DeKalb's Star Worlds Arcade keeps yesterday's games alive todayBy John Puterbaugh - firstname.lastname@example.org
Video game systems can be found in homes throughout the country, with controllers comfortably in the hands of children and adults alike. But it wasn’t always like this. Toward the latter half of the ’70s and throughout the early to mid-’80s, video games were played in arcades.
While the number of these types of arcades, or game rooms, has certainly gone down over the years, Patrick O’Malley will tell you there’s no reason they can’t still succeed, especially in a city like DeKalb. O’Malley, who lives in DeKalb, is the owner and operator of Star Worlds Arcade. He’s owned Star Worlds for about 25 years, and brought the business to DeKalb from Maple Park about five years ago.
When O’Malley heard in June that Stride gum was working to “Save the Arcades” with an online contest, he was happy to hear of a project that would build excitement about arcades, though also reflected on his own reality here in DeKalb. The truth is, O’Malley said, Star Worlds Arcade doesn’t necessarily need saving. While $25,000 would certainly be nice, O’Malley stressed that Star Worlds is healthy here in DeKalb no matter what happens with the contest.
The reason for Star Worlds’ continued success has very much to do with its loyal customer base here, O’Malley said. From children to college students to those same children’s parents, there is no typical Star Worlds patron. It’s just people looking to enjoy themselves in a way they can’t anywhere else.
What makes Star Worlds so unique here in DeKalb, in addition to retro games in original full-size presentations, is a public and social environment in which people can just hang out.
“That’s what arcades used to be: people coming together, having a good time,” O’Malley said earlier this week in the arcade. “We offer a good social environment for people to hang out.”
O’Malley said that while there are a good number of university students who frequent the arcade, the trek to far-east Lincoln Highway seems to bring only those who really have an appreciation and respect for his business. And this is good, because the arcade also attracts a good number of children and their parents.
Sometimes, O’Malley said, parents will bring their children to the arcade hoping only to keep their kids entertained for a while, but find way more than they ever expected. Before you know it, he said, those parents are taking back their kids’ coins and buying more to use up themselves on games they haven’t seen in years but used to love.
“It’s kind of a family togetherness time, and it’s really good to see,” O’Malley said. “You can’t find this stuff anywhere else.”
Star Worlds also has stayed true to the arcade of 20 or so years ago in its pricing. Gamers purchase coins to play the games, at rates that haven’t changed in years.
“It’s still a place you can spend $5 and play for an hour and a half,” said Glenn Thomas, pinball specialist and a business partner of O’Malley. “The prices are still the same from when these games came out.”
And true to the community in which Star Worlds operates, O’Malley said he’s always open to special events and group parties at the arcade. He also has held and plans to hold more special video game contests, such as Tetris tournaments and other game competitions.
And when it comes down to it, Star Worlds is a haven for arcade game purists. O’Malley said he gets lots of customers who come in as much to talk with him about the games as they do to play them. He keeps connections with a lot of his customers and others who share his genuine interest in the games. And he said he’s always open to working with customers to find and acquire new games people might like.
O’Malley, who constantly rotates the games he features at Star Worlds, also sells the games and even offers repair and restoration service for people with games in their homes. And as if this weren’t enough to keep track of, O’Malley also provides and services dozens of games in bars and restaurants throughout the area.
“I think you actually have to have a love to do what you’re doing,” O’Malley said of his mission. “We’ll keep the games alive.”
IF YOU GO
Star Worlds Arcade
‘SAVE THE ARCADES’
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