Video Games

Finally, Fresno has a spot to get drunk and play Skee Ball

Crowds eagerly bust through doors at Dave & Buster's grand opening

Valerie Vasquez and Mark Tobias, both of Fresno, were the first customers in line this morning for Dave & Buster's grand opening celebration Monday, October 17, 2016, in Fresno.
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Valerie Vasquez and Mark Tobias, both of Fresno, were the first customers in line this morning for Dave & Buster's grand opening celebration Monday, October 17, 2016, in Fresno.

Few things bring as much joy to my life as alcohol and video games. And finally, after what seems like an eternity of waiting, I have a place to marry the two.

Dave & Buster’s, the popular chain billed as a “Chuck E. Cheese’s for adults,” opened a Fresno location this week. And it is glorious.

Walking into Dave & Buster’s arcade is a bit like walking into a Las Vegas casino. You are bombarded with bright lights and familiar images – Mario, Monopoly and Skee Ball. It is clearly an arcade built on accessibility. Everyone should be able to find something they recognize, making them feel warm and safe. People are also carrying drinks and huddled around machines. Unlike other arcades, there’s plenty of space for people to gather around machines. The gameplay is communal.

One big difference: There are kids.

The bar/arcade combos of Los Angeles and Seattle are essentially dive bars with pinball. They do not allow children. Dave & Buster’s is not that.

It was a little jarring having small children buzz around me as I held a beer in one hand and a joystick in the other. I’m 28 now. I feel like I have passed over from the “cool uncle” age to the “what’s that guy doing within 1,000 feet of a school” age. I like kids, but I am not sure it’s appropriate to ask an 8-year-old if I can play Skee Ball with him.

While we’re on that subject, a little arcade etiquette lesson: If you are playing a game and get a game over, give up the game if there’s a line behind you. Don’t be the two women who pumped what had to be $30 into the giant two-player “Pac Man” for over an hour. They played more than 80 rounds.

Although, I wish they would have played “Pac Man” a little longer. When you put in your play card, it automatically deducts two credits. If you just press one of the start buttons, the other station will keep flashing at you – as if to say “Oh, is it just you? Oh.” Nothing says “you’re going to die alone” quite like being taunted by a co-op video game.

On that note, bring friends. I went alone because I was sort of working (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it), and I found that maybe five of the games were for one player. In traditional arcades, you can go solo and pump money into “Donkey Kong” in peace, but not here. You need a group.

The arcade also shies away from the highly competitive games like “Tekken,” “Street Fighter” or “Marvel vs. Capcom.” This building is for light-hearted fun only, folks.

Overall, I was a fan of the games they selected. The back wall of carnival-style games is solid. The “Star Wars Battle Pods” are great. And I love the four-person “Mario Kart” driving game. Pro tip: Always pick Toad, because he is the best.

Don’t waste your time with all the mobile games ported to arcade machines. You can play “Candy Crush” or “Fruit Ninja” at home. You probably don’t have a “Time Crisis 5” machine at home, so play that instead.

The price per game are actually quite reasonable. Like Boomer’s, it uses a point system that I am 90 percent sure is designed just to confuse people into putting more money on their power card than necessary. A $10 purchase gets you “x” amount, but why not put in $50, which gives you “x” amount of “bonus” points? But they offer a free rewards program that awards you play card points after $100 spent on food or alcohol, which is pretty cool. They also give out free arcade points when you buy things like birthday parties or lunch buffets.

And my goodness, the prize area is golden. Instead of a sad walk-up window, Dave & Buster’s customers exchange their tickets in an actual storefront.

Another pro tip: The bar has a little section on the arcade side designed for walk-ups. You don’t have to slide in between two people sitting on those massive white stools. Go to the open space on the arcade side.

I suggest going to Dave & Buster’s as soon as possible and as often as possible. This arcade is filled with virgin machines – pretty much untouched by man. You head to Blackbeard’s or Oh Wow! Nickel Arcade or even Boomer’s, and you’re going to get badly abused arcade games.

These pristine new games won’t last for long – especially at an arcade that serves liquor. Any day now some drunk is going to hear an Ellie Goulding song blaring on the far-too-loud soundsystem and scream “Oh my God, I saw her at the Electric Daisy Carnival! This song is my life!” Then that person starts randomly dancing and boom – 16 ounces of Coors Light is spilled into a machine, rendering it a shell of its former self for all time.

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