INSERT COIN(S): The arcade grows up, heads to Las Vegas


If Christopher LaPorte has his way, CES, DICE, and decadence won't be the only reason gamers are going to be clamoring to get to Las Vegas. The former medical sales professional will be leveling up downtown vegas this spring when he opens INSERT COIN(S), the city's first videogame-themed bar and nightclub.

After seven years of orthopedic implants and radiopharmaceuticals, LaPorte decided to it was time to drop the act. A long time gamer, LaPorte says that while he was golfing with clients trying to make sales, he dreaming about dropping his next quarter into a Street Fighter arcade cabinet.


"I was raised on videogames for as long as I can remember," he tells me. He got his first hit playing Asteroids on a neighbor's Atari 5200, and later found his fix playing Double Dragon and Rampage at his local laundromat. In his 20s, it was Madden NFL, NBA Live, and Final Fantasy VII. These days, he's chasing high scores in Xbox Live Arcade titles like Pac-Man Championship Edition and Geometry Wars.

That is, of course, if he can find time. LaPorte has been hard at work laying the foundation for INSERT COIN(S), which he calls a "high end service for an arcade." He recognizes that the concept is nothing new -- Brooklyn's Barcade and the Portland-based Ground Kontrol have proven the formula can be a success. But neither, it seems, have the same high end -- dare I say it -- classy vibe that LaPorte is aiming for with INSERT COINS(S).

I ask LaPorte to paint a picture of a typical INSERT COIN(S) experience, and it sounds surprisingly like a typical evening at a high end nightclub. But mix in a startling variety of games -- both consoles and arcade cabinets -- and you'll see there's nothing typical about it.

"After getting cleared by security a hostess will welcome you to our venue and point you in the direction of three options," he explains of the experience. "Our arcade cabinets will be to the left of you if you just want to drop some quarters into some classics. 

"The bar, seating well over 50, will be dead center where casual and co-op gaming like Bomberman Live and Castle Crashers will be playing," he continues. Grab a seat and you'll realize the bartender's not there just to get you a drink, as you're also handed a wireless controller.

If you're looking for something a bit more intimate and old school, you can also call ahead to reserve one of the console stations. From NES to SNES, Genesis to Dreamcast, you'll be able to kick back and play the classics on an oversized couch while a cocktail waitress takes your drink order.

LaPorte is also addressing the death of classic arcades, with over 50 currently in the INSERT COIN(S) collection including Q-Bert, Spy Hunter, and Operation Wolf. Modern fighting games, including Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Super Street Fighter IV are playable via custom Viewlix cabinets.

Speaking to the latter, fighting games hold a special place for LaPorte, a frequent participant of the EVO fighting scene. He hopes that INSERT COIN(S) becomes the go-to venue for future events. While he admits that previous EVO venues like the Rio Casino may have a larger capacity, he hopes that his own dedicated venue and its intimate vibe may hold some appeal.

"Additionally, we'll be utilizing our 7000 square foot of space to companies like Capcom to market their games to their audience," he explains. "Why rent out a hotel room or convention area where the companies have to lug all the equipment? Why not celebrate a game's release of sneak peek an upcoming title under the lights of 60 HDTVs, our LED bartop, and DJ entertainment, streaming through our fiber-optics for everyone to see?"

What makes INSERT COIN(S) so unique is that while it embraces videogame culture, it doesn't shy away from what may traditionally be seen as "cool." The venue's very existence is based around gaming, but LaPorte has already hired an in-house DJ, and is currently in the process of booking high-profile DJs for future events. Between games of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Bomberman, why not let loose a bit on the dance floor?

"The geek/nerd stereotype has to die," LaPorte says with authority. With game culture slowly leaking into the mainstream -- from movies to music -- he asks: "How can videogames not be cool?"

"I personally think the shift took place as gamers got older and remained true to themselves and continued to support the industry," he says. "There was a time when a Mature rating on a videogame was mostly for shock value Night Trap, anyone?" 

"Now a Mature rating designates a game for a sophisticated and adult audience. Why? Because we grew up.  Time for arcades to grow up, too!  If Elvis can have Graceland, then videogames can have INSERT COIN(S)."

While the doors to INSERT COIN(S) have yet to be cracked to the public, LaPorte is already thinking about the future. He hopes to open up an INSERT COIN(S) venue in at least 10 more states within the next five years. He also hopes to build up the pro gaming scene even further, with major sponsors and partners, along with high stakes competition.

"INSERT COIN(S) will be the catalyst that brings the gamers to the forefront," he says of his ultimate goal.

"You may say I'm crazy and that it can't be done. But that's what people told me when I said I'd get over one million dollars to open up a high end Videolounge Gamebar in Las Vegas!" 

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Nick Chester
Nick ChesterFormer Editor-in-Chief (2011)   gamer profile

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