Last month was a month of birthdays. In my family almost everyone's birthday is in February. My mum, sister, brother, niece, best friend, my wife and step-son Sebastian.
Sebastian's birthday fell on a school night so having ensured all his homework and project work was complete our little family headed out to Dave & Busters in Frisco, just north of Dallas. My wife Melissa had told me about such establishments and their competitors, namely Main Event.
For those who are from shores other than the US, let me briefly explain the nature of such venues. They are essentially 'perma-fairs' - pardon my new word there. Being brought up in England I was used to the once a year fair that would visit a local park where the amusement arcade was the core to the travelling entertainment palace. Or a trip to the seaside in Margate, Blackpool or Brighton would allow me to escape into their cave like environment devoid of natural light. However, the interior would be lit like a Christmas Tree by arcade games, slot machines, pinball and the ubiquitous 'grab-a-fluffy-toy' machine.
Dave & Busters and Main Event were essentially British seaside amusement arcades on steroids, fed on Creatine, L-Arginine and L-Lysine of the Greenback kind. These venues were huge like football stadiums containing every kind of electronic arcade and non-arcade games you can think of. From air hockey to basketball hoops, to Temple Run II and the latest shoot-em up.
The Dave & Busters we visited was in a basement and it wasn't as big as some that are housed in their own buildings. It was noisy, with the constant jingle jangle of the games machines. It was loud enough to cause hearing damage for the workers who graced the place for however many hours they worked every day. The lack of natural light meant you did not know what time of day it was. I guess it was a ploy to keep the patrons engaged for as long as possible spending their Abraham Lincolns.
The way the machines worked was you would buy a card and load with credit by purchasing them from a vending machine. I purchased two cards at $50 each for Sebastian and his sister Sarah. We also had dinner consisting of wings, fries, pizza and soda. Even though I am watching my calories one night of indulgence would be countered by a trip to the gym. Once you have the cards you select a game you wanted to play, insert your card and the appropriate credit would be deducted allowing you to play one round. The upside of the games especially for children was that every game you played allowed you to collect tokens. The better you played the more tokens you collected.
So what's the point of these tokens? Well! At the end of your stay you can exchange the tokens you have won for toys, gifts or knick-knacks from their shop. You could also keep the cards and tokens for another visit, spending the tokens was not mandatory. The more you collected the bigger the prize, i.e. iPads, remote control helicopters etc. were some of the more expensive items that could be exchanged.
Sarah and Sebastian were off as soon as I gave them their cards finding their games of choice. After dinner and blowing out of candles, Melissa and I joined Sebastian to play games that he was proud to show us his prowess in. I shot basketballs with him, played Fruit Ninja, he beat both Melissa and me at air hockey. We found Sarah fixated with one game where she had figured out how to get the maximum tokens and was keen on doing so. She joined us for some games but Sebastian was our main play buddy. We spent a good few hours playing, laughing and joking at how poor the adults performed.
Leaving about 9pm I realised that the fun and release I had was something I had not experienced in a long while. It was great to act and play like a kid again. It was crazily stimulating to be engrossed in games that required skill and dexterity both mental and physical. At that moment I thought why am I not engaging more frequently in activities that I loved as a kid? I thought adulthood had robbed me of my ability to just let go and have unadulterated fun. I mentioned this to my wife and we have agreed that the two of us should take some time out periodically and let loose our inner child whether it be Dave & Busters or Main Event.
If Sarah and Sebastian are reading this, don't worry I will take you guys when I am back in Dallas.