This week, it’s a place of business that has nostalgia as its unique selling point, and lots of it.
Ever since it opened in 2011 and its relocation last year, it’s grown from a small shop located in the market, to an even bigger shop with an upper floor for arcades and future events.
Now owned by Tom Riley and his fiancé Hannah in a 50/50 ownership, they’re aiming to make it even more well known, and to make it a place where gamers of casual and hardcore alike can come together and relive the best games of their childhood.
You can find it on Guildhall Street, where Mailbox, Back to Mono, and Eskimoo reside.
You walk in, and suddenly, you’re greeted with many games and posters you’ve long forgotten.
You find yourself at a loss of where to start. You go right, you can look to buy any extra controllers, or consoles, or a look at the latest second hand games for Playstation 4, Xbox One and other current-gen systems. You go left, and you’re greeted with many Playstation 2 games, and strategy guides for many games across generations of consoles. But beside this, is a cabinet that has the most-desired treasures.
For me, it’s the posters. Plastered on the walls as you walk up each step to the arcade, there’s ones for a Mega Drive, another for ‘upcoming’ Game Boy games, with Super Nintendo and many more covering the white walls.
You walk upstairs, and you’re brought to a sign where it directs you to an ‘Arkcade’.
You can already hear them in demo mode, so you follow you the sounds, and you’re brought to three machines.
Two are a MAME cabinet. MAME stands for, Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. It’s a system that can run many games from many arcade machines over the years, from Pong to Tekken Tag Tournament.
All three require 50p to play.
But incredibly fun, and when you have a friend alongside playing against or alongside, you can easily lose an hour to these machines.
Plans are currently being made for an upgrade to the MAME cabinet, so more powerful games can be loaded, such as the Tekken series.
They also recently launched a website, which is only growing to match the large amount of stock that they have. You can buy a varied collection of games, but not all of what the shop offers, which I think is a smart idea in a way. Offer some on the site, but look at the rest in the shop, where you can be given it face to face, while having the option to have a go on the arcades upstairs.
It’s easy to navigate, and has worked well on a variety of sizes, from the iPhone to the Macbook. So far, it’s a promising start.
They have an Instagram profile, which was mainly active when they moved to their now-present location. If there were some videos of the arcades on there with some popular hashtags, they’d gain more followers in an instant.
Mainly, Facebook and Twitter are the social networks they primarily use. But with what they have in the shop, alongside the events they host in Mailbox only a walk away, and potential for events in the upstairs area, there’s huge potential for Snapchat, Periscope, and the obvious one, Twitch.
With Twitter, they’re only just starting to have a presence known, but they already use it well.
I enquired on Sunday about a Playstation 2, and yesterday I receive a tweet, asking if I was still interested. I asked if they could put it to one side while I made my way to the shop, and they said it wasn’t a problem while they gave it a check up.
It’s the little touches like this that make them uniquely great. In all honesty, paying £45 for the console, two controllers, and a memory card, may have sounded steep to some. It would have to me.
But when you have a good experience like this, and they let you know they’re giving it the once over to make sure it works, you don’t mind paying that little bit extra. Because you know you can go back to them, and you’ll get great service, with recommendations for more games to buy, say if you had a few friends over, or an underrated classic you’ve never known of. This applies to independents as well as corporate businesses. If you don’t have the staff to treat you well and to be friendly, you won’t be happy paying even £3.00 for a Mega Drive game.
Towards the end of 2015, they had arrangements with the bar next door, Mailbox, to hold weekly events on Monday.
On one occasion, I was able to go, and not only did I enjoy playing on a couple of consoles, but it also further cemented VR as the coming future of gaming.
James Brown is part of a group called Taphobos, who brought a unique experience to the event.
This turned out to be a virtual reality game. It was a 2 player game, one had a view of a map on a laptop, while the other, was in the coffin wearing the Oculus Rift headset and headphones
Of course, I was in the coffin, and having the lid closed upon me helped this, experience.
I look around, and there’d be markings on either side, giving clues to where I may be. There was a microphone attached to the headphones, which helped the friend look for where I was located in a room full of coffins.
Eventually, I had been found, but even in those five minutes, it was an incredible experience.
Once we had finished this, we had a choice of playing a game on the Playstation 2, or Mario Kart on the Nintendo 64.
What I also liked, was that you could easily talk to someone, and after a while, there was a group of us already talking in depth about many topics, from the HTC Vive and Steam, to Half Life 3 and the Mega Drive.
With January having been the month to be hibernation for most money-wise, it looks as though one won’t be starting up again until February.
Speaking to Tom, there’s plans for events to hopefully be held in the upstairs part. There won’t be any alcohol due to not having a licence, but tournaments, especially with the arcades, are in the planning stages.
Every month (or week as I seem to be finding myself now) something is different. You always see Tom & Co hard at work, either dealing with the piled-high stock that customers bring in for store credit, or thinking for further ways of how to help the business.
Even if you don’t have a great interest in games, I urge you to go in and visit. You’ll be welcomed like an old friend, and you’ll be guided along the way of the games to start out with.
It’s a walk into the past. Of someones childhood, from a time long gone, where mortgages and 9-5 jobs now reside in place of days when you’d happily play Streets of Rage and then invite your friends round to swap goes or be the second player to come to your aid. The shop genuinely makes you feel welcome, and you can always tell from Tom and his staff that they love to be there, even if they may be doing non-stop shifts of ten days from time to time. If you do something you love, you’ll never think of it as ‘work’, as a chore. Just fun.
It’s open every day from 9 to half 5, except on Sunday’s where it’s half 10 until half 4, but the times can change depending on if they need to install something, or repairing the arcade machine as Tom will gladly tell you in his ongoing struggles.
When you’re next free, take a visit and enjoy.