Parma’s We Play Cafe aims to be both an arcade bar and board-game hangout

February 21, 2018 GMT

Parma’s We Play Cafe aims to be both an arcade bar and board-game hangout

PARMA, Ohio - Arcade bars and board-game cafés have proliferated throughout the country in recent years, and both have proven to be popular draws for people looking for a different nightlife experience.

A café in Parma opening this weekend hopes to find success merging those two concepts and offering a virtual-reality experience as a bonus.

The We Play Café is scheduled to open Saturday.

VR Rage on Brook Park Road was open for about four months before owner Tom Jenkins decided to expand and draw a larger customer base by adding around a half dozen arcade games and a space to play around 30 board games. He rebranded his business, located at 10239 Brook Park Road, into We Play Cafe.

The idea, he said, is to give families and groups of friends a place to go that provides everyone something they can enjoy.

“The younger crowd was coming in and doing the VR thing in a big way,” he said. “But dad was asking, ‘What about us?’”

So Jenkins bought some classic arcade games popular in the 1980s and 1990s to give an older crowd something to enjoy. He then looked into entertainment trends and he found that cafes for board game players are spreading across the nation and thriving in most places, and incorporated that into his business also.

“We rolled it all into We Play Cafe,” he said.

Both arcade bars and cafés for gamers date back to the early 2000s, but migrated to Northeast Ohio only recently. The Tabletop Board Game Café on West 25th Street opened in 2014, and B-Side Liquor Lounge in Cleveland Heights rebranded as an arcade bar in 2013. It has since rebranded again, but 16 Bit Bar opened in Lakewood in 2014, ensuring that the concept remains a vital part of Cleveland’s nightlife scene.

We Play Cafe is roughly the size of a neighborhood dive bar, with the slick metal countertop sitting in front of a cooler filled with bottled beer and soda. On the other side of the cafe sit eight arcades next to several black couches. Across from a board game space is a place for anyone who wants to try their hand at a virtual reality game.

Virtual reality is much like it sounds. Players are given a headset which they can use to look at their surroundings inside the game’s environment. They use two controllers to move their character through that environment and interact with it.

VR games available at We Play range from shooting games that let the players target cowboys and zombies to an underwater experience that lets them move through a shipwreck and see an enormous blue whale.

A bucket seat with a steering wheel is also available for anyone who wants to try their hand at a virtual-reality racing game. Employees warned that it’s intended to mimic a true-to-life car race, and players shouldn’t expect a game like Mario Kart.

The café sells beer in bottles and cans and are looking into a liquor license. But employees said they would like to keep the place family friendly, and don’t envision We Play as a late-night bar.

Their food menu is filled with shareable items meant to be enjoyed by groups.

Jenkins said he networked with other business people to glean information about board game cafes and arcades bars and came away with a few insights, such as the necessity of having enough board games to appeal to a broad range of players.

The cafe’s selection of 27 games includes the Cards Against Humanity, but also more family friendly entries like Settlers of Catan. A table in the midst of the board game space even has a giant-sized version of the tower building game Jenga.