The Coin Op on MLK Blvd. brings back the arcade fire of the '80s
The Great American Arcade has been slowly dying for the past few decades. Much of this death spiral can be attributed to the arcade’s inability to keep up with a technology that has exploded in sophistication in a very short amount of time. Gamers of the 1980s had no idea what their love of “Galaga” would unleash, or that their enthusiasm might lead to the loss of their favorite hangout.
Brian Hennen, however, still believes in the necessity of cabinet-based gaming.
As the proprietor of The Coin Op, Chattanooga’s newest haven for the joystick-minded, he has a lot to say about the beauty of retro gaming. “If there’s one thing that’s missing from downtown Chatt culture,” he says, “it’s a dedicated arcade that also offers food and beverages. Many fine arcades have come and gone, and I’m a product of every one of them.”
The Coin Op is more than just a turnkey operation staffed by bored teenagers. Hennen sees it as a cultural refuge. “I’m really hoping the aesthetic and atmosphere of The Coin-Op is as appealing to everyone as it is to me,” he says. “I’ve spent about two months wearing a rut in the floor and the space is oozing with my personality, so it’s an extremely personal—and terrifying—endeavor.”
Some of these personal touches include a bathroom dedicated to “Twin Peaks” (“I’m settin’ my sights on a fine cherry pie,” Hennen says, “and all I have to say ’bout Douglas Firs is that they are big, and oh-so-majestic”), a “Pee-wee’s Playhouse”/Wayne White-inspired experience (alongside a cereal bar), and a Matt Dutton installation above the bar (Hennen says it’s “his first local installation outside of Anthropologie).
But, of course, the most important part of any arcade are the games. Among the cabinets found at The Coin Op, some of Hennen’s favorites include “The Simpsons,” “Police Trainer,” “Rampage,” “Klax,” the Multicade (featuring the ever-popular “Galaga”) and “Street Fighter Pin Ball.”
How does The Coin Op plan to compete against the comfort of at home console/PC gaming? It won’t, Hennen says.
“I have no illusions that it is extremely comfortable to play console/PC games in the comfort of one’s pajamas at 4 a.m.,” he says. “I cannot compete with that—but I can certainly offer a venue for folks to come and play retro games with their pals or partake in “Super Smash Bros./Goldeneye/Mortal Kombat” tournaments. The sheer brilliance of being number one in a room full of like-minded individuals is intoxicating in and of itself!”
But more than this, The Coin Op hopes to be a home for the growing number of young professionals in the city. He wants to spotlight indie game developers by creating a homemade, Coin Op cabinet that will “highlight the hard work of regional developers as well as global developers on a rotating basis.
“To have your creation playable in an arcade environment is, to me, tops,” Hennen says.
The Coin Op opens Saturday, August 29 at 233 E. MLK Blvd. Visit facebook.com/coinopcha