This blog ain't dead yet but as is typically the case I've been head down grinding on plenty of different things, but these days most of those things look like retro arcade games. It's hard to believe Reclaim Arcade is about to celebrate 1 year of the doors being open and I can't help but get a bit reflective about where 1 year has taken us, and maybe it will encourage me to write more often about it this coming year. But it's hard to talk about 2021 without talking about 2020 and the work that led up to our opening. So consider this part one of two posts wherein I'll look back on the moments leading up to our opening and then where we went in the past year with the launch of Reclaim Arcade in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Jim and I were well underway building the plans for Reclaim Arcade in 2020 when the pandemic put an abrupt end to any further development of the business. This ended up being a blessing as we hadn't yet sunk a large amount of money into construction, but it was heartbreaking personally to watch our dreams just get put on hold and as the months marched on what seemed like a temporary setback proved to be much more dire and there were plenty of times I figured Reclaim Arcade was never going to come to fruition. But at the end of July I decided to start putting the games back in the space and by August Jim and I started to think maybe we could open the arcade on our own terms at some point with baby steps forward. A neon sign was ordered, lightbulbs changed colors, signs added outside, and every week we started working through the various bits and pieces we'd need to be able to safely open. We set a target date of launching online on January 1, 2021 and opening the doors on January 29th.
In the interest of safely opening during a pandemic we decided to take a page out of escape room models and use a reservation system to limit the number of attendees and structure time limits for people to come to the arcade. Rather than tokens we'd set all the games to free play and people could rent the full arcade for that 2 hours for their group if they wanted or pay per person. The response was overwhelming. People were ready for safe ways to get out of the house and find entertainment and the folks who had followed us for so long on social media were excited to finally see what we had done. Jim and I captured that moment in time at Reclaim Arcade in a short video that documents fairly well how rewarding it felt for us both personally and professionally to reach the milestone of opening the doors to people.
So much of that video holds up today even with lessons learned about finding comfort in growing over time, being responsive to a community, and how crucial game maintenance was going to be to the overall operation.
And much has changed since that video (not the least of which the studio it was recorded in is now a private party room Jim and I built in May). But I'll save all of those developments for a Part 2 as I reflect on the amazing and transformative year that Reclaim Arcade has had.