Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ground Kontrol

The second post in my Arcade Safari series comes from a recent opportunity to visit Ground Kontrol, the classic arcade/bar in Portland, Oregon. As you stroll up to the front door, you can hear a continuous loop of arcade ambience on a speaker above the door, a nice touch.

They have a wide array of vintage video games as well as an upstairs pinball parlor.

Interestingly, they also sell vintage consoles. All the games ran on quarters, and the machines were in pretty good shape. Only one machine was dead when I was there (Battlezone).

I'd like to sum up the experience with the good and the bad.

The good:

  • Nice selection of machines.
  • Friendly staff (quick to return a lost quarter).
  • On a Sunday afternoon, you have your pick of games, because the place was pretty empty.
  • Only one machine was out of order, which was impressive, given the number of machines they have.
The not so good:

  • My biggest gripe--the overbearingly loud music pumping through all corners of this place. I was there at 3PM on a Sunday, and it was incredibly loud. (I used to play in a band every weekend--I am no wuss when it comes to loud music.) When you have to yell to someone you are playing a 2 player game with, it's too loud. It wasn't even 80s music.
  • A few of the machines were quarter eaters, but the staff was pretty good about it.
  • Some of the games were placed a bit too close together, face to face. When I was there, some guy was sitting down and playing the Ms. Pac, which totally blocked off access to the Galaga behind it.
  • They are a bit light on vectors (perhaps due to reliability) and didn't have any laser games.
All in all, an interesting place. They do have some interesting bands/DJ's sheduled there, and are supporters of video game related bands, which is very cool. This is definitely a good place to grab a beer and play some games if you are in the area. It's a short walk to the waterfront and the Chinese gardens, both highly rated local attractions. Just don't forget the earplugs.

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