In preparation for our field to Quarters, I read this article about an explosion of video game bars in the country, and I started wondering why this niche market is so successful. I think the answer is that these arcade bars aren’t actually niche. Insert Coin(s) is an arcade in Las Vegas that’s more of a club than anything else, they have in-house DJs and are catering to a demographic of people looking for something very different than the birthday party I ran into on a Wednesday evening at Quarters. Barcade, which has five locations throughout New York and the East Coast, has a very different market. Their logo, and the touting of their microbrewery means hipsters in droves. Quarters, on the other hand, seemed to have a wider variety of customers. I went on a Wednesday night, and there was the aforementioned birthday party, some families, and a good number of people on dates in their thirties. The bar offers a lot to all these categories of arcade-goers. The beer on tap is obviously intended for older patrons, probably those looking for nostalgia behind the joystick. The cheesy foods cater to all audiences, and the games hold universal appeal. Aside from their flashiness, some of the games have a tactile quality that enhance the atmosphere. There was a wide range of ages in Quarters, there were several families getting their young child some experience with the games they grew up with.There are buttons, joysticks, and tracking balls that are just begging for some game-play.
The space of the bar itself evoked a sort of nostalgia, a nostalgia I experienced even though I missed the arcade era pretty handily. This poorly lit 8-bit setting makes the bar more intimate, letting players lean in over games with the person they are playing and make it feel like a moment rather than a display. I would never want to play Mario Kart in front of the class, even if I were to improve my game considerably. I just don’t want to play in front of people. It felt a lot better in Quarters, almost anonymous and certainly free to drift from game to game.
I think this mass appeal bodes well for the success of these arcade bars, and I hope they spread to my hometown because I’d love to play me some low-lit Street Fighter with food and beer on hand.