Video game consoles and home computers have far exceeded the technical capabilities of anything that can be found in a classic arcade. As avid gamers who professionally work with the technology daily, we at UPT know the landscape. Dracmtt’s home rig is a monstrous beast, and we regularly have sessions of Battlefield 3 together. Power and speed is what multi-player is about nowadays. Arcades were popular in the late 70’s and 80’s and there was a resurgence in the 90’s with games like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter and NBA Jam. However, with graphics processing technology becoming more accessible to the average household, interest in arcades waned. A new era for arcades appears to be starting.
My wife recently sent me a Washington Post article about the grand opening of an arcade/bar within walking distance from HarbingerAlpha’s house. I shared it with the UPT group, and we were all giddy to visit. Atlas Arcade, located at 1236 H St NE, seems to promise the flavor of a local neighborhood video arcade with great games and good beer. Before visiting I was a little skeptical, though very excited. The arcade is located in a hipster district of DC; I wondered if the place was going to be kitsch or sincere nostalgia.
The UPT crew visited Atlas Arcade on its grand opening this past Tuesday, July 10. The space was narrow and slightly awkward to navigate but charming in the way hole-in-the-wall places are. Several machines lined the walls with a foosball table nearby and a claw crane filled with plush Pac-Mans. In the back was a coin-operated pool table and a change machine by the bar. Beers were standard DC prices. There were a couple of monitors at the bar where one could play Atari 2600 and NES games like Tank, Contra, and Super Mario Bros.
The Atlas Arcade feels unpolished. It was tough to drink and play the games at the same time– it is a bar after all. There were no tables to put my drinks near the machines. A few notable games were also missing: Ms. Pac-Man chief among them. Also missing were new classics like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter and there were no pinball machines. What Atlas Arcade did have were gems like Donkey Kong, Golden Axe, and the ultimate in multiplayer arcade action: TMNT. We sunk over $5, from start to finish in order to beat the game.
We’re excited by the resurgence of arcades and the potential in Atlas Arcade. The energy at the grand opening of the new neighborhood bar was great and we look forward to a refinement of the games selection and floor configuration.
Though home PCs and game consoles have replaced the arcade as the primary place to play video games, few things can replace the heart and soul of a community space made to have fun. Overall, the Atlas Arcade gave us a piece of nostalgia that was accessible and homey. The staff weren’t typical hired guns; they were gamers– friendly people who knew the levels, people who’d celebrate your victories with you and were sympathetic to your losses. Isn’t that the original spirit of the arcade?