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Local gaming, arcades, tabletop gaming communities


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Hey, I am opening this thread out of curiosity and to gain some insight on what people think of gaming in community outside the internet.


I am doing my diploma-work next semester in architecture, and the goal is to design a building of choosen function, preferably a function that stand close to us, or have special interest in.

I am thinking of designing an all-around place where one can go for a session of community gaming(be it computer,tabletop or a hybrid), to house competitions and events,a limited shop that sells (gaming)culture-related stuff (mostly 'on order' basis) . I am not thinking of dark rooms with computers and tables and a bar, but a conscious design that is convienent, and tries making gaming in a community a viable option to sitting at home, to make it a different experience.


So how would you feel about a place like that in your town,or is it there already?

Do you think many people would be interested in using it?

Any experiences with places like this? (even from older times)


My impression is that the time has come when something like this could be sustainable again. Whenever i read about some tabletop game, there are always a handful of commentators wishing they knew enough local buddies to play it with.

Cooperative games and team based games are more popular than ever, but no headset is the same as yelling at each other in the same room. Cloud gaming, steam and other online services makes your own content and data accessible.

I've heard friends who complained that they are bored of their social activities generally consisting of getting drunk.That they wish they could go somewhere that interest them, yet makes it possible to be in a close personal community.


So , do you think the need for places like that is a real need, the lack of them a problem,

or has time passed over this concept and its all about mobilephones and online activities now?

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When I was going to college in Austin the arcade was an important place, the only time really I went to one a little regularly... But that was back in the late 90s. A lot's moved on since then.


In Asia, Korea and Japan, of course arcades are still a big thing & there's a whole culture of going to them, but it's hard to see them surviving in the US (don't know about Europe), maybe for the reasons you mentioned. In NYC they still have the village chess clubs, but they're like an old institution & have a mythology to them that keeps them alive.


I think group gaming happens mostly in the US through LAN parties or boardgame nights, privately organized. My old roommate's brother-in-law is the admin for Boardgamegeeks.com, and they always have a yearly boardgame convention we go to, which is always a big event and shows the popularity for community gaming. But I wonder if that can translate to established places year round? It shows there's demand there, but right now it's all done largely privately outside big events like that.


OTOH, it's possible the mobile & social network phenomenon can draw people physically together for gaming as much as pull them apart, if somebody figures out the magic formula for it... It seems to work drawing people together for massive protests, for example.

What do you see when you turn out the light? I can't tell you but I know that it's mine.

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Back before people could afford to own computers/home game systems there were places called "video arcades", which had single video games in plywood cabinets that you paid a quarter to play. Most of those establishments when out of business back in the 80s, when computers moved into homes, and you could pay $19 to play a game as much as you wanted.


Libraries offer community rooms where board games, chess and the like can be played.


Community rec centers and adult ed/continuing ed programs sometimes have board game or chess programs. These buildings often were schools in their former lives, that have been re-purposed, or meeting rooms in a municipal building.


It used to be shops that focused on role-playing games would have a table in the back and half a dozen chairs and a game night.


However space is costly (rent, insurance, taxes) so places focused just on that go out of business quickly, since everyone has a living room or kitchen table that costs them nothing extra. The libraries multi-purpose rooms are used for other things at other times. Communities pay for their space via taxes, and also typically use the rooms for other purposes at other times.


So in your design process, I'd incorporate alternative uses, and also plan for future game changes.


For example, in the 60s, they wanted a big open room with space for pool tables and ping-pong. In the 70s, they wanted a big tables with room for paper, maps, reference books and dice. In the 80s, they wanted empty rooms with outlets for arcade machines. In the 90s, they wanted networked computers for networked gaming. Recently, they want outlets for charging phones as they play Words-with-Friends and ignore their friends.


Currently you see VR making a comeback, à la the 90s, but not affordable, so there might be a future of providing VR systems for gaming until those become ubiquitous.


You'll note all of those were financially based, board games are cheap enough to own at home and lack recurring cost, aside from drinks. I've gotten together with friends for board games, and last Friday a friend's wife was off playing a dice game at another's home while we were online.

"The measure of a man's character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out."

- Baron Thomas Babington Macauley

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Thanks for the insights!


So strong multifunctionality is important to keep it in business.I will keep thinking of things to make the idea better that way.


I think it may be a bit less expensive to keep up a place like that nowadays than previously.

Technology got more efficient. Online services make software update/maintenance easier.

If internet cafees can exist i think this may not be that much of a stretch either if balanced carefully.


VR occured to me also. Also other experimental and expensive gaming ideas.

I would try to put the emphasis on playing here being a different more pleasant and social experience than at home rather than that it costs less.

Prices cannot be easily beaten, almost everything is cheaper at home in the long run. I was thinking along the lines of longer term tickets, like Gyms, instead of pay per use.


As for board games, my point would be that playing at home or organizing it privately in the Plaza or in a library, while it can be really fun and homey, it may not be the best option when presented against a full fledged space designed for it. Empathizing again on the community part of the idea that it could also possibly bridge a gap between the users of various types of games so it would boost itself. Also some games are better if played against new and changing 'enemies'.Meeting new people could be a lot easier with a place like this to back it.


Where would you image this would work better? in dense city areas or at a more quiet but still well accessible periphery?

Edited by _Atti_
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In my experience, gaming centers seem to flourish in dense cities, hence NYC & Tokyo having the best ones I know, and even around my old home Texas, they were near the centers of Dallas or Austin. But these were designed to draw passers-by in, so you need a hefty pedestrian population always walking by, which means urban density.


If you're not drawing passers-by in, then you need another model, like part of something else that has its own way to bring people in, like the game shop game nights mentioned before. The thing is, community gaming is by its nature ad hoc, so you need something to initially draw people in informally, probably without any advance planning... Having flashy displays that get passers-by in the door and curious is the best model I've seen... If I see a game center with a lot of people milling around inside, I want to go in too.


Edit: Since I'm living in Tokyo now, I'm finding it interesting how successful arcades and game complexes are here. They're doing so well, I think if you researched their model you'd get a lot of good ideas for how some of it might translate to other countries.

What do you see when you turn out the light? I can't tell you but I know that it's mine.

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There used to be a place here where you were able to go play games like Half-life and Unreal Tournament. It was a local used game shop, which recently shut down sadly. I had fun doing that fourteen years ago. I remember playing a deathmatch with the store manager. Good times! This was back when they had Viper V770 cards... lol

--- War does not decide who is right, war decides who is left.

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Coin-op video games started getting very popular back when I was about 10 or 11 ('80 - '81) and I grew up with the coin-op arcades. I spent so much of my allowance on games. I'm guessing about 70% of my childhood 'allowance' (if I had one) went to coin-op games, the rest went to Snickers bars and Coke/Pepsi. I miss those arcades. Now I only see mini-arcades in mediocre pizza parlors, with games I don't like and little brats (I mean wee-tots, not teens) running all over. I miss the old arcades.

I'd love to have one for adults to feel proper in, with modern and classic game options. There needs to be beer, at the least. There also needs to be coffee (not bloody Starfucks). Chinese food and pizza (both non chain/franchise) also need to be nearby.

You build that near me and I'll be such a regular customer that you'll have to include me in the logo.

System: Mageia Linux Cauldron, aka Mageia 8

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Now I only see mini-arcades in mediocre pizza parlors, with games I don't like and little brats (I mean wee-tots, not teens) running all over.


Yea,from what i've gathered, the various side-gig mini-arcades partly induced the fall of the business as they made the phenomenon far too common. Spreading out customer-base too much that ended in prices rising to a level where it wasn't a viable regular entertainment option anymore and became more of a 'from time-to-time' activity. Also these mini-arcades couldn't keep up with the technological advance of machines as gaming wasn't their main profile which slowly led people to the image of arcades as 'something that might amuse a little child..'.


I'll be such a regular customer that you'll have to include me in the logo.


By the way, there is something that was easier back then. I remember having a place in our small town where children and adult played Mortal Kombat together. Cant imagine eight year olds ripping each other's spines in public ( and in the game) could go down without a scandal anymore :)

So because of that and what Demagogue mentioned:

you need something to initially draw people in informally, probably without any advance planning... Having flashy displays that get passers-by in the door and curious is the best model I've seen.

There might be a need for separation between the more controlled public attraction spaces and the 'lairs' of regulars where even custom content may appear.


There used to be a place here where you were able to go play games like Half-life and Unreal Tournament.

We had a similar place in our little town (pop. 4000) too. It closed about 3-4 months from start. The problem with it was that it was really small with only about 6 computers, but the interest was explosive, it was also very expensive and it was pay by entry/hour not use of computer/hour.

So it was usual that the fastest/strongest children played and everyone else just stood around and eventually got bored of never getting a chance at playing. At that price people stopped attending to spectate, and only few remained that wasn't enough for business. So in a nutshell it was a wrong model.

Edited by _Atti_
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