A&E

Player 1 Video Game Bar pairs all-you-can-play machines with craft beer

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Player 1 Video Game Bar
Photo: Wade Vandervort

The problem: A group of friends didn’t have access to a big enough house to play Call of Duty or Halo in the same room. The solution: Build a video game bar, with games galore, the space to play them and plenty of amenities.

Seven years ago, Jeff Benoit opened Player 1 Video Game Bar in Orlando, Florida. It solved his space problem and more. “Orlando took off like a shot,” Benoit recalls. The timing felt perfect, he says, because a generation that grew up playing video games had come of age, ready to bring its hobby into the nightlife realm.

Unlike at traditional arcades, where players shell out quarters for each game—or each time they hit “continue”—Player 1 charges a cover ($5 for locals, or less during happy hour) for unlimited access. There’s also a $200 annual membership on offer, which comes with additional perks like a T-shirt, free plus-ones and an invite to an annual members-only party.

After so much success in Orlando, Benoit chose Las Vegas for his bar’s second location due to its similar mix of tourists and locals. He’s a longtime fan of the city who visited regularly for years before moving here. The Vegas Player 1—on Maryland Parkway south of Sahara—officially opened in August, and Benoit says the response has been extremely positive. “When people walk in, they’re wowed,” he says.

At 9,500 square feet, the Vegas location is about three times larger than the Orlando venue. It features more games, more space to walk around and a bigger bar. “A lot of people play games over the bar, and the longer bar allows more people to do that,” Benoit says.

A veritable cornucopia of games and consoles awaits players at Player 1, including titles from every era. There’s a forest of arcade cabinets; game emulators along the exterior walls; an original Atari 2600 hooked up to an old-school TV; Xbox, Nintendo, PlayStation and Sega systems. Only the pinball machines require quarters to play, because they need so much care and maintenance, Benoit explains.

The decor is built around gaming nostalgia. Cases at the entryway display Benoit’s personal memorabilia collection. Posters and 3D displays of classic video games—such as Ghosts ’n Goblins, Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario Bros.—adorn the walls and, in some cases, even hang from the ceiling.

Hungry gamers can munch on movie theater-style food: pizza, popcorn, pretzels, churros and nachos. And thirsty ones will discover a far deeper beer list than you’d expect in a place where booze isn’t the main draw—50 taps featuring pours from Unibroue, Cigar City Brewing and beyond. “We’re big fans of craft beer,” Benoit says. “If you’re going to drink, you might as well be drinking something of quality.”

Born in 1972, Benoit grew up playing video games and still plays today. He feels a strong connection with the classic arcade era and suspects the nostalgic appeal is twofold: It reminds older players of their childhood and gives younger players a glimpse into a long-lost past. To keep things interesting, Player 1 rotates its machines about once a week and constantly adds games and decorations. “Every time you come into the bar, you should see something new,” Benoit says.

PLAYER 1 VIDEO GAME BAR 2797 S. Maryland Parkway #24, 725-204-1399. Daily, 1 p.m.-3 a.m.

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