Pizza and pinball

Pizza and pinball

Smart phones and home gaming consoles seem to have all but killed off the old arcades that Gen Xers fondly remember as favorite hangouts after school. And while you still have a few big mega arcades in Houston like Dave & Buster’s and Main Event that cater as much if not more to adults than kids, and the chain arcade Tilt in Beaumont, the mom-and-pop style arcades that you used to see on almost every street corner in the ’80s and ’90s seem to have faded away.

When the home console business began to dominate the video game market, arcades responded by introducing bigger and better games that people couldn’t yet replicate at home — like motion simulator rides, Michael Meyers, a video game industry executive from the San Francisco Bay area, told ABC News in the article “The Death and Resurgence of Arcades in America.”

“Those cost $10,000, so you can imagine how many times it takes to pay itself off,” Meyers said. “And those motion simulators take up a ton of room to safely operate. They’re almost like a small amusement park ride. So it’s not realistic for a mom-and-pop arcade to have one of those machines.”

However, thanks to a resurgence in the popularity of retro games like Pac-Man and ever-enduring favorites like pinball and classic racing games like Outrun, BnB Arcade is making a splash and looking to bring back the family-friendly arcades that we grew to love as youngsters.

Owner Chris Truong officially opened BnB Arcade in April, and the business has steadily added new machines to its now 82-game inventory.

“Beaumont doesn’t have many places to go, and (he) just wanted to open an old-school game room,” said Jeanie Phuong Nguyen, manager of BnB Arcade. “Some people like the retro stuff. Some people like the fighting games. We’ve got kiddie games, too. It’s for all ages.”

Unlike Dave & Busters, Tilt and pretty much any modern-day arcade, BnB doesn’t use a card system for tokens. It stays true to the old-school concept of changing dollars for actual tokens.

“The token system is just easier,” Nguyen said, adding that customers don’t have to worry about points not spent or lost cards.

Nguyen said young customers enjoy the Sonic Dash Extreme game, which has players taking on some of Sonic’s most famous worlds and nemeses, including Dr. Eggman, in a quest to win tickets.

“A lot of people have played it on their phone already, so they like that,” Nguyen said.

Another smartphone game transformed, arcade-style, is Candy Crush Saga. Fans of the app will appreciate the giant-sized version of this highly popular puzzle game.

“The women love it,” Nguyen said. “If they can get the high score, they can get a lot of tickets.”

Many of the older gamers who are now parents or even grandparents enjoy the pinball machines.

“There are some people that just look for pinball. They bring their grandkid in and while their grandkid plays, they are stuck on the pinball,” she said.

The arcade has a unique selection of pop culture inspired pinball machines including Walking Dead, Ghost Busters, Metallica, Game of Thrones and Batman.

Other gamers are looking for something a little nostalgic.

“Some people like Asteroids and Galaga,” Nguyen said. “Some people like those retro games.”

BnB spices up retro favorites like Pac-Man by offering the “World’s Largest Pac-Man” machine. The original Pac-Man game is faithfully reproduced on a huge 108-inch LED screen and features RGB full color rotating LED lights surrounding the entire control panel pedestal. Unlike the original game, it also offers two-player simultaneous play.

“Players can challenge each other and see who can get more points,” Nguyen said.

There are plenty of racing and shooting games, as well as a row of fighting games that the arcade brought in at the request of the Southeast Texas Fighting Game Community (SETXFGC), a club of fighting game fanatics that hold a tournament competition the last Sunday of the month at BnB called the Big Money Battle Royale.

“Fighting games grew up in the arcade,” said head tournament organizer Tyler Haynes, a Beaumont accounting major at Lamar, when asked why the group decided to hold its monthly tournament at BnB. “They asked us what kind of machines do y’all like. We said we like fighting games, so they went and brought a Killer Instinct and Marvel vs. (Capcom) 2 … because they know we’ll come back. They really talk to their clientele and see what they want. … BnB has a really great space, and the people here are super awesome and welcoming.”

SETXFGC has more than 400 members, and around 60 usually show up for the monthly tournaments, said Roberto Obregon, who studied chemical engineering at Lamar and is co-tournament organizer. Players bring in their own TVs and consoles and fight it out in bracket-style tournament play. The competition takes place in a party room at the BnB arcade. Gamers fight it out in several fighting games including Street Fighter V, BlazBlue: Centralfiction, Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2, Injustice 2, Killer Instinct, Tekken 7, Super Smash Bros. Melee and Project M.

“We started out as a Lamar (University) organization,” Obregon, of Port Arthur, said. “We have weekly tournaments at Lamar, and we’ve been doing that for the past four years. For the monthly tournaments, it’s all pot-based. So the players pay an entry fee, and the entry fee goes to a pot. That pot is split among the top three winners. It’s a 60-30-10 split.”

“We keep stats for every tournament that’s ever played,” added Haynes. The tournaments usually last around 12 hours. Now that’s some diehard fighting game fans!

More than just fun, however, BnB, which is conveniently connected to Crystal Grocery, also owned by Truong, has a menu of great food items for the hungry gamer. In fact, you can order food from the arcade and eat it there. There’s even a dining area available in the arcade for patrons to take a break and get their munch on.

Everything from pizza, pork chop sandwiches, cheeseburgers, and bean burritos to boudin balls, seafood and fried chicken is offered.

After accumulating a boatload of tickets, be sure and check out the toys and games you can cash them in for before you leave.

The arcade also hosts birthday parties. Make reservations in-person, by calling, or visiting the arcade’s website at www.bnbarcade.com.

BnB is at 3529 N. Major Drive, Ste. B in Beaumont. Hours are 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. on weekends. Call (409) 860-9090 for more information.

For more information about the SETXFGC, visit SETXeSports.com/BattleRoyale.

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