When I was young I remember getting the original Gameboy for Christmas. Now I was able to take my favorite hobby with me anywhere and for a military brat, it was glorious. Only there was one problem. Due to unwelcome criticism from my older sister I constantly felt embarrassed playing the Gameboy anywhere in public. I felt that it was childish, dorky, and not cool.
In High school I was careful to walk the very fragile line between athlete, cool kid and closet gamer. Still, some of my favorite memories from that time were playing a full 100 turns of Mario Party that lasted all night between me and three friends.
In college, much to the dismay of my grades, I spent countless hours that I should have been studying playing Super Smash Brothers Melee and Halo with a lot of other “dorks” in my dorm room. It felt great to be among so many of my peers. As I scanned the college landscape I realized that I was among so many people who grew up with games and technology that it was no longer “dorky” to be a gamer. It was around this time that I realized that no matter what happened in my life, I was always going to be a gamer. And perhaps we as a society could reach a point where gaming is “cool.” Well after a recent experience at Insert Coins in Las Vegas I can now honestly say that we live in a world where “Geek is Chic.”
Located downtown near the start of the Fremont Experience, Insert Coins blends the world of Vegas, hipster club and bar with a game room. Arriving early for my friend’s birthday I had an idea of what Insert Coins was, but did not know if it was going to be gimmicky. Upon walking into the club there is an unmistakable feeling that you have arrived at something truly unique. The dark room is lit up by the glaring light from plasma TVs and Arcade Cabinets playing videogames (and Anime) both old and new. My friend and I approached the bar and ordered some drinks. At first glance it felt like a normal bar. But when the bartender asked if we wanted to play anything on the plasmas above the bar we opened a tab and were handed controllers. The next thing I know we were sipping on drinks and I was getting embarrassed at Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Surprisingly this felt incredibly comfortable. Not getting crushed at the game but rather playing videogames at a bar. No different than watching a football or basketball game with your pals while having a few drinks. Only this was an active experience where you have an audience of observers and presumably friends, talking trash or cheering you on just waiting to get next match. It was such a novel experience that I wondered why I had never had it before.
After a few rounds of the game our group made its way to our gaming booth. The gaming booths are similar to average table/bottle service you can find at any Vegas night club with one big exception. There are two large plasma TVs which are set up with your choice of Xbox360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Nintendo 64 or an old-school system that plays Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis games. The table also comes with a server who not only pours and brings you drinks but also provides new games to play upon request. The game-list ranges from many classics like Mega Man, Sonic, Zelda and Mario among newer and popular games. Over the course of the night I watched other gaming booths playing new games like NBA2k13, Assassins Creed 3 and Black Ops 2 on both Xbox360 and PS3 alike. In the interest of pleasing a group of about fifteen we elected to have the old school system and Wii at our table.
Additionally Insert Coins understands that it is not just a place for gamers to play. For those looking for something closer to the typical Las Vegas club experience there is a full dance floor with live DJ’s who mix it up. As the night progressed the dance floor was packed with dancers. Even a few dance battles broke out from some guys who obviously had skills. As a group we took up a good portion of the floor and everyone was having a great time including a few girls in our party who were “too cool” for videogames. Nevertheless, when they stepped away from the dance floor back to our booth to take a breather, they worked through a few levels of Super Mario Brothers 3 that we had going for anyone to just pick up and play. (Over the course
of the night as a group we leveled up to world 7 without warps).
Perhaps the shining star to Insert Coins is that one “quarter” of the place feels like a walk back in time to the arcade. There were so many classic machines hungry for your quarters. For any thirty-something’s and up out there, you cannot help but feel the warm sensation of nostalgia. A wide selection of co-op machines ranging from Pac-Man to Street Fighter 2 grace the wall. Additionally Insert Coins understands that this is not your childhood arcade. Every single machine has drink holders for your adult beverage of choice. I must say, I have never played The Simpsons Arcade game while drinking mixed cocktails. It left me with an intoxicating feeling. Or maybe that was intoxicated feeling?
While there is not any food service at Insert Coins, its location is across the street from a pizza by the slice place and an awesome little hotdog stand is only steps away from the entrance. Both are ideal for those wishing to grab a quick bite to eat and came in very handy at the end of the night.
In all, my night at Insert Coins was an entertaining experience that I cannot wait to have again. While I do not frequent Fremont Street often, I was always under the impression that things are less expensive in that part of Vegas. And in some cases with Insert Coins it is. The cover (after 10pm) is only $5 for locals, $10 for everyone else. The gaming booths are about $200+ gratuity for bottle service which is on the cheaper side for Vegas night clubs. When you consider the gaming consoles with that price, it makes it an extremely reasonable, especially for groups. However drinks at the bar appear to be on the more expensive side then what I was expecting, about $5 for bottled beer and $8 for mixed drinks. Also many of the coin-operated arcade machines were $.50 a play. This is a small gripe I know, but every time I inserted coins I couldn’t help but think about it. Still the overall experience makes up for these small concerns.
The next time you are in Las Vegas and are deciding what to do, Insert Coins earns a high score. It is truly like no other Vegas experience. Club, Bar and game room, there is something for everyone in your group including the gamer in all of us.