The ambient glow, the wall of mashed up background music, the feel of that loose joystick on Donkey Kong, and the taste of a bitter IPA. The newest craze is something from our childhood that was destined to die, arcades, combined with the lure of beer. This simple equation has proven to be wildly popular in major cities with the first one popping up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2004. This was the first one I visited back in 2011 and every one I visited after followed the mold of the original with a few deviations. Exposed brick walls, long polished wood bar, and a great craft beer selection.
The barcade scene in Chicago has blown up rather quickly. The Emporium in Wicker Park and Headquarters in Lakeview have both been around since 2012. Also, there is Logan Arcade, a newcomer to the scene that was born from an arcade collection in the back room of Logan Hardware, a local record store.
The one evolution that the Chicago Barcade scene has offered is Pinball. Every barcade in Chicago has at least five different machines for your flipping pleasure. And if flipping for fun isn’t your thing, the competitive Pinball scene in Chicago is hot. There are weekly battles to see who can rack up the highest score.
For me, the most important product of barcades is the arcade experience for another generation. Arcades were a dying breed and were quickly disappearing. Arcade machines were quickly becoming just a token taker in the corner of a bowling alley. However, with the advent of barcades, there is again a place that you can go and play all of the classics while hearing the roar of all those old machines.
The only concern I have with barcades is: how long will they last. Will the next generation want to play the basic, but complicated games that we grew up on? Will there be a boom in new arcade games and machines produced? Will we see a repeat of this cycle where places like Dave & Busters disappear and reappear down the road?