The era of arcades has come to an end, and consoles have long since replaced old-fashioned arcade machines. However, all hope is not lost for those who mourn the death of the classic arcade game. If you are one of those who finds yourself nostalgic about the “K.O.” of Mortal Kombat, or the trademark squeals of Galaga, there is a place for you. Hidden in an obscure pocket of Brooklyn is Next Level, the steadfast last bastion for arcades in a world of home-console RPGs and first-person-shooter video games.
Next Level has deep roots in the arcade and gaming world; its legacy began with Chinatown Fair, the now-iconic arcade that brought thousands of gamers into Chinatown to compete against each other in a wide array of arcade games. However, in March of this year, Chinatown Fair’s owner Henry Cen announced that the famed arcade would be closing its doors. Dedicated supporters of the arcade were devastated to learn that the last true arcade in the city would soon be gone. However, Cen’s latest project, Next Level, arrived in Brooklyn soon thereafter, serving as a reincarnation of the beloved Chinatown Fair and proving that arcades are here to stay.
Next Level has become a beacon of light for those wishing to merge the worlds of modern and old school gaming. While Next Level’s somewhat unappealing black and red storefront may not look like anything special from the outside, inside awaits a gamer’s paradise. The arcade is equipped with the essentials of fantastic arcade playing, from games like DJ Technika 2 to King Fighters 13, but it also contains isolated areas for Xbox 360’s, PS2’s, and PS3’s.
While Next Level brings out avid, skilled gamers from around the city, most are not the stereotypical, mean-spirited fanatics seeking to beat you at every game. Although Next Level’s demographic seems to be mostly male, they are an extremely diverse group of interesting, approachable people.
The camaraderie among the players is astounding. It is clear that they are at Next Level for the games and the players. Players often drop what they were doing to help their opponents and give them pointers. In this way, the players add an essential element to the ambiance of Next Level, making it more than a place to play games that one could simply play at home, but also a place to meet new people and truly enjoy oneself.
Though Next Level is a great place to hang out, you can’t ignore the steep prices to play. The first hour of gaming costs $3.00, and every hour after that will each cost $2.50, but if you plan on spending more than a few hours at the arcade, it makes sense to pay the fee of $10.00 for the whole day. Next Level also maintains a somewhat inconvenient “bring your own controller” policy, while rentals cost $3.00 for a controller and $2.00 for a joystick, and a photo ID is also required. In addition to the hourly fee for console games, the arcade games inside Next Level cost an additional 25 cents to play.
The price to play may deter you from going to Next Level at first, but the staff of Next Level is so dedicated to optimizing your gaming experience that it’s well worth the money. The staff stages tournaments, video game release parties, team battles, and weekly videogame “showdowns.” Next Level is more than a place to play video games; it has fostered a community of diverse players who share an appreciation for old-time arcade classics, modern console games, and each other.