Is The Golden Age of Video Arcades Returning to Detroit?

Once considered a nuisance by communities in Detroit, video arcades are filling the void for nostalgic gamers today.

Ryan Patrick Hooper/ WDET

In 1982, over 10,000 arcades operated in the United States. 100 of those arcades were right here in Detroit.

While kids sought refuge in video game arcades during the ’80s, many adults saw nothing more than new technology creating hubs of trouble. 

Detroit Free Press reporter Robert Allen recently wrote an article about the golden age of arcades in Detroit and the new generation of arcade bars opening up across the country. 

Allen speaks with WDET’s Ryan Patrick Hooper about the history of arcade gaming in Detroit. 

“In the early 1980’s, there was some pretty loud protesting (from adults),” says Allen. At that time, many adults blamed “all the crime problems on these arcades.” 

Former Detroit police chief, deputy mayor, and current professor of education at University of Detroit Mercy, Isaiah McKinnon, remembers the strong feelings adults had against arcades.

According to McKinnon, many adults thought arcades were “going to be the end of the world.” 

Tighter regulations would eventually make it difficult to keep arcades open in Detroit and across the U.S. 

Now, arcades serving alcohol are on the rise as ’80s kids are now adults interested in grabbing a drink and playing arcade games. 

Off World Arcade owner Don Behm wasn’t sure if he would be able to keep the arcade open, but business has been good so far. 

“We’ve had some pretty good numbers so far in terms of attendance and in terms of people just showing up and playing the games,” he says. 

Click on the audio player above for the full conversation. 


  • Ryan Patrick Hooper
    Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host of "In the Groove" on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. Hooper has covered stories for the New York Times, NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.