If there’s one thing that I know gamers are good at--besides gaming--it’s drinking! I have seen so much alcohol consumed during gaming sessions, over an intense game of Munchkin, at Rock Band parties and at meetups at bars, you wouldn’t believe it! Or maybe you would believe it; maybe you’re one of those people, like me, who likes to drown their sorrows in a drink after having your ass handed to you at Super Smash Bros. Brawl or Halo 3. There are Geeks who Drink, Drunkosophers (just wait, ladies and gentlemen, Drunkosophy is going to be the greatest gift to clever geeks since Plato! Till then though, you should follow us on teh Twitterz), The Drunken Moogle, and a million various blogs, Twitter accounts and Tumblr posts dedicated to the glorious art of being geekily drunk. And yes, geekily is an adverb, it’s a real thing. I Googled it.
In a noble effort to bring together two of these incredible elements, gaming and liquor, a few brave souls have rolled their dice, plotted their course, and opened the doors to their own gamer-oriented establishments that feature full (or partial) liquor service. Most of these gaming bars are for adults who are of legal drinking age (21 years old in the U.S.) and have a distinct bar or lounge atmosphere. Some gaming taverns are more family-friendly and have sections open to families and under-21s, and some establishments have specific all-ages hours and become 21-and-over after a certain time of day.
|Gamers go out to see friends! TAKE THAT, societal assumptions!|
While preparing to write this article, I decided to poll a few willing participants about their experience(s) with gaming bars, and also to get an idea of how honest my friends would be about their drinking habits (just joking!).
Thank you very much to those of you who participated! Next time I may throw in some prizes for participation, so stay tuned for more exciting surveys! I received 33 responses from 8 US states and 4 countries (including the US), an impressive data set, if I do say so myself (and I have some sexy pie charts to prove it!)! Of those surveyed, a full 72% said that they thought gamer bars were “amazing” or had been to several, and 18% have not yet been to a gaming bar but would be interested in seeing what they’re all about. Emorimiku says he likes gamer bars because they're like an adult equivalent of old arcades, and petfish believes that gamer bars have a more accessible environment for shy patrons. Josh P. believes that gamer bars "are way better than regular bars, which are stodgy and boring", an intriguing observation! No one who completed the survey said that they are not interested in gaming bars at all--which makes a good deal of sense given the purpose of this survey and the sample population that I surveyed.
And now, a comparison chart! It seems that more people tend to go out to bars than arcades, but my quantitative data suggests that most (60%) of those that I surveyed would go to or return to a gamer bar if given the option. Those who weren't interested in visiting a gamer bar said that they are either typically too expensive or they'd rather just go over to someone's house to play games.
|"Multiplayer" and "Specialty" (expensive arcade cabinets) games seem to be most popular.|
It makes a lot of sense that board, card and drinking games are popular at bars, especially for those of us who know that gamers aren't social outcasts. It also seems sensible that arcade cabinets and pinball games are popular items at gamer bars, since they're usually "specialty" items that are expensive to maintain and aren't generally things you have at home.
Now that we’ve established some basic stats, here’s a list of some real-life gamer bars and a brief synopsis and mini-review of each! So settle in, grab your favorite at-home-and-browsing-the-internet-beverage, and find out which of these places you’ll want to have on your “must see” list for 2012!
Location: Everett, WA (a good 35 minutes north of Downtown Seattle)
What it’s all about: AFK Tavern opened in November 2010 amid extreme excitement from Seattle gamers, and, specifically, from our Pretty Gamer contributors! In fact, we had a great opportunity to interview Alison and Kayla, two of the women who lashed together steampunk cogs and mana pools to bring AFK into the world.
Why it Rocks: AFK have everything you could ever ask for in a gaming tavern, period. There is an impressive array of 3rd-gen consoles and games, large tables for RPGing or boardgames, an impressive sofa/TV setup (that’s great for watching fighting games), and it’s open to under-21s.
The Downside: It’s far, far away (from Seattle), and expensive. Nianiania, on of my survey participants, points out that AFK costs about twice as much as other bars. AFK has also had some bad reviews regarding food, slow service and “you have chosen poorly” cocktails. But if you go with an open mind and average expectations, you’ll survive, and you'll like it.
Location: Seattle, WA
What it’s all about: Shorty’s is a sweet, sweet heaven of hot dogs, nachos and pinball games. It’s where Seattleites and informed visitors go to become Pinball Wizards! (Another place I’ve heard great rumors about is the Seattle Pinball Museum in the International District, no booze there, though).
Why it rocks: Booze, Pinball, Hot Dogs, Arcade Games. Boom.
The Downside: It’s in Belltown.
Location: Seattle, Washington
What it’s all about: Cafe Mox is an extension of Card Kingdom, an expansive, comprehensive and really well-laid-out game store just south of the main thoroughfare of Ballard. Buy your games at Card Kingdom and then drop into Cafe Mox and Playtest.That.Shit!
Why it rocks: The best part about Cafe Mox is Card Kingdom; it’s a great place to sit and play new games.
The downside: Cafe Mox is teeny-tiny. Don’t expect to go with a group of more than 4 or 5 or you’ll have to make sure you have good stats in Diplomacy to get someone to trade tables with you.
Why it rocks: Aside from the awesome classic pinball games like Demolition Man, Lord of the Rings and (classic) Doctor Who, they have /light-up-tables/!
The Downside: I want to take a jab at Portland here, but, I just can’t do it! This place is just too cool! You’d really have to make a day/weekend trip to Portland to make it worth it, but, Ground Kontrol has an established reputation for a reason.
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
What it’s about: It’s a bar in Vegas without the gambling. Instead of slot machines you have, well, arcade cabinets with slots to put your quarters in. And, to be quite honest, it actually is a bit of a gamble as to whether or not the machine will accept or eat your quarter. Insert Coins is in downtown Vegas so it’s a lengthy bus ride to and from the strip.
Why it rocks: If you’re tired of losing money fast on bad luck, you know you’ll at least be able to get some real entertainment from a couple quarters here.
The Downside: It’s far from the strip, in a sketch area. And I was serious about the cabinets eating your quarters.
Location: Melbourne and Brisbane, Australia
What it’s about: Mana Bar exudes an exotic, international-gamer aura of intensity and hot Australian accents. (In reality, though, I haven’t been to Mana bar, and I’m pissed that their Melbourne opening got delayed and I missed it, so I have no idea whether my fantastical image of this place is at all accurate...)
Why it rocks: Clearly I have some of my own idealized notions about this place, but I have a sneaking suspicion (based on some of their expertly shot press photos and.. actually that’s all I currently have to go on) that I’m not far off base with my glamorization of this place.
The Downside: It’s about $2,000 away from where I’m at! If you’ve been to Mana Bar and you’d like to tell us about it, please comment below, so that I may revel in sweet, sweet jealousy.
The chains: Gameworks, Dave and Busters, Chuck E Cheese. Are they “gaming bars” (or, for the kids-only places like Chuck-E-Cheese, "gaming establishments") or arcade power-houses? Or something else entirely? Perhaps I’ll do some more research and find out! In the meantime, happy drinking! If you make it to any of these places, tell us about it!
For more images of gaming bars around the country, check out this album!