“There was a baseball card shop in South Pasadena that had a Street Fighter II game that only cost a quarter when everywhere else cost fifty cents,” Downtown resident Noah Sutcliffe explains, standing in the parking lot of that triangular, street art covered Arts District building at the corner of 3rd Street and 4th Place. “From 9AM to 10PM, there was a line of eighteen kids waiting to play. That guy was so smart. He would have to empty the quarters in the middle of the day!”
The story is a funny anecdote, one that reflects on the nearly nonexistent culture of arcades and arcade games in 2013. Those games spark memories of beeping, Yamaha singing boxy machines that now twentysomethings, thirtysomethings, or even fortysomethings would play Space Invaders and Pac-Man and Dig Dug on. These experiences no longer exist in an age where full arcades can be found on a smart phone and you can afford an entire gaming company’s legacy on a home console. Communal, tournament based gaming made popular (again) in documentaries like The King Of Kong and Chasing Ghosts don’t exist anymore.
That’s why Noah’s story is so special: it’s about days passed and cultures buried. He and friend Scott Davids share a love for the electronic sport and have made an effort to bring it back to life by way of their forthcoming bar concept EightyTwo, an idea that transforms the aforementioned 3rd/4th Arts District triangle into an adult arcade. It’s a fusion of classic gaming and 21+ fun that you will be able to indulge in as soon as January 2014.
“Conservatively, I think we’ll be open by the end of January,” Noah explains. “How much closer to now? That’s up in the air. That’s up in the air—but it could be as early as mid-December.”
“You can for sure come here on Valentine’s,” he points out.
“For now it has been storage for me to fix the games,” Scott says. The games filling the space—and the eventual arcade—will mostly be coming from Scott’s personal collection that he has amassed over the years. EightyTwo sees his arcade and gaming knowledge put to good use.
“I’ve been collecting and restoring games for years: they are all from my collection. Molly Atkinson from Pins And Needles will be bringing some of her collection and sourcing the other pinball games. She’s also going to be our arcade manager and pinball mechanic. She’s worked really hard to create a pinball culture in LA with Pins and Needles, and we’re excited for her to be part of EightyTwo.”
“There will always be the foundational classics here,” Scott explains. “But, depending on what people play, we’ll swap things out. There are so many games I want to have—and likely will have—that will make it easy to move the games around.”
Although still in process, Noah and Scott’s concept for the bar/arcade is very clear. Unlike Barcade-esque, pseudo sports bar venues in Brooklyn, EightyTwo is a celebration of the arcade’s Golden Age (hence the venue’s title, a reference to the year the Golden Age of arcade gaming started: 1982). The space will only be hosting games from the Space Invaders mid-eighties period through those around the time of Mortal Kombat II mid-nineties period. It’s very clearly curated and intended to provide a then idea of game play.
“They don’t make games like these anymore,” Scott says. “Now games like this just take your money!”
Scott continues, detailing the unique gaming inventory EightyTwo will feature: “Versus Duck Hunt and Versus Super Mario are here. In 1986, when arcades were still alive, Nintendo made specific versions of these games for those venues. In this Duck Hunt, you can shoot the dog. You always tried to do that on the NES game! You can shoot the dog in this one. People usually don’t realize it, but the Versus Super Mario is a bit different and more challenging than the one that people remember playing on their NES.”
They are also planning on hosting tournaments and as well as a pinball league. That said, the two are very aware that the video games are not going to pay the rent—but they will pay for their upkeep. “The games aren’t the money maker here,” Noah says. “The upkeep on them costs a lot of quarters because a lot of this stuff isn’t made anymore. They’ll likely just pay for themselves. The idea is not to make an ‘eighties arcade, where everything is smashed together. You’ll be able to see the side art and drink rails for you to put drinks down.”
“Stuff will get spilled: it will happen,” he continues. “But it’s like the broken window theory: you don’t want to mess something up that looks really good.”
Scott adds to that: “But there will be a place to put your drink down so, if you put a drink on the game, you’re a dick.”
The space—designed by Sci-Arc professor and architect Darin Johnstone—is intended to be a social space, one where you can play games with friends and indulge in drinks, inside or out of the space. “There will be full bar with fresh, cool drinks,” Noah says. “It won’t be mixology but it will be good and with good ingredients and you’ll be able to order whatever you want.”
“We’re cutting the parking lot in half too,” Scott continues. “We have both spaces and these walls will have accordion doors, making it so that it’s an indoor/outdoor space. There will be trees and vines up the wall, opposite of the arcade. There will also be a glass façade facing 4th Place so you can see into the patio from the street.”
“In the pinball room, there will be a workshop with an open window so people can see they games being restored. The idea is to have these two nodes: there will be areas that are loud with a DJ and arcade machines and then mellower places for people to go outside and chill.”
There won’t be a kitchen at EightyTwo but the space is prepared to host food trucks and will clearly be connected local eateries like Pie Hole, Wurstkuche, Men-Oh, and more. This is a small irony considering the space’s history, which is quite varied. “This was originally a grocery store,” Scott says of the pinball room. “Then it was a manga bookstore. The space where all the games are was once an accountant’s office. Dale K. Ogawa’s, actually.”
The two have high hopes for the space and are hoping a culture will build up around it. EightyTwo will certainly add an element of excitement to the sometimes sleepy Arts District and will build on the slow forming drinking culture in the area. At the very least, it will be a place for adults to imbibe and carry on with video games. Who knows what types of people the space will attract?
To follow news on EightyTwo, be sure to Like them on Facebook, follow their Instagram, follow their Twitter, and check out their website. EightyTwo is located at 718 East 3rd Street. And, yes, if you wander past the space now, you will likely find Scott at work on arcade machines.