At Gamecraft. a craft-beer bar and video game arcade in Southington, you can party like it’s 1989.
The new entertainment venue in the Factory Square building has some contemporary video games, but its heart is old-school: Asteroids, Donkey Kong, Double Dragon, Ms. Pac Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Modern games include Atari Pong and Deadpool Pinball.
A bar with a daily rotating selection of local and regional craft beers on tap, plus wine and cocktails, makes this a 21-plus only destination six days a week. Sunday is Family Day, when kids can come accompanied by an adult (alcohol will still be served.)
On a recent Friday night, the arcade was slowly filling up with gamers, including Danny Michaud of West Hartford and Ethan Welsh of Newington. Both men teach at New Britain elementary schools.
“I work with kids all day. This is an escape,” Welsh said. “It makes me feel nostalgic. I’d suggest if someone is having a midlife crisis, forget the motorcycle. Visit this place.”
“I absolutely love it here, Michaud says. "These games, it’s my childhood. The make me want to stay here for a while.”
The arcade opened in January. Brody and Brandon Marion — two of the eight siblings and friends who founded the arcade — manage the day-to-day operations.
“My brother Chris had this idea since he was in college and I was 14. We all got older and started talking about this idea and making it a reality,” Brody Marion says. “We grew up with four boys in the house and we’re all still really into it.”
There are 35 freestanding vintage machines on the floor of the 2,700-square-foot space that used to be a CrossFit gym. In addition, three screens set up in front of the bar are wired for Super Nintendo (23 games), Nintendo Switch (four games) and Xbox (20 games). The owners plan to add more as they become available.
“We’ll get whatever we can find. A lot of these have been stored in basements or garages for years,” Brody Marion says.
Each game requires one to two tokens to play. Little drawstring satchels of tokens sell for 20 for $5, 40 for $10, 80 for $20.
The decor is themed on classic games. A Space Invaders mural covers the wall between the men and women’s restrooms. A wall hanging shows the eagle TriForce logo from Legend of Zelda. The bar is decorated with paintings of classic video game characters – Luigi, Pikachu, Link – and old game cartridges are embedded into the top of the bar. The tables are cut to look like Nintendo cartridges. The characters from Chrono Trigger are depicted in 8-bit wood-block sculptures above the bar.
The partners raised $12,324 in December on Kickstarter to open the business: 8-bit avatars of all the donors flash on a screen over the vintage games.
GameCraft also has a selection of classic board games such as Jumanji, Sorry, Battleship and Jenga as well as decks of cards. Play is free for those games.
Recent beer choices included selections from City Steam and Hanging Hills in Hartford; Connecticut Valley in South Windsor, Back East in Bloomfield, Kent Falls in Kent, Skygazer and Witchdoctor in Southington, Thimble Island and Stony Creek in Branford, Stubborn Beauty in Middletown, Two Roads in Stratford, Alvarium and Five Churches in New Britain, Counterweight in Hamden, Beer’d in Stonington, New England Cider in Wallingford and New England in Woodbridge. The specific beer list can be found at gamecraft-arcade.com/beer, the game list at hgamecraft-arcade.com/games
Four picnic tables sit in the middle of the action for those who want to bring in food.
GAMECRAFT is in the back of the Factory Square building, at 168 Center St. in Southington. Hours are Monday to Wednesday 4 to 11 p.m.; Thursday 4 p.m. to midnight; Friday 4 p.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Saturday 1 p.m. to 12:30 p.m.; and Sunday 1 to 10 p.m. Because of the bar, the arcade is for 21 and older. Sunday is Family Day, when kids can come accompanied by an adult. gamecraft-arcade.com.
Susan Dunne can be reached at email@example.com.