If there’s one thing you don’t need to get divorced to learn (but totally can if that’s your thing), it’s that video games are boring and hurt relationships.
I have memories that cannot be repressed from when I was in high school in rural Idaho, where “hanging out” mostly consisted of watching my friends play World of Warcraft in their parents’ basements or garages for the whole of a Friday or Saturday night. Our conversations revolved almost exclusively around the fact that participating in a 40-person raid was a five to six hour long endeavor and that maybe one of the 40 people playing would benefit from whatever it was that they were doing. I had yet to master the skill of falling asleep in public while no one was paying attention, so I was powerless to make the situation better for myself in any meaningful way.
The big difference between then and now is simple, though: in 2005, gaming still felt like something the weird kids did because no one invited us to drink Keystone Light, ride down a staircase in office chairs, or pour rubbing alcohol on our legs, set them on fire, and film it on someone’s DV camera when their parents were out of town.
Now, in 2019, Fortnite addiction breaks up my friends’ relationships, Defense of the Ancients tournaments fill KeyArena for multiple days each August, and Quavo from Migos has a custom chain of Aku Aku, the protective spirit from Crash Bandicoot. Gaming is a mainstream cool activity for civilians and normies. But while it connects us online, it does a great job of isolating us IRL.
At one point in history, it wasn’t like this. Arcades served as some sort of nexus, bringing people together to cooperatively and competitively play the latest action, fighting, and racing games, among others. However, the most hotly anticipated action, fighting, and racing games in America these days are all AAA online titles that you play at home, alone. In the U.S., most arcades and barcades now focus on retro games, adding in some interesting indie games, perhaps, and maybe VR Pictionary. If you visit the Seattle Pinball Museum, Add-a-ball, Gameworks, or Vidiot, among others, that’s exactly what you’ll find.
But you can also venture to Round1. Located at the Southcenter Mall directly above beloved Filipino grocery store Seafood City, Round1 is the Washington outpost of a distinctly Japanese amusement chain, offering video games, bowling, private karaoke rooms, billiards, and what might be the most dangerous beverage pricing in the city—$1.99 for a pint of macro lager or a glass of wine from 10AM to 2AM seven days a week.
Round1’s game selection is far more diverse than just about anywhere else on this continent. There’s UFO catchers—the remarkably difficult Japanese-style crane games that require you to gently nudge absurdly cute stuffed animals into holes, which are dangerously good at eating $30 and an hour of your life. There are also a number of mobile games gone big screen, including unnecessarily large Candy Crush, Flappy Bird, and Crossy Road, all of which dispense tickets you can save up to someday exchange for a Nintendo Switch or a Cuisinart stand mixer. There may also still be a hover board on display, if its ancient battery hasn’t exploded yet.
What makes Round1 special, though, is the vast selection of Japanese games that can’t be found elsewhere. Try Super Table-Flip!!, a game in which you literally pound on—and then flip over—a table-sized controller in one of four scenarios (dinner with your terrible family, a bad day at work, a night out with too many obnoxious suitors, or a wedding gone wrong), and where your score is calculated in terms of monetary damage. When you flip the table, your character radiates a look of elation and beautiful music plays before diving headfirst into the destruction. It’s utterly unique, and probably very therapeutic.
There’s also a massive selection of rhythm games, including the latest version of Dance Dance Revolution, the recently-released Dance Rush Stardom (which maybe feels a little bit more like dancing than DDR), Sound Voltex Booth (turn the fader knobs and hit the keys in time), and Beatmania IIDX (play the keyboard and spin the turntable), all of which have thriving, active communities in both the arcade and online worlds. If that’s not your thing, there’s a number of shooters, fighters, racing games, and at least one game controlled with a fishing rod.
In short, it’s probably a far more thrilling experience for friends than watching you play games at home, it’s affordable, and even if the games turn out to not be your thing, you can literally say fuck it and go bowling. Since it’s not weird, shameful, or even nerdy to be into video games at home in 2019, but it is weird to stay home all day playing them alone, why not get out of your house and give Round1 a shot?
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