Gamer in Orlando
I remember when the first original Nintendo came home and the unthinkable happened: our parents had bought us a gift. A summer of playing video games with my four siblings commenced, full of cheating on the Power Pad playing World Class Track Meet, lots of Mario and of course DuckHunt. Video games had entered our lives, and besides swimming in our pool, this was our activity of choice.
In later years I graduated to Sonic the Hedhog and Metroid, and then to a handful of computer games (I’m still obsessed with Carmen San Diego). Now and then perhaps a good board game falls into the mix like Dixit or Code Names if it doesn’t take an hour to learn the intricate rules.
Currently, I’ve happily spent hot summer weekends on my couch playing an Indie game, Celeste. One of the hardest games I’ve honestly ever played, and I highly recommend for a lot of reasons you can ask me about later.
The point is, if you love games, you’ve probably always loved them in some form and are more than willing to leave the comfort of your house to go enjoy a full gamer experience.
This list I’ve put together of places, all of which I have personally been to and enjoyed, are sure to give you some fun gaming memories over the summer with friends or your kids.
I had mixed emotions heading into GameTime in Ocoee, because it’s in the old Borders space outside the West Oaks Mall. That Borders was my after school study hang, and I’m still salty about its demise. Alas, we must move on, and I suppose there are worse things that could have taken over its space. GameTime appears to be Florida based with six locations all within the sunshine state. If you’ve been inside that Borders, you know it’s a large space and they packed it full of games and a restaurant. I played here for over an hour while a summer storm brewed outside and had a great time.
What to know: It’s pay-to-play. There are kiosks when you enter where you purchase a card with credits. Some cards are basic meaning they have a time limit and you can’t collect prize tickets and the other allows you to share the card with friends and collect tickets.
What can I play: There’s a mix here which makes it great for all age ranges. Designated a “mega arcade” they have 120 games including retro classics, mini bowling, shooting games, ride simulators and a variety of redemption machines. Playing Space Invaders on a huge screen is pretty cool.
What about the restaurant: I can’t tell you much because I didn’t eat there, but my husband got a beer from the bar which he was able to keep with him while gaming.
Address: 9441 W Colonial Dr, Ocoee, FL
There is also an arcade/restaurant concept inside the Oviedo Mall as well as a Pinball Lounge on that side of town I haven’t made it to yet.
Tucked behind Waterford Lakes shopping center is a haven for your geek squad that wants a friendly tavern like atmosphere to play games, have a brew, and enjoy some cleverly named grub.
What to know: Downstairs you can grab one of 400 board games and enjoy table service while you eat and drink with friends. Playing without patronizing is frowned upon, so if you aren’t paying and people are waiting for tables you may lose your spot. You are also welcome to bring your own game.
Where are the video games: They are upstairs in a separate room called The Citadel. In that room there are console stations including Wii U and Xbox One systems. You can pay $5 / person for 30 minutes, or the purchase of non-fountain drinks or food items.
Rent it out: They host all types of private events, so if you have gamer friends that want to celebrate something check out their rental rates.
Address: 875 Woodbury Road #108, Orlando, FL
Not much prompts me to trek down I-4 into tourist madness, but Player One is one of the exceptions. It's tucked away at the end of Palm Parkway just a light down from the Crossroads traffic, but you forget Disney property is right across the street as you enter.
What to know: Five dollars gets you unlimited play, although they strongly suggest you are keeping your bar tab open and active during your stay. ID's will be checked at the door, so this is a 21+ up hang after 6 pm. The beer list is plentiful with selections mainly sold by the bottle. Every time I've been the music has been straight out of my 90's high school days which is an added bonus. It's a great place to bring a group of friends and they also rent out the space for private events.
Where are the video games: Banks of old school arcade games line the walls, along with older consoles like Game Cubes and Sega Genesis which are in comfy booths where you can sit back, beer in hand and relive the glory days of Sonic the Hedgehog along with hundreds of other titles thanks to handy ROM cartridges. At the bar, newer consoles are set up with Wii's and Play-stations so you can play newer games, and there is an area in the corner for more active games like Rock Band and Dance Dance Revolution Universe.
What’s nearby to eat: Lots of chains or Disney Springs eats, but I recommend Susuru is a great Japanese gastropub next door.
Address: 8562 Palm Pkwy, Orlando, FL
I accidentally found this arcade one night after stuffing myself with pizza and Midnight Ice Cream. There’s a generous bank of old school arcade games, a bar, and wait for it…a DJ booth in the back corner. There is a small dance floor with two screens, so it would appear after hours this place becomes a night club of sorts.
What to know: Games are free to play, but patron the bar. They will I.D. you, so depending on the night it may be 18+ up or 21+ up.
What time are club hours: After 11 pm so if you don’t want to groove, go earlier.
Address: 112 W. Indiana Ave. Deland, FL
Gods & Monsters use to have a huge space in the Artegon Market, but when that closed down they moved to a different location off International Drive. While the new shop isn’t quite as big and at its core it’s definitely a comic/collectibles shop, there is still some great fun to be had if you know where you look.
Where do I hang?: One of the cooler aspects of the space is the hidden lounge in the back. Vault 5421 is a dark and spooky lounge for 18+ up (some events 21+ up), where you can play games and grab a drink. The bar hours are only Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday starting at 5pm, but the space can be rented out privately other days. If you ever frequented the old Gods & Monsters location, you’ll know they did a great job bringing that same feel to a much cozier space.
Address: 5421 International Drive Orlando, FL
I don’t know how this place hid from me, but I’m so glad I randomly found it while I was eating a sushi burrito down the street one day. It’s nestled in a strip mall, with a large sign that just says ARCADE on the building. What’s inside is one of my new favorite spots! They boast being the largest acrade in Central Florida, and they just might be with over 100 retro arcade games, pinball, air hockey, bubble hockey, foosball, a VR area, and retro and new consoles. Playing Smash Brothers projected on a huge wall is not a bad afternoon in my opinion.
What to know: It’s pay-to-play but a one time fee gets you unlimited all day fun. The standard cost is $15 but they have different deals on some days of the week, even offering discounts for girl gamer appreciation and cosplay. If you decide you want to hang there a lot they have monthly memberships.
Can I snack: Yes! They have a little Bodega window in the back which is where you pay, but you can also grab snacks, drinks, beer, candy and other assorted goodies.
Address: 15 Alafaya Woods Blvd Suite 111, Oviedo, FL
It looks like a standard comic book shop until you realize this is just as much a social hub as it is a place to pick up the latest graphic novel for your collection.
A Comic Shop houses The Geek Easy in the space next door. They host a lot of events including trivia nights, karaoke, live DJ's and a Comics & Craft night that make this a great spot to meet new people or just hang with your friends somewhere besides your crumb-filled Ikea couch.
If I’m being brutally honest, downtown Orlando is not a hang out spot for me, especially at night. However, when Joysticks opened it got to me to go downtown at night and pay for parking. The expertly designed interior is the perfect throwback to an era many of its patrons might be too young to appreciate. A time well before gaming was a solo activity on the couch, connecting you to the outside world only by means of wi-fi and a gaming headset. Gaming is brought back to a group activity as your friends cheer you on as you inch closer to taking the high score for a spot on the board. No one has to be your designated drink holder while your fingers tirelessly mash buttons, you're an adult now, you get a glowing cup holder.
What to know: You must be 21 or older to enter, and they check I.D’s at the bar. If you are drinking you play for free with the exception of the air hockey table. They host weekly trivia and karaoke nights, and themed music nights.
What can I play: Players, amateur and pro alike, can enjoy over a dozen different old school arcade games including Tron, Space Invaders, After Burner, Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong just to name a few. There is also a Star Wars pinball machine, NES and Atari consoles with games and of course an air hockey table to pass the time when your favorite game is occupied.
Address: 69 East Pine Street 2nd Floor, Orlando, FL
If you are a lover of board games you've probably heard of Cool Stuff Inc. It has one of the biggest and best inventories of games in the country.
What to know: They mainly sell through their website, but gamers in Orlando have a perk they may not even be aware of. Instead of waiting for a must-have game to come in the mail, you can visit the warehouse on 17-92 and "order" your game on one of their computers and pick it up immediately at the counter.
Can I play here? Yes, you can buy and play here. Rows of tables take up much of the store front where gamers congregate to play. Weekly events for geeks of all kinds are hosted here for different games like Pokemon, Dungeons and Dragons and Yu-Gi-Oh!
You can also buy and bring groups to play board games at Sci-Fi City on E. Colonial and Hudson Games in the Altamonte Mall.
Wanna buy games and support local? Check out these spots!
If you find yourself buying console games online, you might want to check Cyberton. We had been looking to purchase Smash Bros. but were shopping around for the best deal and the cheapest price we found was right here at Cybertron.
This spot is tiny, but has lots of game console accessories, not to mention a lot of vintage consoles if you are into collecting those.
All of these establishments were visited personally and any games or game time was paid for personally. No establishment asked me to come or include them in my round-up. All images are property of LemonHearted Creative and are not to be used without permission.