Jesse Short is an afternoon tutor, prepping high schoolers across the Valley for admission into universities. He has had success securing the educational future of many teenagers who would rather be playing video games. So the fact that Short, once he’s through helping a student comprehend the laws of exponents, stays up late besting opponents online is a delicious irony.
Of course, these nights, Short, 32, isn’t online much. That’s because he has been busy unveiling a dream of his: a place where people can relax with snacks and play favorite home console video games from their youth. We’re talking Pitfall!, Altered Beast and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. And so many more.
The idea of a social, retro-themed video game lounge came to Short nearly a decade ago when he was living in Boston. Back then, he worked a job, went home and played games for hours with dozens of people online—but the feeling he enjoyed as a child was gone. He was isolated, even while being digitally connected with others.
“It wasn’t like going home after the school bell, turning on Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo, whooping your best friend, sticking your finger in his face and laughing,” he says. “Sounds mean, but that’s what we did. And it was fun.”
Short and his gaming buddies missed gathering around the Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis systems. So he started tinkering with the idea of a retro-video game salon. The economy crashed in 2008, just as he got a plan together. Many expressed interest in the project; however, there wasn’t a bank or investor willing to support such an endeavor. Short shelved the project to focus on his tutorial business, and then met Reboot co-founders Brian Newman and Pat Hamilton at a local anime convention last summer. The three began meeting to, well, pong ideas off each other.
The result is Reboot, boasting four decades’ worth of home consoles, everything from Intellivision (which debuted in 1979) to the current PlayStation 4—and many (if not most) of the games you can play on them. Indeed, 80 percent of the games in the lounge are from the pre-2000 era. And the price of playing all of them seems crazy low: $6 for two hours, or $14 for an all-day pass.
“We offer the retro, the nostalgia, the old school, the social games,” says Short. “We offer Street Fighter on Super Nintendo, which you can play together and scream when your combination attacks don’t work.”
Reboot’s three-day grand opening was crammed with screenings of movie adaptations of video games—1982’s Tron, 1993’s Super Mario Bros., 1995’s Mortal Kombat. In the lead-up to the event, Reboot was in a soft-opening phase, with customers in their mid-20s to early 40s coming in strictly for the powerful nostalgia factor.
And that’s still happening. A middle-aged parent dropped in with her kids during the opening event. Once she heard the lounge offers Joust on the Atari 2600 (1977), she was cranking a four-directional, orange-buttoned black joystick for more than an hour. We wonder: Will her children have to drag her away for dinner?
Who can blame her? Reboot boasts 35 consoles hooked up to 20 TVs and comfy, Mountain Dew-proof, custom-made bean-bag chairs for guests to game in. There’s a giant Mortal Kombat mural, a Ms. Pac-Man stage, plus art from Sonic the Hedgehog, Kirby’s Adventure and Star Fox, as well as random Metroid and Mario imagery. The game environment here is cozy and complete.
“Wherever we’re at in our lives, we always feel a longing to go back to what we remember and what we loved,” says Short. “I feel our offerings give people an opportunity to travel back in time for a moment and relive the pleasure of early gaming.”
There are places in town where you can play board games for a few hours with family and friends. There are places where you can play brand-new video game systems. But there aren’t many places where you can play board games, indulge in old and new video games, and peruse a vast manga library. Reboot is a one-stop pop-culture shop for nerds.
“Nerds,” says Short, “is a term I’m OK with. It used to be derogatory. People today have embraced it. Thankfully, we live in a time and place that allows you to be interested [in] what you love and you can do your own thing. We’re trying to combine all the aspects of nerd culture under one roof.”
Reboot Video & Tabletop Game Lounge
2950 S. Durango Dr., Suite 100, rebootgaminglv.com