If you’ve never been inside a "real" arcade, it could be hard to distinguish one from say, oh, a Dave &Buster’s. Authenticity is a hard nut to crack, but there are a few hallmarks of the video game arcade of days gone by: first, they have video games. Lots and lots of video games, and (usually) pinball machines. They’re dark (so that you can see the screens better), and they don’t sell food or booze...
The defining feature of a “real” arcade, however, is that there aren’t really any left.
I had the fortune to grow up in the golden age of video arcade games.
When the lovely Mrs. and I were in California in the late 80's / early 90's, we used to look for arcades that had the original Gauntlet game. Stacks of quarters in hand, we'd plug away together for as far as we could get in the game, until the inevitable cries of "Blue Elf needs food badly!" finally sounded our defeat.
The last real arcades in the area that I know of are the ones in Kennywood. I seem to make it there every few years, and it is always a pleasant surprise to see that they have managed to keep the Galaga and Time Pilot machines up and running. One of these days, I will stop in for a visit, look in vain for my favorite games... and know, finally and truly, that I am old.