Bar-Arcade Etiquette [CityBeat’s ‘Cool Issue’]

Vintage arcade game at Arcade Legacy in Forest Fair Village - Photo: Jesse Fox

Vintage arcade game at Arcade Legacy in Forest Fair Village – Photo: Jesse Fox

So you’re at a arcade-bar for the first time and you’re overwhelmed by the hordes of drunken youth, flashy lights and Space Invaders sound effects. You spot a large crowd around your favorite Atari game. The bar is full, with a few salmon-shorts-clad beer drinkers sprinkled in. Where to begin? What to do first? Don’t fret: CityBeat’s got you covered on how to navigate these popular drinking-and-gaming destinations.

1. Buy a drink. Because gaming is free at both Arcade Legacy: Bar Edition in Northside and 16-Bit Bar+Arcade in Over-the-Rhine (except for pinball at both), the only way the establishments profit is off of drink and food sales.

“When you walk in the door, we have a door guy who tells you exactly how everything works,” says Jesse Baker, owner of Arcade Legacy: Bar Edition. “Everything is free to play, as long as you spend money on our business.”

16-Bit only does drinks, but Arcade Legacy also serves gourmet hot dogs.

Baker says it’s also totally fine to just hang out at the bar all night drinking and chowing down on veggie dogs and to not play games — the machines are just a free bonus.

2. What if you don’t drink, need to detox for the night or just want to game? Baker says he will ask guests to at least buy a soda or a bottle of water so they’re not just playing for free.

Sarah Jones, the general manager for 16-Bit, agrees, saying 16-Bit has plenty of non-alcoholic options available including Abita non-alcoholic root beer on draft, fun soda flavors and a full menu of “mock-tails,” which come in a 25-oz. souvenir glass.

3. Find a game; wait your turn. Baker says he doesn’t usually see that many people standing over other people’s shoulders for games. “Maybe for a fighting game, someone could say, ‘I got next,’ ” he says. “But otherwise, it seems like there are enough games to where if someone’s on the game you want to play, you can find another.”

But there’s no harm in kindly alerting someone that you would like to use the machine after they’re done. Or you can hover.

“Play as long as you like until a competitor comes along,” says Jones. “Winner keeps playing; loser walks! The good news is, with so many games, there are usually plenty of options.”

4. Practice respect. “Respect the games,” Jones says. “Most of these are older and have been very well-loved. We do our best to keep everything working for you and ask you help us do the same!”

As for jerks who come in to “bro it up” and just make fun of people for playing arcade games all night? Jones says that “being nerdy is totally cool right now,” so you need not worry.

Overall, the most important advice she has is simple: Have fun.

Originally written for Cincinnati CityBeat: CLICK HERE FOR THE STORY.

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