An Arcade To Make Gamers Cry

Neighborhood Joint

A series of articles profiling favorite local haunts.
What’s your neighborhood joint?

On my first visit to Babycastles, an independent arcade in Queens, I watched as two young women explained to a friend the rules of a video game. It didn’t involve fighting, special moves or guns, but it was full of big-headed cartoon characters wandering through a jewel-toned landscape.

“I don’t understand,” their friend said, “but I love it.” From a nearby stool, I cheered them on until it was my turn.

An avid gamer since Pong, I have always loved the feeling of hiding in a friend’s basement while playing games through the middle of the night. It was something no traditional arcade could recreate: the camaraderie, the broken-down couches, the blasting punk music. But entering Babycastles brought it all back — right down to the low ceiling and the musty basement smell. But there was one important difference: the games at Babycastles can’t be found anywhere else. There’s no House of the Dead 4, Mortal Kombat 3 or even classics like Space Invaders.

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