Arcade’s retro aesthetic infuses modern flare

Photo: Ashley Bauler

Photo: Ashley Bauler


Nostalgic adults in need of a video game fix can find their favorite classics reimagined perched on the third floor of the Denver Pavilions in FTW Arcade.

FTW Denver, short for “For the Win,” puts a modern day spin on the classic arcade which resonates with their target market of Millennials. Installed by the same company that owns the Lucky Strike Bowling Alley, the venue started attracting Denver’s young adult scene upon its debut in Dec. 2016. With neon lights gleaming through the front entrance, the beeps and bops blaring from the nearest Pac-Man machine, and the crash of pins hitting the polished wood from inside the bowling alley, it’s impossible not to get caught up in memories of childhood trips to the arcade with a bag full of quarters in hand.

Though cost of a game is comparable to competitors Dave and Busters and Bowlero (formerly Brunswick Zone), this venue has introduced a new kind of retro gameplay. Each brand new game machine transports the player into a Nintentdo-inspired dream, leaving them feeling like they’re lost deep in the throes of Japan’s digital underground. Rather than accepting coins and before dispensing tickets, FTW employs a multi-use electronic card system which users can load up with credits to play games and store their points to buy prizes later.

There are old and new games alike for both video game veterans and interested newcomers. Pac-Man and air hockey are a welcome presence and bring back a sense of nostalgia, like the year is 1981 and joysticks are the newest and greatest technology available. The newer games draw players in with the sparkling advances in time-wasting technology, boasting floor-to-ceiling screens and complete  immersion in gameplay: for example, the Star Wars Battle Pod has users physically climb inside and shut themselves in.

In an attempt to cater to their target market, FTW and Lucky Strike have joined in the spirit of Denver nightlife and created an age policy: at the stroke of 10 p.m., the doors to the venues close to anyone under 21. The venues also have a variety of specials such as “Sunday Funday” at Lucky Strike, which includes $1 shoe rental and $3 bowling.

The Lucky Strike Bowling Alley underwent a makeover as a part of FTW’s opening as well, and now shares the same neon lighting scheme as the new arcade. The two venues also share a kitchen and serve upscale bar foods like massive burgers and food truck-style tacos. The quality of the food is reflected in the price (around $13 an entree), but visitors can get half-off the specials during happy hour throughout the week, as well as shave a few bucks off their drinks.

Though FTW doesn’t have the same grungy atmosphere of beloved childhood arcades, the venue captures the contemporary and joyful feeling of playing games and earning prizes, and that is a win in and of itself.

-Ashley Bauler and Gem Sheps

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