Classic arcade games get modern makeover
By Michael Machosky
Published: Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, 8:47 p.m.
When it comes to nightlife, it's easy to get stuck in a rut — restaurant, bar, club, restaurant, bar, club and so on.
PLAY Parlour is something really different — an idea running on almost pure imagination and little else. It could soon become the go-to spot for creative dates.
Adam Shreckhise, 38, of Lawrenceville, has been making electro-mechanical sculptures for several years.
“I did some good work, but sculpture felt like it didn't have much of an effect on people,” he says.
He also likes mini-golf. A friend had begun a project to build a mini-golf course with all the holes designed by different artists, but it fell apart. Shreckhise designed one, though, and wanted to do something with it.
“I'm usually kind of disappointed in how not-interesting the holes are,” Shreckhise says. “I guess that's why I built my own.”
A waterfall pours over green circuit boards that glow as if coursing with electricity — they're actually back-lit by spotlights. A windmill with wire-mesh cups on the blades catches well-aimed shots, before depositing them in a chute for a ride through the waterfall. The twisty wooden ramp is covered in carpet that looks as if it was salvaged from Grandpa's house, instead of the usual indoor/outdoor green stuff.
The game is called the “Aqua-Quixotic Putting Range,” a reference to the literary knight “Don Quixote,” who saw windmills as an unwelcome intrusion of industrialization. Now, of course, they're the epitome of clean, green energy.
All that it's missing is a clown's mouth to putt into, says Shreckhise. He has plans to incorporate that classic mini-golf element in an electronic scoreboard, at some point.
PLAY Parlour fills a vacant storefront on the far end of Butler Street in Lawrenceville with hand-made, one-of-a-kind arcade games — of the non-video-game variety — all built by Shreckhise. Though, if the concept takes off, he hopes to include games designed by other artists, designers, hackers and tinkerers. He envisions visitors stopping in after a drink or two at the bar, during a shopping trip, or while waiting for a dinner reservation at Butler Street's ever-growing roster of new restaurants.
Shreckhise is shooting for an April opening. This Saturday, however, there will be a free, open-to-the-public tournament to introduce the public to PLAY Parlour and its games. Anyone can sign up to play at playarcade.wordpress.com. Or just stop by PLAY Parlour sometime on Saturday to check it out.
Other games include a full-sized skee-ball game with mechanical moving targets, and a dual-cabinet dart board hooked up to an oscilloscope, which makes different sounds depending on how close your throw gets to the bulls-eye. There's a glowing table with Scrabble and chess boards, under-lit by an unseen source. Shreckhise envisions creating easily interchangeable Plexiglas game boards for the table.
The highlight might be the table-top water polo game – a playful take on Foosball, with “players” made from wire spoons and Legos, flipping a ping-pong ball across a see-through water table.
As for future game ideas, Shreckhise has been thinking about a giant two-person pinball game, with players trying to get past each other's flippers.
Playing games as part of a night on the town in Pittsburgh isn't exactly unprecedented. Games N'at on the South Side does a good job with this, though its games are all nostalgic classics — pinball and arcade video games — that many visitors will have played before.
When PLAY Parlour opens, Shreckhise envisions visitors paying $10 for all-day unlimited play, which will be mostly evenings and weekends. He plans to start an online Kickstarter campaign to raise the rest of the startup capital needed.
Shreckhise originally planned to open PLAY Parlour in October but admits to underestimating the permitting process. The building itself — owned by a friend, who was willing to let him use it for cheap — has plenty of problems and needs to be brought up to current standards. It was zoned for light manufacturing and seems to have housed some kind of paper/printing business. Out back, there's a giant hoist.
“That would be fun to turn into a game,” Shreckhise says. “If you really want to see the inspectors freak out...”
Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7901.
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