Friday, March 21, 2014

EightyTwo Interview: Best Buds Build Bar Arcade

Noah Sutcliffe (L) and Scott David (R)
EightyTwo Photo Gallery

This place has a minimalistic, museum like interior. Someone in the back is working on something. Trippy chip tune music is playing in the background. If you look up you'll see some letters hanging that spell Poketo. I'm early for my walk through of EightyTwo, LA's newest arcade and bar. I stopped at a trendy shop before heading over. The vibrant arts district is EightyTwo's home and Poketo, one of the many shops to browse along a line of places to get a bite and a nice piece of pie, is part of its community. Past Wurkutche, past Pie Whole, past a place with no name written on it lay EightyTwo.

A large black gate is open with the number eighty-two on its side wall.  Passing a small parking lot that will eventually have food trucks in it as this bar arcade doesn't have a kitchen, you can venture inside; this is a staff entrance. Arcades games from years and years ago are on one side of EightyTwo. Gauntlet and Burger Time with a large collection of other cabinets are ready to be played. Burger Time was acquired that day from the OC.

There's a bar fully stocked with gaming named cocktails like Princess Peach, Zangief, n00b and Wizard Mode. The Power Up made of rum, cold brew coffee, and fresh vanilla cream on the rocks might be the edge you need for a high score a night at EightyTwo. They have a high score board near the bar ready for those with talent to be on it.

Each arcade machine has a metallic black drink stand near them so you have a place to put down your drink while playing Super Mario Bros.

The hum of the machines make digital chirps as if birds were robots, calming sounds to those who grow up around such noises. As the arcade machines come to life soon their screens flicker and turn on to visuals of plumbers and starry-night backgrounds; robots asking for help or for a fight.

It's hard to think that it was a manga book store and an accountant's office not too long ago. Now with new owners, Scott Davids and Noah Sutcliffe, who work well together as best friends, the spot was ready for a new incarnation.

Davids lives in the Arts District and Noah lives not that far from him in downtown. "Downtown is the cultural hub of Los Angeles at the moment and LA Arts District just has a great feeling," Scott tells alongside Noah as they lounge in the outdoor patio area of EightyTwo.

In the middle of EightyTwo is an outside patio lounge with a tree, tables and a long back rest bench around the outer wall. The best friends wanted it to be a big part of their space; it's all new. It resides where part of the parking lot use to be, they had it specifically made for them and their future patrons.

The two of them come from different fields. Scott owns Level 256, a visual effects company, yes, Level 256 is a joke on gaming where level 256 is the kill screen in older titles like Pac-Man and Dig Dug. A kill screen is where some older games can no longer function and the screen becomes erratic. Noah is a lawyer handling entertainment law and helps start-ups with some experience in the legalize of starting a restaurant through his father, also a lawyer. Between the two of them working on EightyTwo might have been easier with design and legal in their backgrounds. Being best friends since as long as they were five-years-old helps too.

"We use to play arcade games, video games... He moved to Washington DC [pointing to Noah] for one year and I remember--I still have it, they made little Nintendo suitcases, where you can hold all your cartridges in it---flew on the plane and it was my carry-on luggage. We were downstairs in his basement, it was Christmas time, I remember it was snowing. We were blasting Danger Zone from the Top Gun soundtrack and playing Kid Mickey," Scott told of a fond memory of the two gaming together when they were third graders.

Danger Zone can't be played all the time at the bar; Noah explained musical choices, "We want to have a varied music program as much as we can. Obviously, music and DJ's are pretty much if not the most important parts of creating atmosphere."

A DJ booth for one to throw down beats is near the bar near a lounging area.

After delays that you would have starting any LA business things started to fall into place. "All of a sudden we were able to move in and in over forty-eight hours we moved every game in here; set it all up; stocked the bar. Everything came to life all at once and we kind of had a moment to sit back and walk through this place. If you had told me when I was eight-years-old that I would be walking through my own arcade and pointing at games and saying that's mine and I can play this whenever I want, there's no way I would ever believe it," Scott went over on telling people he now owned his own arcade.

"It's like a plant growing or a tree... you can see the style we chose was minimalistic; museum style, but as a result until the games were in there it really looked like there was nothing really there, " Noah brought up about the arcades pace of being developed.

On aesthetic look you have local Sci-Arc Professor and architect Darin Johnstone who designed EightyTwo from the ground up. Scott remarked,"He came at the bottom of the ninth and hit a home run." There were many architects auditioned and Prof. Johnstone won the big game. With being so close by as part of adjacent Sci-Arc the professor was on the same wave length as Noah and Scott of having a welcoming community bar.

Fixing any problems with the machines might fall to Scott on hand. He restored his Street Fighter Two arcade machine out of necessity after having parties with friends using it over the years. Street Fighter Two was the first arcade machine he owned and still maintains at his home. A Street Fighter Two machine holds a nice spot inside  EightyTwo and the night before this interview it had a small tournament around it.

Across from the arcade node of EightyTwo is the pinball node with many old titles to get behind. Classics like a collector's edition of The Addams Family and a Doctor Who themed machine; Doctor Who's machine comes with a Dalek's head on top of it. Just like the arcade machines there's a place to put your drink; two drink holders are attached to each pinball machine.

Beware how loud it can get in there. Only one machine was enough to be fill the room up with noise.

You can spy on repairs in the back of the pinball space. A repair room with a glass door might make you wonder about investing in a machine of your own.

What does gaming mean to Noah and Scott? Scott, while still in school was a game tester at Vivendi Universal that was having a string of poor selling games at the time he was thinking of joining the company. About the time he got out of school the company was on the verge of even more problems. If not for a PA gig he might have been more part of the game industry in another way.

Scott exclaims, "We have different tastes in gaming, I'm not into RPG'S. This guy here has lost two years to World of Warcraft." Noah said, " I definitely played World of Warcraft more than 3,5000 hours."

They don't stick to just older titles Scott told how he beat South Park: The Stick of Truth to little sleep over the course of three days while everything was going on with EightyTwo's development.

"A lot of people have asked about how we only have games from 78-94 and I think a lot of that has to do with the era of cabinet art and style that makes; if you wanna build a cool, coherent place that makes sense sign wise and give people that complimentary vibes with music and games then you can't just make an arcade with new HD monitors and Dance Dance machines, " Noah added.

Scott was incensed by the art of the machines explaining how EightyTwo is colorless on the inside, only the machines give off color. After talking about the features of their Star Wars arcade unit, Scott went over the influence of arcade machine art, "As a designer it's influenced so many people in so many different ways. The font, the color scheme, the art, the artwork."

On the floor of the arcade area a woman is fixing Ivan Stewart's Off Road. You could guess she's Molly Attkinson of Pins and Needles arcade and pinball machine league fame and you'd be right. Get a handshake and a hello as a reward.

She's far to humble as she fixes machines while talking about her love, pinball. She loves what she's doing in comparison to how hard it is fixing a pinball machine. Molly is the manager and resident technician of EightyTwo and while she's filling a change machine with rows of quarters some fall out every so often on the floor, making that metal on hard cement sound. One quarter escapes rolling under an arcade machine never to be seen again.

Scott met her on a first date with his girlfriend that took place at her Pin and Needles arcade in Echo Park, he joined the league and became friends with Molly over time

Molly said, "It's like a dreamworld working on machines." Earlier a friend of hers dropped by to give her an Aled Lewis piece from his recent pixel show at Gallery 1988. It's a pixel perfect scene of Thelma and Louise driving off into the dessert.

The name EightyTwo comes from not only what was called the golden age of gaming, it was also the following year the artist in residence law passed allowing the Arts District to be livable. A sign in front of EightyTwo recognizes that history with a Galaga ship replacing the A
for the artist in residence sign.

Scott's favorite game spot is in a struggle, it's Robotron Vs. Street Fighter Two. "Robotron is my favorite classic game ever. It's super fast and you just get in this weird zone. It's really crazy to watch somebody, I was at California Extreme (a classic arcade event); watching someone is like performance art."

Noah's favorite game is Tempest, he wanted to be in front of it for the photo shoot.

 Arcade tournaments are still being figured out as EightyTwo is just opening. Plans for a pinball league are on their way along with a pinball tournaments courtesy of Molly.

Working together Noah and Scott slowly raised the metal gate to the public entrance of EightyTwo. They joked around as the gate moved upward and sunlight beamed in. You could tell they were good friends laughing and smiling as they opened up their business for a soft opening night. Raising the gate was only a small part of months of work that went into the place and they couldn't have been more happy to see it open again.

Outside a mural of eyeballs and pinballs is near completion waiting for E3 attendees to stand in front of it. EightyTwo isn't that far from the convention center and when so many game developers and publishers come in to town this May they'll have a place to chill and unwind after a long day on the show floor. Before then, it will be a new place to check out in the ever booming Arts District.

EightyTwo is having a soft opening going on before it's official private opening night event March 25.

707 East 4th Place
Los Angeles, CA
(213) 626-8200