As I stand outside, bundled up to warm myself from the frigid 30 degree weather, I watch my frozen breath trail off into the air as I stare at the line outside of a brick building on 1st and 3rd in the heart of Minneapolis’ Warehouse District adorned with a modest, vertical sign that simply reads “Insert Coin(s)” and I can’t help but smile as I watch dozens of people excitedly huddle around each other not knowing what to expect when they walk through the doors of Insert Coin(s): Level 2 for the very first time. Sure, they’ve heard rumblings of a nightclub with old school arcade cabinets, but to them, it’s all been rumors and facebook pictures as most of them haven’t had the chance to experience the thrill of landing the perfect button combo against their friend while sipping a cocktail to the sounds of a live DJ like we have here in Vegas. (And let’s face it, nothing really beats that feeling.)
Warming my hands in my pockets, I’m caught off guard as a few guys leave a neighboring bar and my interest is piqued when one man exclaims, “Wait you’re saying Space Invader and shit? Galaga?!” Another man exits the bar and asks, “What’re you guys looking at?”Immediately, I stick around to hear where this conversation leads. One of the friend replies, “This line for this arcade bar with the video games. If you’re over 30 you know what I’m saying.” I scoot in a little closer to catch the next part of the conversation as the original speaker replies, “So it’s a nightclub with video games? That sounds like my shit! Atari came first and it was good but ColecoVision changed the game. It was Atari first and foremost though!”
It’s at this moment that I realize the communal power that video games have over all of us 20-30-year olds. We grew up in a very important time in pop culture history when video games were not only introduced but were also such a staple of our childhoods, often being the driving power behind friendships and conversations much like I just witnessed. It’s because of this important social factor that people get so hyped about Insert Coin(s) and why I fell in love with the concept the moment Chris LaPorte showed me the blueprints back in early 2011. You see, video games don’t belong in living rooms connected by ethernet connections, they belong in social settings to bring back the interactiveness that initially made them so popular. Where friends can yell at the screen, groups can button mash on cabinets and video games can bring people together closer in proximity and kinship rather than over a headset.
As the group leaves the neighboring bar to wait in line outside of Insert Coin(s): Level 2, I head back inside to start prepping for the grand opening celebrations that were about to commence. The buzz inside the club mirrored that of the buzz outside, Playstations were having their software updated,
employees excitedly stocked the latest arrivals of alcohol/video games and other last minute preparations were being made before the Minneapolis locals were to be introduced to the next level in interactive nightlife. Just as the last Xbox was updated with LIVE, the clock struck 9 pm PST and Insert Coin(s): Level 2 was officially open. The doors swung open and the first couple in line instantly smiled as if they had just entered Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and in a sense, they had. The two story nightclub, filled to the brim with arcade cabinets, Xboxes, Playstations, Wiis, Ataris, etc is essentially a gamer’s paradise. The proverbial gaming Mecca is exemplified by such facets as the Beta Bar 2.0 which is powered by Kinects that light up related to where your hands are placed and the fully interactive dance floor controlled by state of the art computer programs that pace the lights to the rhythm of the room which make you feel like you’ve entered the grid, TRON Legacy style.
The night of the grand opening went off without a hitch. Minnesota was introduced to Insert Coin(s) and the dance floor was packed all night…well…until 1:45 AM anyway because they have something called a “last call” over there in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Being a Vegas-bred desert rat, this threw me for a loop as the lights came on at 1:30 and people started to instantaneously sober up and exit the club. The trek back to the hotel was full of zombies, sexy superheroes and horses and as I walked the freezing streets of downtown Minneapolis, I kept hearing chatter about Coin(s). Whether it was “that was fucking rad” or “I just danced and played Simpson’s Arcade! I never thought I’d be able to say that!” it was clear that the Insert Coin(s): Level 2 grand opening was a success and locals are ready for a level up in Interactive Nightlife.