Monday, December 3, 2007
While the coin-op arcades of old may be relegated to the digital scrap heap of video game history, Game Nut Entertainment owner Gene Nutt and his crew refuse to give up the blinking ghost.
After nearly two years of plotting and tinkering, the Mass. Street video game retailer is finally ready to unveil its second floor-the HighScore Game Room, a bleeding edge tech cafe catering to today's discriminating gamer. Forget the dingy, sweat-stained arcades of '80s nostalgia-if, unlike a majority of contemporary gamers, you were even alive to remember such a thing-HighScore is lined with large flat-screen televisions and leather recliners. And, of course, more gaming systems than you can waggle a Wii-mote at, from vintage Atari to high-end PCs-with the opportunity to play at leisure or engage in tournaments (starting at about $4/hour).
Gene Nutt, waist deep in sawdust and dangling PS3 cables for the mad rush leading up to the grand opening on Dec. 1, spoke with lawrence.com about his vision for rebooting the social gaming scene.
lawrence.com: Can you give us a little bit of background on how this little slice of gaming nerdvana came about?
Nutt: Well, Game Nut Entertainment started about two years ago and we had HighScore in the plans since day one. We've got the store downstairs, of course, and had to get things rolling there first:but we're finally there.
How did you get into the gaming retail business?
It started out with me being a gamer. It's easy to do what you love, and that's what I'm trying to do. I've always wanted to have a place like this to go, myself-so I made it.
What's your vision for HighScore Game Room?
We are going to have an open gaming area that's available from the time we're open to the time we're closed, every day. We're going to have tournaments on the weekend and leagues you can join during the week.
Is it going to have a hookah bar vibe, with people mingling freely, coming and going-but instead of sucking on a pipe you can suck on a Wii?
Absolutely. Everybody can sit at home and do what they're going to do up here, but they can't do it with lots of other people. That's what it's really all about-bringing people together and letting them play games. Instead of just sitting at home by yourself and playing online, like so many of us are doing these days, it gives you another option.
...I remember when I was a kid I'd go to the arcade on weekends and compete in tournaments. It's amazing to me that not a lot of places like this have popped up. They're showing up on the East and West coasts, but there's nothing really like it in the Midwest.
What sort of tournaments do you have planned?
Actually, that's the best part about this-we can put in anything you want, all the way back to the Atari age. If there's enough interest in a tournament for, say, Mario Kart 64, we're going to have it. In fact, it's a good example, because we've already had a request for that.
Are you anticipating cutthroat, "King of Kong" style-competitions?
We'll be getting into the national leagues-there are actually professional gamers that will come to the tournaments. We'll draw people from two or three states over for the tournaments here. We'll advertise a lot on the internet and we'll draw quite a bit of a crowd from other areas.
What's the run-down of the panoply of systems gamers can get their hands on here?
Day one, we're going to have lots of Xbox 360s, a couple of Wiis, and a couple of PS3s. We'll have some old stuff available, but we're probably going to stick to the massively multi-player, Halo-style games for the opening. We'll have Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 tournaments on day one.
What do you attribute to the rise of video games as one of the most dominant forms of media in our culture?
The ability to tell a story has put video games in the forefront. You can interact with the story now. In a book or a movie, you're limited to what the artist's vision is, but in video games you get to be a part of it. Another form of storytelling is what it really is, and when you can add your skill it leads to much broader interest from people.
Where do video games go from here? Are we going to be plugging pods into our spine in the near future?
I won't say "no" to that.
Why should people come out to the HighScore Game Room?
The main thing is that, if you're a gamer, you should come out and take a look. I'll let it sell itself. They'll have a good time. We're really just getting started. We've got a whole other room to build and we're just in the initial stages. We're gong to make it so you want to be here all day.