September 20th, 2007

While I was working in-house at the Voice, hanging out in the East Village each day, I got to thinking about what it means to be an “urban gamer.” Normally, it doesn’t mean much of anything. That’s to say, the way we play video games usually isn’t affected by where we live: urban, suburban, rural. Plus, we tend to group together on the internet, not in person, so our physical surroundings become even less important for our gamerly identities.

Still, there must be something different about gaming in the city. After all, there’s something game-like about the city (any city) itself. Think about area/code’s work with big games like PacManhattan or Crossroads. Heck, think about Invisible Cities. When it comes down to it, it seems the biggest different about being an urban gamer is your access to other gamers. More specifically, it’s your access to places you can go to be with people like you. That means arcades, game stores, etc.: spots where you can stand in a crowd of other gamers.

At least, that’s the idea. Originally, I was planning to write a whole piece for the Voice online with a list of all these great gamer places in New York City. It turns out though, there just aren’t many. Take arcades, for example. What used to be a hefty genre of entertainment establishments has now all but disappeared. There’s still a decent arcade in Chinatown, on Mott Street (go for the DDR players juggling while dancing, if nothing else) but beyond that… Almost all of the game stores are EB’s or Gamestops. The Nintendo World Store at Rockefeller Plaza is entertainingly shiny, and there’s still an indie shop on East 6th near Astor Place, but that’s just about all this urban gamer can think of.

The only spot that really seems worth mentioning is Barcade, the arcade-themed bar out in Williamsburg. Barcade’s got by far the best collection of classic arcade games in the city. They’re all still operated by quarters, which is great if you’ve got a jar full of change lying around. There’s also a great beer selection, a calm atmosphere, and lots of tiny ledges next to the machines to balance your drinks. Word on the street is that many a game-related event in New York takes its after party to Barcade, so you’ll never know who you’ll see there…

If anyone else can think of cool gamer spots in New York City (or elsewhere, for that matter), feel free to add to the list. I also hear that The Onion ran a list of arcades a few weeks back, but since it’s city-specific material, the piece doesn’t seem to be online. Slim as the pickings seem, someone with more time and a love of NYC should really start up an urban gamer blog: reviews of shops, listings of upcoming events. If I wasn’t moving to sunny Southern France, I would totally read that.

Tags: my articles, retro

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