Nov. 9, 2019 — For Brooke and Brian Kosten, owners of the newly opened Florence arcade Dunesday Gaming, video games are about bringing people together.
“For our generation, it was super social,” Brooke said. “You were always gathered around a console or playing with your buddies in an arcade. It wasn’t something, for me at least, I went to do alone. We would always sit around the Nintendo, screaming at each other for taking too long. The friendly competition. Even if you’re playing a game by yourself in an arcade, people will lean over your shoulder and watch what you’re doing.
“It just supports that interaction, versus being on the phone by yourself.”
Brian saw that kind of interaction when they hosted their soft-opening of the arcade. A parent walked up to their child and motioned to the classic Frogger arcade game that was sitting in between Centipede and Donkey Kong Jr.
“Do you want to play Frogger with me?” the parent asked, referring to the classic arcade that was sitting in between Donkey Kong Jr. and Centipede.
“What’s Frogger?” the child asked.
The parent got excited, saying, “Oh let me show you,” taking them to the classic arcade game.
Brian laughed at the moment.
“One of the things I noticed in our party, you had the parents who grew up with this,” he said. “The kids didn’t really know any of these titles. They recognized the Simpsons and Turtles, but they never played them. It was so cool seeing that interaction between the parents and the kids.”
Brooke and Brian showed off the games at Dunesday, which includes dozens of classic games such as Asteroids and Tempest.
“They’re all originals,” Brian said as he walked down the aisles of blinking and buzzing games. “They’re all CRT, no CD’s in them.”
There’s the basketball hoops, a favorite of the kids who came in during the party, sitting next to two foosball tables.
On the west side of the arcade, there’s a group of 4K TVs which play hundreds of console games from companies like Nintendo, Playstation and XBox.
“There’s something for everybody,” Brooke said, pointing out that many of the consol games they chose were multiplayer.
“We focused on that so people can play together again,” Brooke said. “I think that some of the ways that gaming has changed is that it isn’t a super social thing anymore. Well, the way that’s it’s social has changed. They’re not in the same room. That’s how you create some of the best memories — being in the same room with your friends and family. We wanted to bring that kind of gaming back.”
It’s the kind of place that the life long gamers have always wanted to inhabit, especially after moving to Florence from Phoenix, Ariz., in 2017 to escape the desert heat. When they first arrived, everything seemed perfect in the small town of Florence.
“Then the first winter came, and we just wished there was more to do,” Brooke said. “You don’t realize how early it gets dark.”
The Kosten’s started a monthly board game club at the library to help with the winter nights, but soon they found themselves traveling to cities like Eugene and Coos Bay to play at the arcades. It’s at that point that they decided to open their own arcade.
“Everyone told me, “I don’t know how you’re going to adapt to a small town,” Brooke said as she looked at the arcade cabinets around her.
“So, I guess this is me adapting. We will adapt it to us.”
It’s an adaptation that the Kosten’s felt was needed in the small community.
“Parents have been really excited about having something other than the skatepark for their kids to go and hang out,” Brooke said. “You want somewhere where you know your kids are going to be indoors, hanging out with friends. There’s at least adults here. It definitely serves a need, especially during the winter. Hopefully in the summer with tourists.”
But with a population with an average age in their 50’s, getting enough kids to come in on a regular basis has been the deathnail for places similar to Dunesday, such as video and game rental stores.
“We had the same concerns and discussions,” Brooke said. “We’re not sure if we can support this. But we had to at least try.”
One of the biggest draws that the Kosten’s hope will drive business is consumer cost. Traditionally, stores with console games, such as XBox or Playstation, charge per hour for play. For the arcades, it’s quarters.
If you’ve ever fed quarters in a machine, that can be 30 minutes of play,” Brooke said.
Instead, the Kosten’s are creating free play — a $10 cover charge will allow unlimited play of any game in the arcade, as long as you like. It’s a model that affords people the ability to learn the games without being intimidated by a stack of soon-to-be gone quarters.
“That’s the joy of a free play arcade,” Brooke said. “For a lot of people who didn’t grow up with arcades, it would be intimidating, putting quarters in games you’ve never played or understand. You burn through those first set of lives almost immediately, but then you can go, ‘Okay, I get it now.’ That’s kind of, that’s my thing.
“I prefer free games because I know it’s not something I’m going to be good at right away. With this scenario, I’ll try anything.”
It’s that “try anything” mentality that can help bridge generational differences.
“During the party, a father and son was playing Forza,” Brian said, referring to the popular XBox racing game.”
Brooke added, “I think it breaks the ice for parents that are intimitated by games,” Brooke said. “It can actually be a great bonding experience. And kids are happy to do it. They will be happy to spend time with you. Gaming is always something we’ve done as a family. I think people will be surprised if they have their kids show them how it’s done at Fortnite. Show of their skills.”
And by doing that, the Kosten’s hope that Dunesday Gaming can help bridge the gaps between generations.
“He is trying to get people back to people playing together, which is super positive,” Brooke said. “Any form of playing together reminds people in what we have in common. It’s a way to bond.”
Dunesday Gaming is at 375 Laurel St in Florence.