The idea, says Christopher LaPorte, is you'll come into his club, sit on a large, luxurious couch, and examine a list handed to you by an attractive cocktail waitress. You'll then say something like, "I'll have the Mega Man 3, 1990. Please bring two controllers."
"I really want it to be like a wine list," LaPorte, 33, said of the 4,000 titles, spanning nearly every console ever made, that will be offered at Insert Coin(s), a gamer's nightclub opening in Las Vegas's East Fremont Street area in mid-April. "We want to have all of these games there, available for anyone to play on request."
Insert Coin(s) is the vision of LaPorte (pictured above), a former medical equipment salesman who nurtured his dream of a high-end gamer's club for about three years, then culled together more than $1 million in backing within the past year. (It pays to know doctors, who are among his investors).
Conceptually, the club wants to offer a highly socialized form of console and arcade gaming. But it also has a big picture vision that includes building locations in other U.S. cities, and cultivating relationships with publishers that establish it as a premiere site for new releases.
"One of the catalysts to make this happen was the Evolution tournament," LaPorte said, of Capcom's famed Street Fighter competition series. Insert Coin(s) already has begun a relationship with Capcom, LaPorte said.
"This year, Evo had like 6,000 people - those people go out and party," LaPorte said. "They don't stay at home. You give people a venue where they can hang out with likeminded people, they will go there."
Insert Coin(s) will feature 45 arcade cabinets, most of them classics like the Double Dragon or Rampage that LaPorte played as a kid growing up in New York, every time his parents trundled him down to the laundromat. They'll be playable for 50 cents, although happy hour promotions are imagined. The club will also feature nearly every home console ever made, from a stock currently being retrofitted by modders for use on modern displays.
For $10 an hour, patrons would be able to enjoy, say, GoldenEye on the Nintendo 64 over in the club's console area, where large couches serve nine console stations and an overhead video board showcases the action to others milling about. Bottle service, of course, is where the club will make a lot of its profits, but it won't be insane; $90 to $100 is the working figure, manageable for groups of friends out on the town. And if you order a bottle, the console fee's waived.
Elsewhere, a DJ will spin tunes - yes, video game soundtracks and chiptunes will be part of the mix. A 50-seat bar, anchoring the futuristic, Tron-meets-Blade Runner look of the club, will feature stations serving up more casual gamer fare - like Plants vs. Zombies or Geometry Wars - as oppposed to the ubiquitous video poker terminals seen everywhere in Sin City.
"There's a lot of money going into this, and [investors] were all saying, ‘You need video poker to survive in Vegas," LaPorte said. "And I said, ‘No, you don't.' Video gaming is huge. I'm of the believe that you don't need that extra revenue stream, because we're going to give gamers exactly what they're looking for."
That means, in addition to classic cabinets and consoles and the deep library of games, they can avail themselves of high quality peripherals if they like. "If you want an arcade stick to play Marvel vs. Capcom 3, we'll go get that for you, we won't give you a shitty controller."
As they play, gamers will be at a station that includes a 36-inch high-definition screen above them, with their action being fed to a 58-inch screen above thestation for others to watch. "The idea is, ‘Oh, look, someone's playing NBA 2K11, I want to get next.'"
LaPorte's not worried that video gaming presents some antisocial barrier that'll deaden the club, or make it a short-lived novelty. "Right now, everything has a multiplayer version," LaPorte said. "We're bringing people together to play games the same way a service like Xbox Live would. Except you don't have here what goes on there. Oh, you want to ragequit on me? Not when I'm sitting next to you. Not when we're face to face, not over a beer."
And if there is a popular game that's primarily a one-player experience, Insert Coin(s) has the ambition of getting it into the club before its release "so now we can make it a social event."
"Will we have a game like, I don't know, name an RPG? Yeah we'll have it, but I don't see that as something to draw a lot of people," said LaPorte, himself a dedicated gamer, and plainly conversant in the medium's history.
"Now, Final Fantasy VII, when that came out, people did come over to watch you play that," LaPorte added, "But, hey, that's a lot of time there."
[Top image by Frances Niznik]