San Marcos locals are bringing back “Pac-Man,” “Street Fighter,” “Mortal Kombat” and the rest of a lost social experience the 1980s arcade culture offered.
Frank Dorval, studio art senior, and Dylan Morgan have always enjoyed the pastime of video gaming so much they opened an arcade of their own. The Joystick Arcade features a variety of classic and modern arcade games and is “BYOB.”
Dorval said the original inspiration behind their project can be attributed to Morgan. “I’ve always been an avid gamer. I just want a group that truly appreciates arcade games,” Morgan said. “I’m not trying to change any American arcade culture, but I’d like to bring gaming to San Marcos for people to drink some beer and have fun with friends.”
The two were able to get their project underway with Morgan’s handiness and Dorval’s woodworking skills.
“(Morgan) came to me about a year ago with the idea to buy broken-down arcade games and restore them so that we could open what’s called a ‘bar-cade,’” Dorval said.
But the idea of their “bar-cade” was put aside when they decided permits and licensing to distribute alcohol were out of the business’ price range and would put it in competition with the numerous bars already located in San Marcos.
This prompted the co-owners to create a BYOB option after 8 p.m. each night.
Along with their idea of intertwining alcohol and video games, the local business collaborators are pushing for one-token-per-play, much like the original arcades.
“We figure as long as we keep it cheap and BYOB, then people will keep coming out. Our goal is to really reach the college crowd,” Dorval said. “Not only am I a student, but I’m an art student. So I understand what it is to be broke. And the one-token idea seems to be going pretty well so far.”
The first weekend of business had a successful turnout of about 100 people.
One individual helping with the launch of The Joystick Arcade is Lauren Mergele, English senior.
She said that as Morgan’s roommate, she had been exposed to the idea for a while.
“It seems to be getting a great reception from the community,” Mergele said. “It’s exciting to see the success they’ve had so far.”
“Since the arcades died out in the late 80s, there has been a kind of merging between consoles and arcades,” Dorval said. “Now it is becoming the retro thing to come back to the arcades.”
The Joystick Arcade’s co-owners hope that those who sit in front of a game console by themselves will take the time to come out and enjoy the interactive experience while possibly making new friends in the process.
“We’re calling out to all geeks and nerds of all age ranges in the video game community,” Dorval said. “You don’t get the same experience as walking into an arcade and seeing someone playing a game you love. By just that you have the opportunity to ask if you could play that game with them. That’s already a common interest you two have. You instantly have a friend right then and there.”