When Gamers Grow Up
I remember going to the arcade as a kid. I wasn’t particularly social, I had my few friends, but when I walked into an arcade my social hang-ups all seemed to melt away. I could stand at a machine, look around me, and know that whether I knew the other kids in the arcade or not, we all shared a special love of the place we were in and what we were doing. I could walk up to someone playing Mortal Kombat 2 and ask for a match and it was never an interruption; instead, it was a welcomed challenge. I could jump into a game of Double Dragon and back up a kid who’s name I hadn’t even asked and have a conversation afterwards. When I went to the arcade, I met people who loved what I loved, and no matter how different we were, there was common ground we could stand on.
Once arcades started to be phased out of the world or became skewed to places with party games and prizes, I felt like something was lost. I don’t walk into a Dave & Busters and feel that instant connection with people because it’s not really about the games. I always knew I wasn’t the only person who felt this way about the arcade and the other night I found a fine establishment that brought back that instant sense of camaraderie. The Barcade is a bar in Philadelphia PA, dedicated to classic arcade games and the people who play them.
This bar is a haven for those of us who’ve grown up on Mario and Galaga. It features games such as Ghosts’n Goblins, Tron, Paperboy, Punch-Out, Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, NBA Jam, and so many more. The night made me feel privileged to have grown up when I did, every game I played was a flood of memories and playing them alongside friends and strangers brought back that instant connection I felt with people long ago. Even though I was in a bar and had a drink, I was totally focused on the experience of rejoining the games I grew up with. The bar was secondary to me and it seemed like everyone else was on the same wavelength. There’s something to be said for being in your 20′s, having a drink in your hand and physically meeting other gamers who’ve grown up with the same love that you have.
Little by little, places like the Barcade have been springing up in cities throughout America. In a time when the industry seems to be phasing out couch co-op and reinforcing online multiplayer, it’s encouraging to know that gamers who grew up playing side by side are making an effort to preserve that, whether it be through opening establishments like the Barcade or by choosing to spend their time (and quarters) in one. I sincerely hope that this trend catches on because I want anyone who has grown up with games to experience what it’s like to be a pseudo adult sharing a drink and a game with people who get it.
Do you guys have any special memories of arcades? Share those memories in the comments below folks!