Story and photo by Isabel Cardenas
I come from a family of gamers. My father used to take me to arcades, line up the quarters and leave me to my own devices. My little 6-year-old face was constantly lit up by blue flickering screens and neon lights.
I made friends, I made rivals and discovered life-long passions. Not many places can do that for a person.
It’s far harder now to find a decent arcade. In fact, they are almost extinct. So where can one go to rediscover that special kind of magic?
Arcade in a Box, at 22nd Street and Pantano, can give Tucsonans the old arcade familiarity along with 21st century gaming advantages.
Founded by Ed Farias, Arcade in a Box is a company focused on making arcade sticks for home play. Just recently, AIAB branched out to a lan center. The company holds tournaments for the latest competitive games, along with individual game play or group gaming.
AIAB has a different twist on the arcade scene. Instead of big, bulky machinery, there are streamlined LCD screens, each equipped with its own console and social network. Leather chairs litter the space, along with couches and other homey accessories.
Abe Valenzuela, general manager, wants the institution to bring better gaming opportunities for Tucson and to unite city gamers.
The biggest draw, according to Valenzuela, is the fact that college students could go to AIAB, play all the latest games and not have to spend increasing amounts of money to enjoy them.
Another redeeming feature is the quality of the gameplay itself. Multimedia outlets, like Xbox live and Playstation Network, allow gamers to play countless opponents from all over the country. Arcades offer a far different experience.
“Games are a kind of sport, it’s meant to bring people together. When you do it online, it’s a faceless, voiceless person somewhere on the other side,” Valenzuela says. “I think online gaming affects people in such a negative way, with all the introverts and awkwardness. Playing face to face helps develop bonds.”
When institutions go out of their way to create bonds, they create and give back to the community. Aaron Holly, a Pima Community College pharmacy technology major, is also the president of the gaming club at East Campus.
The club, called Gamer’s Unit, often holds gaming events to raise funds for causes such as toy drives and school supply drives. AIAB donates all of the gaming materials.
“It wouldn’t be possible without Arcade in a Box,” Holly says.
A fair amount of PCC avid gamers haunt the place.
Kyle Allen, a 21-year-old science major, likes AIAB, “just because there are so many cool people. It’s a cool place to hang out.”
Cheyenne Davidson, a chemistry major, agrees. She had only been going to AIAB for a few weeks before the interview and was already a gushing fan.
“It’s a fun environment,” Davidson says. “It’s safe, compared to doing all the other things out there.”
AIAB is not just a lan center, it’s a center for gamers, by gamers.
“If you’re a true gamer, you’ll support,” Valenzuela insists. “If you really love games, then this is the place you need to be.”