It’s a strange and beautiful world.
Somewhere out there is a guy who wanted to have the right atmosphere while he played old-school games. So he created three discs of ambient arcade sounds, bundled them onto CD-Rs, and is giving them to gamers.
The fantastic Aquarius Records just listed Arcade Ambiance ’81, which (predictably, perhaps) features a cascade of sounds you might have heard in a quarter dump back in the year of John Hinkley and Sandra Day O’Connor.
Unfortunately, these aren’t found sound or field recordings. That might be too much to ask for. Here’s AQ’s description:
Carefully collaging the musical cues and sound effects from period video games (this ’81 set including the likes of Centipede, Asteroids, Gorf, PacMan, Defender, Frogger, Qix, Berzerk, Crazy Climber, Missile Command, Rally X, Space Invaders, Tempest, Galaga, Galaxian, Donkey Kong, and many more) with some more generic sounds recorded in a modern day arcade, Hoyle has artificially (and very convincingly!!) re-created what an arcade in 1981 actually would have sounded like. Not unlike the way field recordist Jean-Luc Herelle enabled us to hear the trompings and trumpetings of the dinosaurs of the Jurassic, 200 million years ago… It’s a dense, non-looping, almost-hypnotic soundscape that Hoyle has sampled and sequenced.
(AQ’s search won’t let you hotlink results, but you can see Arcade Ambiance on the current front page — it’s the eighth disc down.)
Listening to the clips the site provides, and having spend more than my fair share of time and money crawling arcades 25 years ago, I can say this sounds only partially right — the clips don’t have enough coin jingles, pinball effects, or any angry and excited gamer noise, nor the sound of arcade cabinets physically being banged around. The King of Kong showed you players calmly and masterfully playing cabinets, but when it was regular folks trying to escape by dropping a few quarters, those controls took a beating.
And yet there is something engrossing and, yeah, hypnotic about the sound collage. Wonder how it would work as a backdrop for Rock Band?
EDIT: As it turns out, this is a project that’s been around for a while, and you can get a lot of the work right from the source at the Arcade Ambiance Project.