Ever since the potent combination of craft brews and classic gaming emerged in Brooklyn with Barcade, similar establishments have popped up all around the country faster than Super Mario on star power. But just because the sights and sounds evoke the feeling of stepping out of Back to the Future’s Delorean into 1985 doesn’t mean you should act like a kid at Chuck E. Cheese when you go. Here are some important guidelines to keep in mind when imbibing and gaming at arcade bars near you.
This Bud’s not for you
Try ordering a Bud Light or Miller and you’re likely to earn a smirk and a denial from your bartender because many barcades don’t put major macrobrews on tap. Remember, you’re not at a suburban Dave & Busters. Craft beer and custom cocktails, especially the local stuff, rules the barcade roost.
Don’t get sloppy
One or two IPAs have the potential to loosen you up and increase your barrel-jumping skills in Donkey Kong or alien-zapping coordination in Galaga. But slam one too many high-APV brews or whiskey cocktails and you’re likely to get poor Frogger run over by a semi-truck on the first level. Drink moderately and find your sweet spot.
Some games should be avoided
Hey, remember how awesome Pac-Man was? Sorry, but that’s just nostalgia clouding your memory. Ms. Pac-Man, the sequel, may still hold up as a retro game worth your while in 2014, but the original feels tedious in comparison. There are plenty of other “classics” that haven’t aged like fine wine – especially racing games (Pole Position should be left to die in a pit stop). Play Paperboy again today and you’ll wonder why anyone ever thought tossing newspapers at angry subscribers while being chased by killer bees and dogs was ever fun to begin with.
Photo: Barcade Brooklyn/Flickr
Be courteous and take turns
Just because you’ve got your filthy paws all over a joystick doesn’t give you permission to hog a game forever. Here are some rules of thumb: If playing a game that involves aiming for a high score in a single play (pinball, Asteroids), let someone else butt in after one hack at it. If it’s a machine that encourages multiple players to cooperate (X-Men, Double Dragon), feel free to keep pumping in quarters to continue a playthrough, but ask an interested bystander to join in if you’ve got empty spots. Competitive multiplayer games like Street Fighter II or NFL Blitz are a different beast altogether. If you want to challenge someone to a bare-knuckle virtual fight, approach them and ask first if it’s okay to play head-to-head.
Serious gamers should avoid weekends
It’s a fact of life: bars and clubs can get crazy busy on Friday and Saturday night. For barcade weekend warriors, this means waiting in longer lines to play or getting accidentally bumped by a passerby while you’re carefully jousting with your giant ostrich in Joust. Before you go, figure out your priorities. If you just want to drink with friends while casually playing some Tetris, by all means go on a Saturday. If you’re trying to become the next King of Kong, go on a Monday or Tuesday.
Consider that most arcade cabinets are at least old enough to drink and have suffered through thousands of hours of play over their lifetimes. Throw in the fact that some gamers like to take their frustrations out on the machines when they lose a life. Expect janky buttons or control sticks that are a little too loose with a few of the games and chalk it up as part of the charm of the place.
Don’t exclude the ladies
You might picture them as the perfect hang for a bunch of your bros, but arcade bars aren’t a boys-only club. You might be surprised how excited women can get when you suggest drinks and pinball as part of a night out on the town.