The first arcade games
The earliest amusement arcades in New Zealand were sideshow entertainments at community carnivals, church bazaars and agricultural and pastoral (A & P) shows.
One game was toodle-em-buck, in which players threw marbles or balls into a hole in a stand, or knocked a button off the top of a stick. Another was the wheel of fortune; punters spun a wheel that was divided into sections representing different prizes. Sometimes you could even test your nerve on an electric-shock machine.
Some New Zealand towns and cities had peep shows, where photographs could be viewed through a hole or magnifying lens. In the early 1900s coin-operated devices called mutoscopes offered an early form of motion picture, viewable by only one person at a time.
Pinball machines evolved from a billiards-type game called bagatelle in which players used a cue to hit balls from a side alley on a large board up into the rest of the board. This was covered in metal pins and holes that were assigned different scores.
Coin-operated pinball machines were made in New Zealand around the 1920s, and American machines were imported. Pinball machines remained popular until they were overtaken by video games in the early 1980s. However, the 1990s saw a pinball revival.
Arcade video games
Arcade video games arrived in New Zealand in the 1970s and were housed in establishments such as Wizards, Doghouse, Fun City, Luna Park, Time Out and Timezone as well as in dairies, fish-and-chip shops, movie theatres and more.
For a time arcades were known as ‘spacie parlours’ after the popular early game Space Invaders.
Home video games
Gradually personal computers and home gaming consoles lured people from arcades. Sinclair and Atari computers were available in New Zealand by the early 1980s, as were gaming consoles like the Atari 2600 that connected to televisions.
Early New Zealand-made consoles included the Sportronic, Tunix, Fountain and Videosport. By 2010 the country’s foremost gaming company was Sidhe, established in 1997, and the New Zealand games industry as a whole was valued at just over $150 million.
A 2012 study found that 93% of New Zealand households had a device used for playing games, and 58% of gamers played daily or every other day.
Some people have expressed concern over the violence in some games and the addictive qualities of gaming. The Office of Film and Literature Classification is able to restrict games it considers objectionable, and by 2012 seven games had been banned.