The Beautiful Sounds of Arcades Now on Your iPod

Arcades hold a very special place in my heart.

They were, for a child growing up on the move, living in different states, different countries every few years, the one refuge in a constantly changing landscape.

While the names, the graphics, even the language of my childhood arcades changed with each relocation, the feeling of belonging never did.

As I grew up this love for arcades blossomed into a love for gaming. It lead me to a job managing an arcade in college and over time to a job writing about games for Kotaku.

My first moments exploring the Xbox 360's Game Room at this year's CES weren't spent playing the retro games in the virtual arcade, but marveling at the sound. I was fascinated with how well they procedurally recreated the noise of being in an arcade.

So when I read about Arcade Ambiance yesterday in our own comments and visited the site dedicated to capturing the music of an arcade's cacophony I was blown away by what I heard.

The folks on the website have carefully plumbed the audio depths of the arcade experience not just for a single soundtrack, but for four sound tracks, each created to represent specific era of arcade gaming.

The soundtracks were made by recording each game being played and then piecing together the recordings using a sequencing program with differing volumes and random left to right stereo panning. They've also made sure to add some crowd noise and the sound of coin changers.

Here we have 1981, an arcade packed with Asteroids, Astroblaster, Berzerk, Centipede, Crazy Climber, Crushroller, Defender, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Galaga, Galaxian, Gorf, Missile Command, Moon Cresta, Mousetrap, Ms Pacman, Omegarace, Pacman, Phoenix, Qix, Rally X, Scramble, Space Invaders, Spectar, Tempest, Venture and Wizard Of Wor.

In 1983's soundtrack, an arcade only two years later, you find a completely different mix of sounds from Bagman, Bump n Jump, Burgertime, Congo Bongo, Dig Dug, Donkey Kong 3, Donkey Kong Jr, Elevator Action, Food Fight, Galaga, Gyruss, Joust, Jungle Hunt, Kangaroo, Mappy, Mario Bros, Millipede, Moon Patrol, Mr Do, Ms Pacman, Pengo, Pleiads, Pole Position, QBert, Robotron, Sinistar, Stargate, Star Trek, Tapper, Time Pilot, Track & Field, Tron, Xevious, Zaxxon, Zoo Keeper.

The 1986 arcade features the following games: Arkanoid, Bank Panic, Bubble Bobble, Commando, Excite Bike, Flicky, Galaga 3 (Gaplus), Galaga, Gauntlet, Ghosts N Goblins, Gunsmoke, Hat Trick, Hogan's Alley, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Jail Break, Kid Niki, Mag Max, Marble Madness, Ms Pacman, Pacland, Paperboy, Punch Out, Rampage, Road Fighter, Russian Attack, Sky Kid, Spelunker, Super Sprint, Star Wars, Tiger Heli, Time Pilot 84 and Two Tigers.

And finally, the fourth track comes from 1992, smack dab in the middle of my time spent managing the arcade at Marley Station mall in Maryland. A time when Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat and Neo Geo were king and when pinball machines like Elivira were packed away in the back corners of most arcades.

Here's the full list: Altered Beast, Arkanoid, Cyberball 2072, Galaga, Golden Axe, Klax, Neo Geo (Magician Lord, Baseball Stars Professional, Nam 1975), Mortal Kombat, Ms. Pacman, Raiden, Roadblasters, Street Fighter 2, Smash TV, Tetris, TMNT, Toobin, & Xybots. Pins: Black Knight 2000, Elvira, Fun House and Whirlwind.

Now close your eyes, click on each link and imagine walking into a place packed with teens and young adults, your pocket full of quarters, your adrenaline pumping just a little bit, as you walk up to the showcase big-screen Street Fighter machine in the center of the arcade and plop down a couple of quarter for your turn.

Arcade Ambiance Project [Thanks Tenshigure]