By Ana Lete
Photography Kimberlee Miller Over the past few years, the nostalgia of the arcade has returned full-force. Some arcades offer the traditional 80’s arcade feel with classic games like Pinball and Ms. Pac Man, while some take the concept of the arcade and catapult it into the 21st century with virtual reality headsets. Whether you are seeking a classic arcade built on nostalgia, or a modern one with the latest technology, Eagle has both.
GRINKERS: Insert Quarter, Get Nostalgia
Step into Grinkers, and you’ll be transported back in time. Located in downtown Eagle off of S. Eagle Rd, the 7,500 square foot arcade has an impressive 304 arcade games on site, including fan favorites Donkey Kong, Pac Man, and Pinball. And just like the arcades of your — or your parents’ — youth, all games are still one quarter. While Grinkers offers a selection of high-quality food, beer, and wine, plus two big-screen televisions for viewing sporting events, Grinkers isn’t your typical small-town arcade pizza joint. Since opening in 2012, Grinkers has expanded three times and has welcomed visitors from over 17 states and parts of Canada, who travel to play the rarest games in Grinkers’ collection.
The vintage arcade is home to several rare games including a number of 1970’s b l a c k- a n d – w hi t e, “Bronze Age” games, one of two remaining 1977 Star Cruiser units, and a Missile Command cockpit with the lowest serial number on record, 007. Once they find the remaining parts, Grinkers is hoping to add, Computer Space, one of the first coin-operated video games, to the collection. According to staff, the idea for Grinkers came during the summer of 2011, when its owner repeatedly observed school-aged kids hanging out in the Albertsons parking lot across the street. Inspired by the arcades of his youth, and the movie, Tron, he made it his mission to give them, and their families, something fun to do. Today, Grinkers entertains people of all ages, from school-aged kids and young adults to those in their 40’s looking to relive the nostalgia of their youth. According to a member of Grinkers’ staff, “it’s really easy to tell when people visit for the first time because as they walk through the rows of games, you can hear them ooh and ahh when they see games they played as a kid.”
Out of Grinkers’ 304 arcade games, staff say there are a few favorites: Donkey Kong, Centipede, Pac-Man, Pole Position, Galaga, and Pinball. However, Grinkers also has several multiplayer games, such as Rampart and Gauntlet, perfect for families or friends wanting to play against each other too. Two weeks out of the month, Grinkers hosts arcade tournaments. Players can come in any time to put a quarter into the tournament’s featured game, put up their best scores, and win gift certificates, Grinkers T-shirts, and more. While it may be challenging to earn income one quarter at a time, staff say that Grinkers is a labor of love, with five people donating 150 hours a month of their time to keep the old games running. “We have help from people all over the United States that donate their time to help maintain the games,” said Grinkers’ manager. “They come from Portland, Seattle, Texas, and even upstate New York to work on the games. It’s really become quite a community effort.” But according to staff, the happiness on people’s faces when they drop a quarter into Ms. Pac Man or QBert and return to being kids again makes it all worth the effort.
A Virtual Reality Arcade in Eagle Opened in February 2017, VR1 is Idaho’s first Virtual Reality facility. VR1’s creator and founder, Brendan Smythe cites home-building technology as his initial inspiration for VR1, “I was a designer at Draftech when I first tried virtual reality and implemented it into the design process,” Smythe said. “After finding Virtual Reality games and inviting friends and family over to experience them, I quickly discovered that there needed to be a place that could be used for both industrial and entertain – ment purposes.” That idea, once sparked in Smythe’s ga – rage back in 2016, is now reality – or virtual reality.
For those who are unfamiliar with virtual reality technology, it uses a mix of sen – sors, cameras, and computing power to immerse you in a virtually interactive en – vironment. Once you put on the headset, you can look around, move physically, and touch 3-dimensional objects. According to Smythe, “The information of what you’re doing in virtual reality is sent to a PC from the headsets and cameras, which then sends a video stream back to your headset, where it’s projected into two small cameras – one for each eye.” VR1 currently has six of these virtual reality systems with over 500 virtual reality game titles in its 1300 square foot test facility – and 10 staff members to help you through the virtual reality experience. “For those who haven’t tried virtual reality, the expe – rience can be very overwhelming in some cases,” said Smythe, “On one side, you have people who have tried some virtual reality content online and are blown away that a place like this exists in their back – yard,” said Smythe. “And on the other side, we get a ton of clients who have never seen a headset in their life and are shocked that technology has come this far.
It really takes putting on a headset to get an idea of the potential of virtual reality.” According to Smythe, the interactive nature of VR is what distinguishes it from other arcades. “Parents and grandparents love bringing in their kids and watching them play with their siblings and friends,” he said, “It’s some – thing that gets the kids moving, learning, and socializing, making it a well-rounded activity for any age group.” While VR1 tends to see an age range of 7-14 years old most often, VR1’s staff has helped all ages – from 5-98 years old.
In addition to offering private birthday parties, corporate events, team building activities, and a new beta membership program, VR1 has become increasingly involved in the Treasure Valley’s Autistic community as well and has seen tremendous results. According to Smythe, “This sparked a non-profit called the ‘Autism XR Research Institute’ started by Mitch Alexander, a local parent who’s seen huge success from virtual reality with his Autistic son.” In addition to VR1, institutions like Black-box VR and Boise State University have also come to – gether to serve the area’s autistic community. But according to Smythe, “VR1 is a place where all children can learn, grow, play, and have an experience of a lifetime.”
VR1 is currently located at 1225 E Winding Creek Dr. Eagle, ID, but will be relocating to a new space by the Reel Theater in Eagle this fall.