admittedly, but there is certainly room for improvement.

The next tournament they can qualify for is the European Championships in France in 2016. The team played a warm-up match against the United States of America – who are better at football than may people give them credit for – to prepare them for their first qualifying encounter, against the Netherlands the following week.

This was an opportunity that we couldn’t miss, especially when tickets were the equivalent of £6. It turns out much of the American diaspora here in Prague felt the same way. A significant amount of the 12,000+ in attendance in the reasonably old stadium seemed to be chanting ‘USA USA’ fairly frequently.

There is every chance that this was also coming from Czech fans mocking their own team. You see, they weren’t very good, particularly in the first half. A shocking piece of defending led to the United States scoring what transpired to be the game’s only goal.

The Czechs did improve in the second half, with their star outfield player Tomas Rosicky pulling the strings, but the team were guilty of missing two glorious chances towards the end of the game. Maybe they should go to ARCADEHRY and play on the football machines to hone their striking skills…

Love you all