What to Do

Free Play, a Retro Arcade

The last couple of years has ushered in a new time for old stand up arcade games & pinball machines. When was the last time you went to an arcade? There used to be one in every mall & movie theater. There are a few big name arcades, like Dave & Busters, that you can go in & play video games all day but it isn’t the same as it was when I was growing up.

The ’80s were a magical time in music and entertainment. Everything was colorful and over-the-top. MTV was a must on every teenagers television & the local arcade was THE hangout. You could spend hours plunking your quarters into everything from Pac-Man to a pinball machine based on a female robot (Pinbot).  As the ’90s were ushered in & home game consoles, like the original Nintendo & Super NES, became mainstream & affordable, arcades began to weaken. You could play 100 different games from the comfort of your own living room & only pay the $40 per game up front. No need for a pocket full of quarters; you had an endless amount of time to try to reach the highest levels.  During the early 2000s, no one went to arcades or knew where one was, unless you had children to take to Chuck E Cheese (please, no). In the few arcades that had survived, stand up arcades gave way to digital experience games like Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) and Guitar Hero.

Something has begun to happen in the last five years or so & I think it has to do with my generation hitting an age where we have some disposable income & a touch of nostalgia. Dave & Busters-type arcades have become quite popular but what makes my little geeky heart sing are the wonderful retro arcades opening everywhere. Two years ago an arcade called FreePlay opened on the east side of Dallas. They now have a second location in Arlington & here is how they are making it work.  Customers pay a $10 cover, put on a wristband, & every game in the arcade is set to free play. My husband & I stood at a four player Gauntlet for an hour playing through the entire first level. No quarters needed, no reason to stop. In addition to all your favorites like Galaga (Atari), Centipede and Mortal Kombat, they also offer artisan pizzas, paninis, & craft beers. Who knew at 42 I would be playing Q-bert, eating a mozzarella
pizza & drinking an Angry Orchard cider?

The resurgence is here! You want to know how to get adults to spend money in your arcade. Feed them amazing food, provide a 100 different types of cocktails to choose from and allow them to bask in the glory of the old days to their heart’s content. Believe me, finding a game I can beat my husband at is worth the $20 admission, for the two of us, any day!  By the way, he is a home console gamer and I am an O.G. pinballer baby!

Free Play Arlington

400 E. South Street
Arlington, TX 76010


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14 thoughts on “Free Play, a Retro Arcade

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