When most of us think of South Florida, we imagine tanned skin, fast cars, and miles of spotless beaches. But while so many visitors are out enjoying the South Beach sunshine, a dedicated few can be found in darkened rooms lit only by the electric glow of 30-year-old monitors and underscored by a cacophony of bleeps and bloops.
These are the classic arcade game experts, a small community of enthusiasts who have dedicated their lives to pushing games like “Pac-Man,” “Robotron: 2084,” “Defender,” and “Centipede” to their limits — practicing techniques and memorizing patterns for days or weeks to shave seconds from their fastest times or to set a new score. Some of these dedicated players and their hobby were made famous in the 2007 documentary “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters,” a cult hit in which an established video games champion and a young upstart battled for the world-record high score in “Donkey Kong.”
Image via Flickr by microsiervos
Even if you are a video game newbie, or if you prefer your games with polygons rather than pixels, you can visit some of the arcades and entertainment centers that are keeping the old games alive in South Florida. While you’re arcade-hopping, save your lightning-quick reflexes — and your quarters — by skipping the car and shopping for the best bus rates from Miami to Fort Lauderdale.
Beat the heat in Miami at GameTime, a full-service entertainment center with a restaurant, a sports bar, and a spacious arcade with an impressive collection of classic and contemporary video games and prize machines.
Image via Flickr by Sam Howzit
If single-screen games of the early 1980s don’t appeal to your taste, quarter up on a fighting game like “Street Fighter II” and test your skills with a classic lineup of characters in their first appearance. If you need to stretch your legs, limber up and hop on a “Dance Dance Revolution” pad to show off your moves.
Rickey’s Restaurant and Sports Bar, Hollywood
In “The King of Kong,” the long-established champion is Billy Mitchell, a charismatic character who has held numerous video game and pinball records since his teenage years in the 1980s. Today, he is the owner of Rickey’s, a South Florida chain of sports bars and restaurants. The flagship location is in Billy’s hometown of Hollywood, and there you can find hot chicken wings, cold beer, and old games. You might even spot the “Video Game Player of the Century” himself — just look for his iconic American flag necktie.
Another Castle, Oakland Park
Just north of Fort Lauderdale, visit Another Castle — a clever play on the quote, “Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!” from “Super Mario Brothers.” This is a “barcade,” a new kind of hip hangout growing in popularity among American 20- and 30-somethings offering a wide selection of craft beers and classic games. Ask the bartender for a recommendation on a beer while you peruse the game list. If you haven’t played in a few years, you’ll be surprised at how easily and naturally your fingers remember the controls for games like “Goldeneye 007” as you show confused millennials how games used to be.
Even if your “Ms. Pac-Man” score isn’t world record–level yet, you’ll have no trouble finding old-fashioned electronic fun in South Florida.
Cory Hanson is an American travel writer specializing in North American and European travel. This post has been brought to you by Busbud. Find a full disclosure about this kind of content here.