I’m not a “gamer”—at all. Or at least I’m not anymore. Back in the day, sure, I used to rock the Atari 2600 or Nintendo with my friends and waste time at the pizza parlor blowing whatever quarters I could scrounge playing Tron or Double Dragon, or whatever. But eventually, I guess, I just moved on. These days, I don’t know Call of Duty from Resident Evil, but there’s still a nostalgic soft spot for those old games of my youth, and any chance to use that muscle memory and relive those heady days is welcome.
Press Start, a new kind of bar for Reno, gave me a chance to combine youthful video game nostalgia with my adult interest in beer. Yes, we’ve joined the ranks of cities with that great institution, the “bar/arcade.” I know I’m not alone in saying, “Press Start, just take my money.”
I picked a Wednesday night to visit, hoping it wouldn’t be too busy, and I was right. Just a handful of other customers meant it was easy to get a beer, and there was no waiting for almost any game I wanted to play. As a bar, Press Start offers the basics—for beer, eight taps of decent craft brews, including several locals, and a wide assortment of worthy cans and bottles. A typical array of liquor and wine is available, including some house cocktails with clever names alluding to classic video games—“Miss Pacman Margarita,” anyone? (Presumably that’s a reference to Ms. Pac-Man.) I ordered a Brewer’s Cabinet Dirty Wookie.
If I had just been there to drink, it would have felt a little antiseptic. Many bars and arcades often share that dark, cavern-like coziness, and Press Start’s building, a former property management office with lots of large windows, feels a little too open to the world. Still, couches and cocktail table seating are available to sit and socialize but were entirely unused when I visited. All of the customers were engaged in game play instead.
I hit the change machine and surveyed the room. It feels like an arcade with a bar more than a bar with video games. I struggled not to gush with excitement over the retro greatness of what they have to offer. From old-school Asteroids to one big, new Walking Dead sit-inside-the-game monstrosity, they seem to have something for everyone. Pinball seemed most popular, but significantly more expensive at $1 per game. The old video game cabinets remain a bargain at just a quarter for everything I played. The owners have covered their bases, with little tables next to most games for drinks and cup holders attached to the pinball machines. Even their website looks and feels like a 1980s 8-bit game.
I blew a buck way too quickly on one of the few vacant pinball machines, and decided to stick with familiar ground. I managed to get to a respectable level nine on Galaga and was quickly reminded how ridiculously difficult Dragon’s Lair is. Some Tempest here, some Frogger there, and my pocket of quarters was emptied faster than my pint glass. Time spent gaming is time not spent drinking.
I can see this becoming very popular—not to mention a costly habit for me. At just over a month since opening, my bartender said business has been good, especially on weekends. The drink options are solid, and I’m just hoping more games are coming to keep it appealing. Obviously, those are the draw, and alcohol is a great bonus. Unlike during my childhood, at least if my favorite games are busy, I can sit back with a beer while I wait.