Fretting about not getting a Nintendo Classic Console?
Knock it off.
Rochester has something a million times better. We have a real arcade assembled from pieces of long dead arcades from the 80s and 90s. We have the Machine Shed.
Give thanks to James Aakre and Branden Strong. The pair of modding enthusiasts (people who modify old video game hardware) met while trading parts. Both come with serious backgrounds in gaming. Aakre, a former Street Fighter II national champion, got his start fixing arcade machines at Aladdin’s Castle in the Galleria (now Shops at University), while Strong put in work at Funko Land and the original Machine Shed.
After Aakre organized successful Super Smash Bros and Street Fighter IV tournaments at this summer’s Rochesterfest, the pair decided to follow the dreams of their younger selves and start an arcade. Why the demand for nostalgia, though?
“I think because we live in a high res world and everybody wants to be back to low res,” said Aakre.
The whole enterprise, so far, has run on passion. They hand out cards in grocery lines, strike up conversations about video games. Their nights are filled with texts about joysticks, prices, screens, and games.
“The reality is, we’re both broke, and we’re still trying to get this afloat. We’re like, ‘If we could survive just one more month.’ We know it’ll be a hit. We spent all morning getting a Killer Instinct running. Not because we know it’ll be profitable, just because it’s awesome,” said Aakre.
They offer an occasional open play option – $10 for as much as you can play – or you can rent the arcade for up to 25 people for $150 per hour. You can also rent their games, but those prices depend on a variety of factors. They sell custom multicades, too.
The place allows for a fully immersive nostalgia dip.
“There is no other place where you’re going to hear those blips and sounds like Defender. Or Robotron 2084. There’s nothing that’s going to sound like that again,” said Aakre. “Above and beyond is the smell. We have a game from ‘87 back over there and when you get close to the cabinet, and you smell, like, warm wood and dampness, that’s what you think of, is the 80s. 80s arcade. I’ll get next to it and I’ll start moving and I’ll get a waft of that smell and I’ll be like, “Oh, I’m home.” For me, it’s fantastic.”
“So many people play games with their headsets. They sit alone on their sofa or chair, but in the arcade, you actually are next to people, you might play games next to people you don’t know. You have to interact. Connect,” said Strong.
Thus far, mixed crowds of boomers, teenagers, and young children have interacted peacefully. People respect place-holder quarters, no one swears, and no one hangs off of the machines.
As far as keeping the arcade functioning into the future? The Kasson Boy Scouts are scheduled to earn their technology merit badge at Machine Shed, so the knowledge of this techno-wizardry will trickle further into the future.
To keep up with Machine Shed, follow them on Facebook, at bit.ly/2gkXKTX. The arcade is located at 11 2nd St. NE.