Video games overrun Cafe Colonial in new weekly event

I walked in to Cafe Colonial on November 11 to see something rare and beautiful: a TV connected to a Dreamcast running Marvel vs. Capcom 2, with contestants actually willing to play.

Even among my fighting-game crazy friends, I can't find people who will play me in MvC 2. Clearly, this place was some sort of heaven.

Such is the beauty of the RetroGen916 game night at Cafe Colonial, a recently launched weekly event dedicated to giving gamers a place to socialize, play and share their love of digital competition.

The event, well-attended and well-received on its first night, kept itself informal and welcoming, a place where players could bounce from a casual round of Mario Kart 64 to an intense match in Ultra Street Fighter 4. While there were the more talented players one would expect to see at an event like this, the competition was not so fierce that newcomers couldn't play games and have fun as well.

The range of offerings was vast. People gathered around to take turns playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 while others frenzied in almost all varieties of Super Smash Bros.—even Project M, a fantastic mod that rebalances Brawl.

Meanwhile, a guy plugged his face into a Virtual Boy, an obscure console from Nintendo, and across the room from that was an Atari 2600.

What sold me on the authenticity of the event was walking into a second room of TVs to hear a forgotten favorite band of mine on the speakers: The Advantage, an influential (and local) band that covered songs from old Nintendo games.

As a special treat, the Brotherhood of Ellipsis, a video-game inspired metal band out of Woodland, performed a short set. The band's got good spirit and high energy, playing songs inspired by the speed and complexity of old-school game scores and interjected with hardcore breakdowns.

The first night was inviting and mostly unstructured, clearly looking to start slow and see what attendees liked before complicating anything. The organizers want to add biweekly tournaments. They're also interested in getting people to bring trading card games, such as Magic: The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh!, and tabletop games, the good stuff like Settlers of Catan.

Of course, if any of this doesn't sound appealing, this event isn't likely to draw your attention. But even those who aren't obsessive lovers of gaming will find that the tone is one of sharing and genuine fun. When people asked questions about how to play a certain game, other players taught them without condescension, and whenever organizers caught me between games, they readily reminded me of all the options available and asked me what I'd like to see at future events.

It's a night for enthusiasts and casuals alike, and since there's no cover charge, on-the-fencers can feel confident in checking it out.

The RetroGen916 game night takes place from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. every Tuesday at Cafe Colonial. All ages are welcome, and there's alcohol available for purchase to those 21 and up.