Sega Arcade: Pop-Up History
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

To anyone who didn't experience them firsthand, it's hard to accurately convey the mesmerising power of amusement arcades in the '80s and '90s. A furious storm of light, sound and smell (the latter not always pleasant, we should add), your typical arcade was dominated by flashing screens and packed, jostling bodies. This was raw 'social' gaming before online play came long and connected the entire globe; your mettle was tested against friends and complete strangers, with victory and defeat playing out in a very public arena.

However, for a certain period of arcade gaming's 'golden years', the biggest attraction was not the spectacle of beating all comers at your favourite one-on-one fighter, but stepping into one of Sega's many 'Taikan' arcade machines. Taikan stands for 'body sensation' and was Sega's answer to restoring some excitement in the otherwise uniform world of arcade cabinets.

Hang-On was the first to employ this approach, giving players the chance to ride on a full-size replica of an actual bike. It would be followed by After Burner, Out Run and Power Drift, and it is these iconic machines that are featured in Read-Only Memories' most lavish coffee table art book to date: Sega Arcade: Pop-Up History.

Following a successful crowdfunding campaign, Sega Arcade: Pop-Up History is finally finding its way into the hands of backers, and while it's a relatively slim read at just 45 pages (including the pop-up sections), it seems like the perfect way to pay tribute to this incredibly exciting time in gaming history.

With text penned by highly-respected journalist Keith Stuart, the narrative surrounding these remarkable feats of consumer engineering is fleshed out; Stuart explains how Yu Suzuki's AM2 division hit upon the Taikan concept, and each game has its own entry which delves into its history in more granular detail. These sections are accompanied by screenshots (complete with an authentic CRT filter, of course) and even cabinet concept artwork taken directly from Sega's archives.

Then there are the pop-up sections themselves. Engineered by Helen Friel, these paper-based models boast incredible detail, giving you a 3D impression of what these cabinets would have looked like when they were given pride of place at your local arcade. Of course, a small paper replica can't possibly match the sheer majesty the real thing, but given how rare these units are becoming, it could end up being the next best thing.

At £35, this isn't your typical retro-themed book, however. If you're the kind of person who craves value for money and simply wants to know as much as possible about Sega's arcade past, then The Sega Arcade Revolution by Ken Horowitz is arguably a much better investment. However, for pure visual spectacle, this book takes some beating – and if you're especially nostalgic for this period in time, then the intricately-detailed pop-up designs in Read-Only Memories' book will trigger those rose-tinted memories perfectly.

This article was originally published by on Thu 13th February, 2020.