As a member of the original video game generation and a dedicated imbiber, I find the national bar-arcade trend a pleasant boon. Anyplace I can play Galaga, Joust, Stargate or one of the many Donkey Kong variations while sipping a beer is likely going to be all right with me.

The latest to hit the local scene is Barflyy (Yes, with two y's. Why? Why not?) and though it has a nice selection of classic video games from my youth, it is definitely aimed at people who were not playing Dragon Quest at the local mall in the '80s and who can barely recall the '90s. After dark, Barflyy is a “retro bar and arcade” primarily aimed at the lucrative and abundant college crowd, evidenced by the casual decor that includes the de rigueur exposed ductwork and drop lighting along with a few of the walls being covered in old '90s music promotional posters (Hey, look! It's Sisqo, circa 1999!).

The huge oval bar is adorned with the largest and slowest-moving lava lamps I've ever seen. Each side of the bar has four large screens for all your drinking and viewing needs, and the main floor is dotted with high tables that are easily moved after 8 p.m. when Barflyy goes 21 and up, the DJ plugs in and the light show begins jump-starting the dance party, which happens on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

The bar was apparently designed with warm weather in mind, as it has big garage-style doors that turn half of the indoor bar into an extension of the already sizable patio. There's plenty of space and you can play cornhole (there's also a public cornhole court next door, for those who just can't get enough). Opposite the bar is an elevated lounge area with comfy couches and a gaggle of board games for folks who like to go really old-school analog.

 

Oh, yeah! The video games are always free to play and there's a solid selection, including the aforementioned and still-beloved Galaga, Donkey Kong, Centipede, Mortal Kombat, Space Invaders and more. Though nearly every game is older than the average patron, many of them still appreciate the classics. Friends Chris Wertenberger, 20, and Steve Edwards, 21, were going full retro with a heated game of Tetris.

"There’s another place kind of like this in Akron, but you have to pay for all the games and that gets pricey pretty quick," Wertenberger said.

"Yeah, this place is definitely nicer in terms of atmosphere, and downtown Kent is nice. There’s more variety of games here, too,” Edwards said, noting that he owns every iteration of the comically brutal Mortal Kombat series of games.

Wertenberger’s age automatically makes him the designated driver for the group of University of Akron and Kent State friends, but though they may not all be able to slam a round of shots together, they can still bond by beating each other at video games and eating.

 

“I like fried food. I’m always for the greasy fried food,” Wertenberger said.

 

Barflyy’s menu is pretty simple. There are a few varieties of pizza, and on Thursdays from 7 to 11 p.m., you get free slices with a drink purchase. There is also an extensive bagel sandwich checklist, allowing hungry gamers to pick from a variety of toppings, meats, cheeses and condiments for under $8. It’s not gourmet or adventurous, but you have plenty of options and the quality of the ingredients is just fine.

In the back bar, a friendly foursome of Kent students — Evan Medfisch of Pittsburgh, Emily Gillespie of Hartville, Madison Cox of Tallmadge and Clevelander Geno Oradini — were not particularly interested in taking a trip through video game history and were instead at Barflyy to par-tay.

"On regular nights, this means closing out the bar. We come for the end of the night because the music is always the best; it’s always very live and there’s tons of people here,” Cox said.

“Cute boys,” Gillespie said.

“I like to dance,” Cox added.

The quartet are all experienced Kent bar crawlers and say Barflyy has quickly moved up their list. “I’d say it’s one of the better ones, it’s one of my favorites. The music and the fact that people actually dance here,” Cox said.

As for the free video games? Nah. “I’ve never played any of those games,” Gillespie said.

“Actually, it’s really stressful to be over by those games because it’s so crowded,” Medfisch said.

“They should get rid of them. There would be more room for dancing,” Cox said laughing.

Barflyy is a fun place for anyone who enjoys old games, and for '90s babies who like to dance the night away. Folks old enough to actually remember the '90s probably won’t have much business there after about 11 on party nights (Hey, no one wants to see your over-30 self do the Roger Rabbit, trust me), but as an after-work decompression chamber, Barflyy makes for a lively spot.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at mabram@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3758. Like him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml, and follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.