High Score: Burlington's Archives is a Player | BTV Magazine | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice
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High Score: Burlington's Archives is a Player 

click to enlarge OLIVER PARINI
  • Oliver Parini

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When entering the Archives, downtown Burlington's classic-game arcade, one of the first consoles you see is Tapper. The 1983 game, in which a bartender must keep up with his patrons' increasingly frenzied demands for beer, is an apt metaphor for the Archives' two raisons d'être: vintage video games and sudsy brews.

click to enlarge OLIVER PARINI
  • Oliver Parini

The handsome, five-inch-wide wooden drink rails placed between the consoles are just one sign that the Archives — which opened on College Street in 2016 — is not your childhood arcade. After all, the kids who frequented arcades in the '80s are now fortysomethings who enjoy grown-up beverages with their evening's entertainment.

The business model of retro games with forward-looking drinks was pioneered at Brooklyn's Barcade, which opened in the über-hip neighborhood of Williamsburg in 2004. The idea quickly caught on. Many American cities are now home to such establishments, and Barcade itself has expanded to seven locations. Currently, the Archives is Vermont's only establishment to serve pixels alongside its pilsners.

click to enlarge OLIVER PARINI
  • Oliver Parini

The cure for a chilly winter evening, this hot spot pointedly — and by law — does not cater to underage gamers. The games may get people in the door, but the carefully curated bar menu encourages them to linger.

There are 24 craft beers on tap, including local offerings from the likes of Burlington's Zero Gravity and Shelburne's Fiddlehead. Creative cocktails are ever changing and might include the Natural (Hardwick's Barr Hill Gin, honey, lemon and arugula) or the cheeky Segway Tour (rye, apple brandy, yellow chartreuse, lemon, brown sugar and bitters). And, in a nod to the Japanese origins of many games, the Archives offers a selection of fine sakes.

Drinks in hand, not all customers are reliving their youths by playing such games as Dig Dug (1982). Just as many patrons are twentysomethings feeding tokens into games older than they are.

Matthew Walters, one of the bar's four co-owners, said the console games, collected on road trips throughout New England and New York, cost between $250 and $1,000 each. The bar also has four pinball machines, which were "upwards of $5,000" apiece, he said.

To take a loop through the Archives' two rooms is to amble through the development of the video-game medium. Crystal Castles (1983), for example, requires players to use a trackball controller. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) represents the rise of the movie tie-in.

click to enlarge OLIVER PARINI
  • Oliver Parini

And NBA Jam (1995) accommodates multiple players. That communal-play option helps explain the success of bar-arcades in an age of console systems and smartphones. Just as Netflix subscribers still go to the cinema, video-game enthusiasts visit arcades because they offer a social experience.

Turns out, alcohol — that great social lubricant — pairs quite nicely with gaming. Bar-arcading is thriving in downtown Burlington. And customer Patrick Spiegel summoned his '80s lingo when he declared the Archives to be "awesome — totally."


click to enlarge OLIVER PARINI
  • Oliver Parini

Quand on entre au bar The Archives, au centre-ville de Burlington, l'un des premiers jeux d'arcade classiques qu'on aperçoit est Tapper. Ce jeu créé en 1983, dans lequel un barman doit servir de la bière à des clients de plus en plus frénétiques, illustre bien la double spécialité de l'établissement, soit les jeux vidéo vintage et les bonnes bières mousseuses.

Les superbes supports à verres en bois épais disposés entre les bornes d'arcade rappellent que The Archives — qui s'est implanté dans College Street en 2016 — est bien loin de la salle d'arcade typique de votre enfance. Après tout, les enfants qui fréquentaient ces lieux dans les années 1980 sont maintenant dans la quarantaine et ils ne boivent plus la même chose.

click to enlarge OLIVER PARINI
  • Oliver Parini

Depuis que le concept bar-jeux vidéo est né est au Brooklyn's Barcade, en 2004, dans le quartier très tendance de Williamsburg en 2004, la formule s'est répandue comme une traînée de poudre. De nombreuses villes américaines ont emboîté le pas, et Barcade compte désormais sept établissements. Actuellement, The Archives est le seul établissement au Vermont à proposer la formule « pixels et pilsens ».

Véritable remède contre le froid hivernal, ce lieu très fréquenté est – vous l'aurez compris – interdit aux mineurs. C'est la loi. Si ce sont les jeux qui attirent les curieux, c'est souvent la carte de boissons savamment élaborée qui les incite à rester.

click to enlarge OLIVER PARINI
  • Oliver Parini

On y trouve 24 bières artisanales en fût, notamment des bières locales comme la Zero Gravity de Burlington et la Fiddlehead de Shelburne, ainsi qu'un assortiment de cocktails créatifs toujours changeants comme le Natural (gin Barr Hill de Hardwick, miel, citron et roquette) et l'audacieux Segway Tour (rye, brandy aux pommes, chartreuse jaune, citron, sucre brun et amers). De plus, clin d'œil aux origines japonaises de nombreux jeux vidéo, le bar The Archives propose une sélection de sakés fins.

Verre à la main, ce ne sont pas tous les clients qui revivent leur jeunesse en jouant à des jeux comme Dig Dug (1982). En effet, parmi la clientèle, on compte tout autant de jeunes dans la vingtaine qui n'étaient même pas nés quand ces jeux ont été créés!

Selon Matthew Walters, l'un des quatre copropriétaires du bar, les bornes d'arcade, trouvées à l'occasion de virées en Nouvelle-Angleterre et dans l'État de New York, coûtent entre 250 $ et 1 000 $ chacune. Le bar compte également quatre billards électriques dont le prix peut dépasser les 5 000 $.

Quand on se déplace dans les deux salles du bar The Archives, c'est un peu comme si on retraçait l'évolution du jeu vidéo. Crystal Castles (1983), par exemple, se joue au moyen d'une boule de commande, tandis que Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) représente l'avènement des jeux dérivés de films.

click to enlarge OLIVER PARINI
  • Oliver Parini

Quant à NBA Jam (1995), il est possible d'y jouer à plusieurs joueurs. Cette option conviviale explique peut-être le succès des « bars-arcades » en cette ère de consoles de jeu et de téléphones intelligents. Tout comme les abonnés de Netflix continuent d'aller au cinéma, les amateurs de jeux vidéo vont dans les salles d'arcade afin de vivre une expérience sociale.

Et il s'avère que l'alcool — lubrifiant social par excellence — se marie très bien au jeu. D'ailleurs, la formule bar-arcade marche très fort à Burlington. Parlez-en à Patrick Spiegel, client de l'établissement, qui a sorti son plus beau vocabulaire des années 1980 en déclarant que le bar The Archives est « vraiment cool, man ».


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About The Author

Ethan de Seife

Ethan de Seife

Bio:
Ethan de Seife was an arts writer at Seven Days from 2013 to 2016. He is the author of Tashlinesque: The Hollywood Comedies of Frank Tashlin, published in 2012 by Wesleyan University Press.

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