Gaming Bars and Me

When I turned 21 in my third year of college, my world opened up for some unsuspecting reasons. Not only could I enjoy alcoholic beverages legally, because the goodie-two-shoes in me would not allow this to happen prior to that fateful day (minus one or two occurrences), but I could peruse “package stores” as they are called in Connecticut, to see all the beautiful packages and bottles I had been admiring from afar for the past ~6 years of my life.  And — I finally had reason to venture into the non-Williamsburg part of Brooklyn to check out a bar my friends had been talking about: Barcade.

I had a few firsts on the day I finally got my nerdy friends together to check out the bar. My first shot of whiskey – which turned into love at first cheers, followed by my first adult experience where I could walk in, order my own adult drink and … Play retro games. Gaming outside of my house. The last arcade I had gone to was knocked down and made into a whole foods/gym combo. Was this real life?

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This is not barcade, this is Arcadia – but we’ll get to that

Since discovering barcade, and then doing some research on others of the same type, the fact that I lived in NYC and was lucky as hell to be near all of these innovative businesses really hit home. My husband is of course, also all in on this concept and we both enjoyed a few more visits before I moved out of Chelsea. Which of course happens to be where one of barcade’s newer locations ended up. -deep sigh-

Even without the bar, my husband and I continued to nerd out at home. I was saddened to see the mana bar close down, as I had aspirations to one day visit. Fast forward to last March when we went to PAX East in Boston and sat in on a panel for gaming themed alcoholic bars. We were thrilled!

We learned a lot from the aspect of the establishment owner, kids or no kids, start up capital/becoming profitable, and stress management portions of running a business like theirs. We also learned a lot about being a patron, how the difference between working at the bar and going to the bar are two very different concepts. It gave me a lot more appeciation for this kind of place and furthermore wanted someone to open a bar like this basically down the street from my house. I’ll do your branding, promise!

I have an unhealthy obsession with becoming a regular at a bar. I don’t even drink that much, but growing up with the idea of Cheers/Friends in the back of my head has ruined that community feeling for me.

I digress.

From the panel at PAX we heard about “Arcadia National Bar” in Portland, Maine that was funded via kickstarter. Can we just hold to appreciate how amazing technology has made our world today?

Anyway, being that we live in CT now, my husband and I were looking for a vacation that we could manage via driving and thought: Say, Portland isn’t far and has that cool gaming bar we heard about.

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Walking into the bar was everything I wanted it to be. It wasn’t too big, it was busy with people playing card games, pinball machines, arcade machines – my husband and I even got into playing some Nidhogg and Rocket League on the PS4 at the bar. If you got trolled with Rocket League thanks spams from the Arcadia account, you can thank him. This is a gaming bar that completely spans every type of gaming. Even the drinks had gaming themes to them (see the “jiggly punch” below, which put me on my FACE), and it made them that much more satisfying to drink.

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I think something else that magically happens when you are in an environment with people who have the same interests, you end up meeting new people just by being there. My husband and I aren’t super into sports, so going to a sports bar doesn’t have that same camaraderie you’d find if you were there to watch the game. Meanwhile at Arcadia, I got to reminisce about Super Mario 64 with a stranger, and explain Fez and Rocket League to people ordering drinks next to me. It was perfect. It’s an environment I feel comfortable in and can see myself spending a lot of time in, and not in the unhealthy habit kind of way.

IMG_1252But the cherry on the ice cream sundae for me was the South Park Pinball Machine.

At the ex-arcade that I went to as a kid, that my Mom hated with a burning passion, was a South Park Pinball Machine. This was the only way I could convince my mom to take us to the arcade, because she would play this machine while my brother and I would pour money into other useless games. It was like the holy grail of my no-arcade access childhood. So when I saw it in the corner of the bar I flipped out and spent all my quarters on that glorious game. And maybe one or two on Qbert. I also texted a picture to my mom, she loved it.

After spending two nights of our four night trip at the bar, we both agreed it was safer for our savings account if we didn’t live nearby. Then we came home to some news that Barcade is opening a New Haven location, and we proceeded to flip out.

I’m increasingly excited that I get to be a 20-something in the midst of this alcoholic revolution, with craft beers and unique businesses opening up all over. Where is your favorite gaming bar or place of business to hang out? Leave me notes in the comments.

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