Before yesterday, I had been inside Gamers Arena on 421 E. Calder Way only once. It was during my freshman year while I was on a Pokémon kick (you’ve gotten them too, don’t deny it), and I stopped inside to see if they had some sort of Game Boy accessory that I needed, though I can’t remember exactly which. They had it.
Anyway, I was interested in heading back to do a profile on the place because I’m still a gigantic Nintendo 64 nerd, as most of my friends will tell you. I remember the place struck me as cozy with a classic retro video game store feel the first time I went, but I didn’t think it had anything to offer beyond that. I strolled into the store at around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and was greeted immediately by a pair of friendly fellows behind the counter named Aaron McPeek and Harry Cone.
It seemed I had picked a good time to come. McPeek told me they had been discussing the logistics of an upcoming challenge Gamers Arena will host — the Pokémon Kanto Gym Challenge. “Pokémon X/Y” players, take note: You can bring your Nintendo 3DSes to the store and battle teams created by McPeek of a different Kanto Gym type every week. Cone showed me the grand prize – a set of replica Kanto gym badges. Those got the nerd in me quite excited. Though my Pokémon expertise includes only the first two generations, a cool challenge such as this gave me a good first (second, I guess) impression of the place.
The store’s layout is sweet. There are five arcade machines along the front wall, with the rest of the space dedicated to game displays. And there are a lot of games to display – Cone said the store sells “everything back to Atari.” I spotted some gems, let me tell you. The GameCube’s “Madden 2002” with Daunte Culpepper on the cover for $4.95 was the most nostalgia-inducing of the lot.
At this point, I thought Gamer’s Arena was nice, but nothing special. But then…then, I walked into the back room of the store.
The back room is where the magic happens. I could tell right when I walked in. The walls are painted like a world in “Super Mario Bros.,” complete with mushrooms and the flagpole. At the cost of only $2, you can play any used video game in stock on any system the store has to offer for an hour in the back room. You don’t need to bring anything to the store except $2 and your hands to play anything for an hour. You can even bring friends if they have $2 and make a Mario Party out of it! If I had an hour to spare, I would have stopped what I was doing and tried a few games I can’t afford, but alas. That’s still an awesome feature.
Gamers Arena also has cool renting options. All of its rentals are either $0.99 or $1.99 for one day. The store’s only stipulation on the “one day” is that you return the rented games the next day. That means you could rent the game when the store opens at 11 a.m. and keep it until it closes at 8 p.m. the next day if you play your cards right. Most of the titles it has for $1.99 are less than a year old, but the rest drop down to $0.99 if they’ve been out for longer than a year.
After hearing about its rental deals, I was nerding out. Other neat stuff Gamers Arena does includes fixing scratched disks for $5, repairing broken consoles for varying prices, and offering cash for traded-in games.
At some point before Spring Break, I plan on trading in the extra copy of “Pokémon Stadium” I have and using that money to try “Left For Dead” on the PlayStation 3. If you’re a former video gamer who gets nostalgic sometimes, Gamers Arena is your best bet to fulfill your Pokémon-playing dreams and more.