by Chris Nafekh
There’s something very strange about playing Pac-Man in a dude’s basement while he tries to feed you sausages. But that’s exactly the premise of Scott Leftwich’s Weiners and Losers “arcade” in Winston-Salem, which he runs out of his basement.
Leftwich’s bizarre world aside, Lost Ark in Greensboro is the Triad’s only legitimate video arcade, and it recently celebrated four years in business.
Almost every game in Lost Ark’s arcade is a multiplayer fighting game, making it a social experience. There are no tickets or prizes, only the satisfaction of tearing your friend a new one over a high-stress brawl in Super Smash Bros. Owner Daniel McMillan hosts small tournaments that bring people together for a competitive experience where they win and lose in the same place rather than distant living rooms. Killing time here alone is okay too; Lost Ark has stellar pinball machines.
The store demonstrates a true appreciation for ’90s Japanese culture, and I enjoy browsing the shelves holding gems that span across the short history of video gaming. The atmosphere itself is worth a quick visit; walking inside transports customers to a place where heated debates spawn from nerdy questions like, “Who would win a wizard fight: Gandalf or Dumbledore?”
And McMillan understands the importance of variety; every time I walk into Lost Ark’s arcade the games diversify and increase in number. On my last visit I saw a copy of Mortal Combat where Marvel vs. Capcom 2 once stood. On a recent Monday afternoon, I watched as McMillan eagerly unpackaged several new candy cabinets, the large plastic shells that house arcade games. After an animated conversation about the in-house gaming artifacts, he talked about the games he’ll soon add to the arcade’s collection.
Not long after Lost Ark blazed the way in Greensboro, Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema opened, buttressing the subcultural interests the arcade holds dear and adding an additional space for geeky fandom and gaming culture. But while both venues serve as gathering places with a focus on community, Lost Ark’s fusion of recreational and retail gaming is unique.