The geeks come out at night

Games, trivia and booze: Why the after-hours nerd scene is on like Donkey Kong

Be warned: Deep is the existential crisis that could arise from staring into the claw-game void at Coin-Op Game Room.

Be warned: Deep is the existential crisis that could arise from staring into the claw-game void at Coin-Op Game Room.


Learn more about Co-Op Game Room, 908 K Street, at For more information on times, dates and locations for Geeks Who Drink, visit Learn more about Save Point Gaming Tavern at

Stop me if this sounds familiar: Going out, drinking and attempting that crazy adult concept known as “being social,” sounds great, but in reality there are just too many video games to play.

Well, who ever said those two things can’t actually go hand in Power-Gloved hand?

The decision to leave the house might be hard, but the “where to go?” question always seems stuck on intense difficulty. Sports bars, after all, are typically filled with people talking about points and winning and passing balls—and not of the Quaffle variety.

But, bully for you, Sacramento boasts a growing number of late-night options perfect for gaming and leveling up those nondigital nightlife skill trees.

If tossing endless quarters into an arcade machine sounds like a perfect night, then Coin-Op Game Room is right up your (pinball) alley.

Part arcade, part bar, Coin-Op brings together a favorite pastime of youth with the preferred pastime of the 21-and-over crowd. Owners Roy Ledo and Hassan Mahmood say they noticed that other barcades across the country tended to be beer-centric, and wanted to combine the idea with a menu that focused more on cocktails.

They picked Sacramento for its potential.

“The craft cocktail scene was kind of blowing up in Sacramento, and then once the NBA arena deal went through, we were on a plane literally the next week to do some research,” Ledo said. “We just fell in love with the city.”

Hey, maybe it is easier to take down Bowser after a few Old Fashioneds.

The pair, who also opened a Coin-Op in San Diego, teamed up with Sacramentan and then-bar manager, now part-owner Evan Louis to bring a location to town. The spot opened in May and currently features 36 arcade titles and 10 pinball machines, including classics like Donkey Kong, Gauntlet and Pac-Man.

Aside from monthly Sunday free play nights, all of the machines are still on their original pay settings, so get the quarters ready. The setting is just like the arcades of old, except this time there’s no need to smuggle in the alcohol.

It’s that old-school arcade experience that keeps patrons coming back.

“When you walk in you get that nostalgic feeling of your youth,” Ledo said.

“The energy and lights and sounds of all these games just brings you back.”

Bar patron Karen Trinh calls the bar a nice alternative to the typical bar scene.

“Coin-Op provided the perfect experience for my friends and I who didn’t want to just drink,” she said. Likewise, she added, its game selection made for “a great hit of nostalgia.”

For those whose idea of geekdom is less about arcade machines and more about arguing with friends that a Wookie wouldn’t stand a chance against a Tusken Raider, there’s an appropriately nerdy option.

And don’t worry. There’s still drinking involved. It’s literally titular.

Geeks Who Drink is a pub quiz that originated in Denver in 2006, and now takes place in more than 600 bars across 35 states—including four nights a week in the Sacramento area: Tuesdays and Thursdays at Alley Katz, Wednesdays at Capitol Garage and Mondays at Davis’ G Street Wunderbar.

Apparently getting geeks together to drink and debate facts is a popular concept. It’s like lunch in the band hall all over again, except this time there’s booze and cash prizes for the top teams.

The questions are diverse in topic, says Taylor Winn, Geek Quizmaster at Alley Katz.

“We’re called Geeks Who Drink, but you can geek out about pretty much any topic,” Winn said. “I mean yeah, we have questions about Star Wars but we also have questions about political science.”

In other words, this is a free-for-all of nondiscriminatory nerdy knowledge. Knowing Shakespeare is just as important as knowing Fifty Shades of Grey. Don’t lie, you read it.

But, for those who can’t quite tell their Klingons from their Targaryens, Wynn also awards a free pity pitcher of beer to the team that comes in second-to-last place. Even in geek social culture there’s a participation ribbon.

Don’t save and quit just yet if you just want to game without showing off. Soon there will be at least one more spot on the geeky horizon to coax gamers out into the wild of the real world. Enter Save Point Gaming Tavern.

Save Point started as a solution to an old problem: feeding your party. It isn’t like you can go to any old restaurant, pull out your dice and start landing crits with your D20s.

“I’m sorry, our cleric needs more breadsticks,” wouldn’t exactly fly at Olive Garden.

Save Point owners Dariush Gheyssarieh and Anthony Barajas aim to address this problem with a tavern that will house table-top gaming, video games, and food and drink all under one roof.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign—the pair raised $27,911—Gheyssarieh and Barajas are still deep in the planning and permitting phase. They are now eying an early October opening date.

Plans for the tavern include a futuristic themed video-gaming room based on the interior of a Star Wars ship or a Star Trek bridge, a modern bar and dining area filled with geek memorabilia and commissioned art, board games piled on Tetris block shelves and two private gaming rooms: one medieval themed, the other post-apocalyptic. There are also plans for trivia nights, cosplay events and various tournaments.

Yup, at Save Point, Ned Stark and Fallout are only a door away.

And, ultimately, it’s just makes for another chance to take what is often thought of as an inside (read: basement) activity and enjoy it IRL.

“The nerds are winning, that’s what it is,” Barajas said. “As e-sports and other similar interests are being brought into the mainstream culture, people are starting to realize that you can enjoy these things and still be socially outstanding and a professionally successful person.”