Some might say that the arcade is dead...and some of you would definitely be right. When the home video game business boomed in the 90's, it pretty much spelled doom for the old mom and pop arcades that flourished in the 80's, as well as the arcade game business in general. But some folks never gave up on the form, and today they have found a sudden resurgence in the nightlife market, living on as "barcades", drinking establishments mixed in with classic gaming. And they've been quite successful.
Several new locations across the U.S. -- as well as a few that have "stuck it out" -- have found a new popularity amongst younger players getting into the bar scene for the first time, as well as "old pros" who never forgot what it feels like to drink a beer and play an arcade machine like they used to so long ago.
Take, for instance, Insert Coins Videolounge in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ever since Gameworks shuttered its doors (after poorly marketing itself as a family entertainment center), this hotspot emerged and has since attracted quite the crowd with its nightly drink specials, sexy-as-hell wait staff (nothing beats spotting cute girls in an arcade), and its array of classic and new games alike. Many people flock there every evening to soak in the arcade-style atmosphere while getting their game on and enjoying a few drinks.
This is just one example of the "barcade" trend...and we're not just talking the Dave and Buster's franchise either, though that's definitely a player when it comes to offering drinks and top-of-the-line video games. Several other establishments across the U.S. have also offered a great mixture of social drinking and gaming, and some have even added a few innovative touches along the way.
One of my personal favorite hotspots -- mainly because it's local -- is The 1up. Located in the downtown section of the Mile High City, this small little space has become one of the city's most popular bars. Each week they bring in new games just to see how they'll do. In fact, they recently announced that they were bringing in NBA Jam, always an arcade favorite, as well as a pair of PlayChoice 10 machines, stacked to the gills with 10 Nintendo classics apiece. (They better have Punch-Out!! in there or someone's gonna feel the pain.)
The 1up has also planned a few social events outside of just the normal game scene. Every Tuesday, they have a Skeeball league, where folks get together and try to get the highest score in order to obtain a cool bar tab. The place also has occasional bingo bouts featuring a burlesque dancer, as well as Jenga tables, so players can stack up oversized Jenga pieces to see how they'd fare. The sound of wooden pieces clacking to the floor is commonplace here, so we hope you're not startled easily.
(On a side note, The 1up is also a premiere spot for pinball players, featuring old machines like Baby Pac-Man and High Speed, along with new favorites like Transformers and Tron: Legacy...one of the few places in town to have said games.)
Barcade in Brooklyn, New York is another prime example of the blending of gaming and drinking. It features a number of custom tap beers to choose from, as well as dozens of classic game machines to play on, from favorites like Asteroids and Arkanoid to long-lost goodies like Timber and Ladybug. And they offer a number of random specials and events as well, including an upcoming brewer-related event on December 10th that not only takes place at this location, but two corresponding Barcades locations as well.
Last but not least, if you're in the Seattle area, check out a place called Shorty's. Not only is it a good casual bar with plenty of good hot dogs to feast on, but in the back is an entire room devoted to the beloved art of pinball. You'll find everything from Indiana Jones to classic Gottlieb tables here. In fact, even if you're sitting at a booth, you'll see that the table has been reconstructed from the guts of a classic pinball table. Definitely hitting there the next time I'm coming up for PAX. Maybe twice.
So, yeah, the "old" arcades may be gone, but with the spirit (and spirits) alive and well at these new establishments, you can bet that they aren't forgotten. Here's to hoping that more of them follow suit as 2012 rolls along. The more, the merrier. Bring quarters.