“If you’re crazy enough to do something like this, you had to have an initial love for these games.”
That’s the first thing co-owner Richard Moss tells me as we sit down at a high-top table in the middle of downtown’s newest entertainment venue, restaurant and bar: Pints & Pixels.
The sound of classic 80’s & 90’s music videos surrounds us on flat screen TVs mounted throughout the space, interrupted only by the whirls, pops, and dings of vintage arcade game sound effects.
Moss starts off our conversation by telling me about a business trip his coworkers took to Portland where they fell in love with a new concept bar called Ground Kontrol that served up vintage video games alongside beer and was aimed primarily for adults, “They came back and told me about it, and it just instantly struck me as this place that I wanted to be, I hated that I had missed it.”
Over the years Moss tells me he watched as the concept began popping up in more and more locations all over the country, appealing to broader and broader demographics from the nostalgia seekers, to men and woman of every age, until finally his entrepreneurial nature decided he could watch no longer and needed to bring the concept to Huntsville.
“So,” he says, “We started collecting games.”
“I couldn’t just go to a place and buy 50 games ready to go,” he tells me, “it takes time to collect and curate enough of these games for a concept like this to work.”
I look around the floor, and it’s clear to see the love that went into every selection of every game that has made it out onto the floor, from golden age classics like Pac-Man and Galaga, to 90’s era fighting games and side-scrolling games like X-Men and Turtles, driving games, a shooting game, a vintage console game room and of course pinball.
Moss looks around the room as I ask him, of all the games, which his favorite? His eyes twinkle and he glances to the left and tells me, “It’s kind of obscure, but I really like Mr. Do! over here.” I look over to see a small brightly colored cabinet with beautiful late 70s / early 80s artwork. He tells me it was made by a lesser-known arcade company back in the 80s named universal. The company it seems had a reputation for creating knock offs of other popular games. “That doesn’t seem very original, but they always added a few wrinkles, they made it different.” Mr. Do! he tells me is essentially a knock off of a game called Dig Dug, “I just find Mr. Do! to be really really fun, much more so actually than Dig Dug, which is a great game as well.”
His other favorite game? Space Invaders.
“Space invaders was really one of the gateway arcade games for me as a kid,” he tells me. “If I had two quarters to rub together, I’d go by the UtoteM convenience store after school and put them both in space invaders. So that game holds a lot of good memories for me for that reason.”
But his newest love is pinball.
“When I was a kid it was all about the video games, and if I went and tried to play a pinball game it lasted about three seconds. I didn’t know what to do, I had to put 50cents in to just to play it, and I didn’t get any bang for my buck out of it, so I just want back to playing video games.” What Moss didn’t realize, he tells me, is that pinball went through a revolution and resurgence in the 90s where some amazing games were made. “I had no clue about it until I started doing my initial arcade bar research and after playing a few times I knew I needed pinball to be a part of this.”
But Moss knows that a lot of people feel the same way about pinball as he did as a kid. That’s why he is excited to organize pinball 101 classes once Pints & Pixels is up and running where they can take the glass off the top of the game and show how some of the rules work. “Every game has different rules, different modes you can enable, different ways to get an extra ball or start a multi-ball, all kinds of fun stuff most people aren’t always aware of because they can only fit so much onto those little 3×5 cards with the game play rules.”
But the thing Moss likes most about pinball is the personal interaction the user has with the game. “People play pinball and it’s physical, it’s very real. When you hear the sound of a ball hitting something, that was an actual sound that came from a real ball actually hitting something, it wasn’t from the speakers, it wasn’t digitized.” He goes on to tell me that even “the idea of nudging the game, people may think ‘oh that’s cheating’ no, it’s part of the game! That just goes to show you how different of a game it is that bumping the cabinet and shoving it around a little bit to try and get the ball to go where you want it to is actually a part of the game.”
I look down at the table where we are sitting and see a pile of custom tokens and Moss explains to me that all the arcade games will be run by token play.
“We feel like for the experience of the play, putting that token into the slot, hearing it clunk in, and knowing you’ve invested that little bit of something into that game, makes the game better for you. Makes it more fun, makes you care more about how well you play, and that’s part of the experience so we wanted that to be the case for our customers as well.”
But of course, “Pixels” is only half of the “Pints & Pixels” concept, “We really tried to do the beer part of this right,” Moss told me. And with 20 beers on tap, an assortment of craft brews, bottled beers, classic cocktails, and wine, Moss tells me they want to “focus on real good classics, just like the games.”
In addition to the bar, local restaurant concept Anaheim Chili will be serving up a full menu of dishes to help create an environment that is open to both kids and adults.
Moss and his team have also commissioned four local artists to create work for space as well. Donald Walker, Christina Wegman and Float have all created hand painted vintage arcade inspired murals for the space and custom-framing artist Vaughn Bocchino has helped to display a selection of artwork throughout the space.
GRAND OPENING DETAILS
Currently Pints & Pixels is tentatively set to hold their grand opening on April 9th.
They are located at 115 E Clinton Ave on the 3rd floor of the UG White Building in Downtown Huntsville.
After opening their operating hours will be Tues-Thurs 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-12am and 11am-8pm on Sunday.