The blinking, beeping chaos of an arcade is a welcome sight after months of doldrums just off the corner of Seventh and Pike. "All the games are still the same," former COO of GameWorks Darren Des Roches said during a walkthrough last week of the new, but clearly same-old, GameWorks.
The giant entertainment center aims to reopen Wednesday afternoon following a Covid-induced shutdown. Its parent company, which was started in 1997 by Sega, Universal Studios, and DreamWorks (Steven Spielberg's studio), closed all of its locations just before Christmas of 2021. But passion for the chain's original site in Seattle led Howard Brand and former GameWorks CEO Greg Stevens to revive the gaming hub that has occupied a prime patch of downtown real estate for more than a quarter century.
Des Roches, who's helping with the relaunch, says the next few weeks will be a soft reopening to work out the kinks; no matter how prepared you are, he says, "something's gonna break." By mid-September, the place should be humming along.
Visitors will find a familiar array of retro machines—think Pac-Man—interspersed with newfangled tech, like the station for virtual reality rhythm game Beat Saber at the center of the first floor. An esteemed e-sports lounge featuring PlayStation 4s, Xboxes, and rows of comfy Cougar chairs overlooks the first-floor bar.
Dance Dance Revolution is now in the window down there; Skee-Ball and pinball machines will draw patrons nearby. The street-level bar has traditionally attracted a happy hour crowd, Des Roches says. But parents might be more apt to duck in to a second-floor balcony dining and drinking area, where they can watch their kids roam the floor down below.
Des Roches hopes the return of GameWorks will bring just a little more normalcy back to this stretch of downtown. At the very least, it will offer plenty of distraction.