In the downtown storefront that once housed The Goldsmith jewelry store, Brett Pulliam and his wife, Danielle, have opened Bend’s only stand-alone classic arcade.
Vector Volcano Arcade, which opened May 1 at 111 NW Oregon Ave., features a rotating collection of more than 40 classic arcade and pinball games, from “Galaga” to “Space Invaders.”
“They basically don’t make these types of games anymore,” Brett Pulliam said.
Pulliam began collecting arcade games 18 years ago, around the same time that he started working as an animator for Pixar. He helped design characters for movies like “A Bug’s Life” and “Monsters Inc.,” collecting video and pinball games as a hobby. After beginning his collection with the original “Donkey Kong,” Pulliam said he now owns more than 50 games, and he’s still adding more.
“It starts off with nostalgia, but once I started collecting the games I used to play as a kid, I realized the stuff I didn’t love as a kid was really good,” Pulliam said.
After leaving Pixar, Pulliam decided he wanted to turn his hobby into a business. He and his wife were looking to move away from the San Francisco Bay Area to someplace smaller, and they settled on Bend due in part to the city’s lack of a classic arcade.
Arcades have tailed off considerably in popularity since their heyday in the early 1980s, a decline that Pulliam attributes to the rise in personal console gaming. However, he added that the rise in arcade-style smartphone games has helped fuel a minor resurgence, and establishments that mix bars with arcade and pinball games have started appearing in cities across America.
“At home, you have one game on; you don’t have the ambiance of like 40 games on,” Pulliam said. “It’s just kind of a different environment.”
One of the first places to latch onto the trend nationally was Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade in Portland. Jeffrey McEachin and a few business partners bought a struggling music store that doubled as an arcade in 2003, added alcohol in 2005, and now Ground Kontrol features around 90 games and a full bar.
“The alcohol definitely increased the number of nighttime visitors we got,” McEachin said.
While Vector Volcano Arcade cannot serve beer yet, Pulliam expects to get a license soon. The arcade has a bar to the right of the main entrance, appropriately next to “Tapper,” a 1983 game that lets users play as a bartender.
“I want to be an arcade first. I don’t want to be a bar with games,” Pulliam said. “But I definitely want to serve beer; it’s the culture of Bend.”
Unlike many traditional arcades, where users put quarters into the machines to play, Vector Volcano will be what Pulliam calls a “free-play arcade.” That is, customers pay a fee when they come in the door — $5 for an hour, $10 for a full day — in exchange for unlimited access to games. Pulliam said it encourages gamers to try unfamiliar games.
“It’s almost like the home environment; you don’t have to pay to play,” Pulliam said.
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