Michelle reviews Detroit's Offworld Arcade, the area's very own hub for retro gaming.
When I first heard of Offworld Arcade in Detroit—from Reddit, of all places—I could barely contain my excitement. Growing up, I spent most of my free time and allowance money at the local arcade, pumping quarter after quarter into all of my favorite games. As I got older, I noticed that arcades were in a steady decline, especially with the advent of home console gaming and online multiplayer. Now people don’t have to actually leave their homes to play games with their buddies. While this is certainly convenient, there is something to be said about real life human interaction and establishing comradery.
Offworld, ran by retro game hobbyist Don Behm, is a mecca for arcade game enthusiasts and casual gamers alike. Behm has gathered more than twenty upright arcade machines from the 1980’s and 1990’s and kept them in excellent shape. Many classics are represented: BurgerTime, Zaxxon, 1943, Ninja Gaiden, Bad Dudes, Q*bert, and NBA Jam just to name a few. The games have that lived-in feel and all the controls work perfectly for the most part (a joystick or two that sticks are pretty much unavoidable in an arcade).
The arcade is set up in an old Catholic school, which adds to the aura of nostalgia around the event. There is just something adorable about hanging your coat up in a locker to go play video games with your friends. The entry fee is a measly five bucks which entitles you to free play on all the machines for the entire night. I used to burn through five bucks in a hour back in the day, and it doesn’t help that the arcade games are purposely made to be extra difficult to make you have to spend money on continues. Keg beer is provided—and everyone knows video games are much more fun after a couple of drinks!
Since this Offworld took place near Christmas, they held a White Elephant gift exchange. The gifts had to be video game related and a lot of people took this as a chance to offload their old games and knick-knacks. There were some pretty sweet gifts to be had and everyone had a blast with it. A DJ was spinning records to keep the party going and there was a general festive atmosphere. You will never feel more loved than at a gather of nerds with like interests. Everyone was incredibly nice and fun to chat with and the crowd was diverse. If one were looking for a place to mingle and meet new people, Offworld would be a great place to start.
Mr. Behm is personable and pleasant. I saw him wandering around conversing with the attendees and even playing some games himself. He was also quick to help with machine problems (putting them back on free play etc.) and extremely knowledgeable with the mechanics and minutiae of retro game upkeep. He is a collector but still a huge nerd as well, and it’s refreshing to see someone who does something out of pure love for the hobby as opposed to monetary gain. Offworld is held once a month so if you miss out on it, there is no need to worry. If you are looking from some gaming fun on a weekend, this is definitely an affair to check out.