Inside GameWorks Seattle’s revived arcade bar opening this week – GeekWire

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The view from the first floor at GameWorks Seattle. (GeekWire Photo/Thomas Wilde)

Before its closure in late 2021, downtown arcade bar GameWorks on 7th Avenue was a hallmark of Seattle’s geeky gaming community. It is now under new management from old managers and plans to reopen its doors on August 2nd.

I had the opportunity to take a tour of the new GameWorks prior to opening day, with Darren Des Roches leading the way.

Des Roches was Chief Operating Officer at GameWorks Inc. prior to the chain’s December 2021 closure.

“We touch up the paint, polish the floors and fix everything,” Des Roches told me. “My phone is ringing, my email is exploding. Our managers, all of whom worked here before we closed, have all returned, many of them [former] The employees fall back. There is a lot of excitement in the community.”

If I had to sum up my immediate reaction upon walking back through GameWorks’ front door, to my surprise it would be “business as usual”. There’s a distinct sense of continuity in GameWorks’ arcade floor; it’s not so much a fresh start as a return from a long absence.

None of GameWorks’ arcade machines were sold or removed after it closed, and none have been added since then. I’ve spent many long evenings at GameWorks and have recognized almost every game currently in the building.

The latest games on the floor are some of the larger carnival-style attractions that were added just before the location closed in 2021 such as: B. Two virtual reality booths to play the rhythm game beat saber. Not much is new, but nothing is missing either.

However, some restructuring has taken place, mainly in the service of thematic arrangements. “It’s always good to reinvent yourself and reinvent yourself a little bit,” Des Roches said.

Darren Des Roches: “We’d love to come back.” (GeekWire Photo / Thomas Wilde)

Many of the fighting games that used to be scattered haphazardly across GameWorks’ second floor are now housed in a booth at the entrance, and a designated “retro lounge” on the second floor features classic arcade machines such as frog and Galaxian next to the big 4 player Pac Man cocktail cabinets.

Several arcade cabinets like Dance Dance Revolution The 1st floor seating area was added along with several pinball and skee ball machines to add what Des Roches calls “connectivity” between the restaurant and the arcade areas of the venue.

The old esports area has been reworked and moved to the balcony above the entrance to bring it closer to the bar. The area is now more open, offering a selection of security-locked PlayStation 4s and Xbox Ones alongside a range of new Alienware PCs overhead. Each station features a new black Cougar gaming chair.

For what Des Roches refers to as “bring your own controller” nights and other similar events, there’s a large open area next to the bar on the second floor that can handle most setups. Some new furniture has been added throughout to create more lounge areas and open plan seating.

Once again you are invited to have a drink with Link. (GeekWire Photo/Thomas Wilde)

The menu wasn’t ready when I was there, but Des Roches describes it as once again “classic American cuisine with a little bite.”

It reflects what appears to be GameWorks’ original main focus: restoring its ties to Seattle and its entire nerd scene. The Seattle Online Broadcasters’ Association (SOBA), a Washington state livestreaming community organization, has already booked his next big meeting at GameWorks on August 13th.

“We’re going to have the full range of esports games,” Des Roches said. “We’ll have them Super Smash brothersthe league of legends, We will do it street fighter Things. We’ll have all the PC-based games that people know we have and then we’ll add more from there as we launch new titles.”

“We have already received many inquiries about specific evenings of the week with different events, e.g smashed Friday night or the fighting game community Tuesday night. We will slowly integrate these back and make sure we do our best for the esports community.”

The GameWorks Esports Lounge, under construction in July 2022. (GeekWire Photo / Thomas Wilde)

Upon opening, GameWorks intends to comply with all current state and local COVID safety guidelines. While there, I saw several signs with health guidelines, including a strong request to wear masks inside, as well as several hand sanitizer stations. A sign in the esports area urged customers to check with staff before touching equipment so they can be thoroughly sanitized between uses.

So it’s not quite back to pre-pandemic normal, but this fills the void left by the GameWorks closure in Seattle’s nerd culture. GameWorks had a combination of easy access, a central location, and flexible venues that made it a crucial venue for many of the city’s local scenes. For many of the affected communities, there really wasn’t a convenient way to replace it.

For now, the plan behind the scenes at GameWorks is to defer major decisions about the company’s future until six months after the relaunch.

“We’re going to open up, welcome back the community, and work out the systems,” said Des Roches. “Obviously staffing has been an issue across the country so we’re going to make sure we have the right people in the right places.”

“As things progress, we will then make the business decisions,” he continued. “If it comes a little earlier, then great. If not, then six months is our window… before we do anything big or buy new games, we want to break out, get this thing working again and have it humming on all cylinders. Then we can start new initiatives.”

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