Bringing Arcades Back, One Bar at a Time

AP Photo
The Associated Press

Arcade bars like Button Mash in Los Angeles, California, are returning 80’s and 90’s kids to the bleep-blooping domains from whence they came — with the addition of trendy craft beers to sweeten the deal.

When I was born in 1982, arcades were already a five billion dollar industry. In the words of Steven L. Kent, author of The Ultimate History of Video Games: “When you stop to think of that, it’s 20 billion quarters, an estimated 75,000 years spent playing arcade games in the United States. And then it went away.”

By the time I was old enough to appreciate them, they were all but gone. I spent precious few hours amongst the array of my local bowling alley’s gargantuan standing displays, not-quite-swearing at games like Golden Axe and Streets of Rage. Despite the Chuck E. Cheese For Grown-Ups that is Dave & Buster’s, arcades had largely become extinct by the turn of the century.

Now arcade bars are bringing it back, with righteous hipster entrepreneurs at the helm. Craft beers and quarters are the order of the day, combined to create an atmosphere that both nostalgic adults and their children can enjoy. The proprietor of Button Mash said that they would be hosting a seven-year-old’s birthday party, and a fortieth just hours later.

Youtube Blogger James “The Angry Video Game Nerd” Rolfe called the idea “a new outlet for people who remember playing these games as kids, but are now old enough to drink,” and added that “they provide great nostalgia and a fun casual/social environment, which is an alternate to the more serious side of gaming.”

Others, like Robin Williams’ daughter Zelda, have voiced concern about the notion of mixing drunken adults with arcade machines:

Adults are prone to doing things like hitting the pinball machines when they get drunk, so I don’t know how long a lot of these games will last. [Laughs] As kids they couldn’t really damage the machines, but now they can.

Is it just another nostalgia-driven fad, or the future of arcades in the U.S.? Only time will tell. For now, arcade bars are thriving wherever they appear. And for someone like me, they sound like a great way to introduce my kids to memories of quarter-eating monstrosities that I’d thought lost forever.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove the use of the term “barcade” which is trademarked by the owners of Barcade, Inc. at their request.

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