I know you said you weren't looking for documentaries, but my favorite is Fist Full of Quarters.
Let me think about my experiences and observations...
Everyone loves a winner, especially one who plays with style. I've always seen this around DDR machines. People may be waiting for their turn on the machine, but if you play well, they might just watch. Give them a show, they might start paying for your games instead of taking their turns.
No matter if you came to the arcade to play "only" the newest machines, the old machines like Ms Pacman (who wants to play Pacman when Ms Pacman can run!) or Space Invaders still had a place and purpose in arcades. People played them for nostalgia reasons, but also to use up the rest of their quarters or tokens. Can't play the newest 4 token machine with 3 tokens? Play 3 games of Frogger instead of taking 3 useless coins home.
Another thing to do with "unusable" tokens or tickets: give them to children. I've done this a few times and seen others do it too.
Talking about tokens, many arcades had personal "currency" instead of using quarters or generic gold coins. Many people, myself included, collected these tokens from different arcades. I think I still have a few hidden away in my room.
It's sad what happened and what is happening to American arcades. They are usually empty and lonely now versus then I went to them in the 90s. I don't remember arcades packed, but at least most of the cabinets would have one person. Now days, you would be lucky if there's an arcade attendant on the floor. The only place I still feel an ounce of energy and flashiness of old arcades I remember is the Sega Game Works chain. I think why they are still kicking is because they borrow heavily from their Japanese arcades look and having Sonic as a mascot also helps bring in tourists.
Edited by Breakman on December 3, 2012 at 1:27:18