Preservation of the ‘80s: Bars provide nostalgic experience

Preservation of the ‘80s: Bars provide nostalgic experience

» Patrick Casey

Preservation of the ‘80s: Bars provide nostalgic experience

By Kendrah Villiesse

Before PlayStation and Xbox, people played video games in dimly lit arcades, depositing quarters and trying to rack up points to achieve high scores.

Bars are now bringing that experience back to life with beercades where people can order a few drinks and play their favorite old-school arcade games as if they were back in the ‘80s.

After noticing scarce entertainment options before and after concerts in Uptown, Aaron Allen took matters into his own hands. Combining two of his favorite activities, Allen opened Uptown Arcade, 4830 N. Broadway, in March 2016. 

“Growing up in the ‘80s, I always spent time in the arcades and always loved the games,” Allen said. “When I got to the point in my life where I had the opportunity to actually own some of the games from my childhood, I figured instead of putting them in the basement, why not put them out for everybody to play [for free].” 

Connor Foy, marketing and event manager for Machine Hospitality Group, which oversees Headquarters Beercade, 213 W. Institute Place, said beercades are unique experiences where people can build foundational memories with their friends. 

With more than a dozen beercades now in the Chicagoland area, the concept of the beercade continues to expand nationwide, Foy added. 

Noticing a lack of beercades in the West Loop, Emporium Arcade Bar opened its third location Nov. 3 at the Fulton Market, 839 W. Fulton Market. 

Bars that provide craft beer alongside vintage arcade games provide a nostalgic experience for the older generations, according to Janell Baxter, associate chair of the Interactive Arts and Media Department and coordinator of the programming majors at Columbia.

“Having these types of systems in restaurants [or] in bars does keep that alive,” Baxter said. “It’s nostalgic for me because one of my strong memories of gaming when I was growing up was being in an arcade and having that immediate group of friends around you.” 

In a digital age, Baxter said although the online gaming world has become interactive and realistic, gamers do not get the ultimate experience of being with their friends and playing games in person.

“Going to meet up with your friends has maybe been replaced recently with all of these rich, immersive experiences that are available online,” Baxter said. “I’m not sure how many college-aged people are going out and experiencing these events in person.” 

Listening to music while playing video games and drinking beer or cocktails in a bar builds a community unlike any other experience, Foy said.

In addition to providing an opportunity to socialize with strangers or friends, Allen said beercades are a way to preserve the history of gaming for younger generations.

“We want these games to be around from our childhood for our children and others to enjoy,” Allen said. “[With] arcade bars, we view them as a little living museum. The beer almost comes secondary; it’s just nice to be able to play ‘Pac-Man’ from 1980.”