In these cold winter months there’s still plenty to do outside — skiing, skating, snowshoeing — the list goes on and on. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to stay inside where it’s cozy, dry and warm, safe from freezing winds and slippery ice.
But what do you do? Watch TV? Read? Sitting still gets old, and unless you’re an extreme boardgame enthusiast, most indoor activities are fairly solitary.
Electrical engineer and arcade game enthusiast Sarah St. John suggests you shelve Scrabble, switch off the TV and try your hand at classic arcade games like Asteroids, Frogger, Ms. Pac-Man and pinball machines.
“The biggest thing I hear,” says St. John, “is, wow, I had no idea you could buy these.”
At her shop and showroom My Arcade Repair in Pelham, St. John specializes in nostalgia. Clients often come to her with a favorite game from their childhood in mind, hoping to purchase a piece of their past. Many, she adds, don’t stop at one — once they own a game, they soon find themselves building their very own game rooms.
The showroom at My Arcade Repair is the big version of a game room — what many of St. John’s customers call the “Man Cave,” though she says her business, including sales and repairs, is about evenly split between men and women.
Unlike filling a media room with widescreen TVs and surround sound, a room full of these types of games is about more than top-shelf entertainment — it’s about designing a room around memories.
“It brings people back to their childhoods, back to when they were teenagers sneaking to the arcade to play these games,” says St. John. “Something always hits a note with people.”
To add a little ambience to a game room, St. John also repairs and sells jukeboxes.
Though CD jukeboxes are available, there’s nothing like listening to vinyl, says St. John. In her personal collection is a jukebox right out of “Happy Days” that she recently restored to working order.
Building a game room is certainly a luxury — and a passion for St. John and many of her clients — but it’s also about creating a space in your home where families, friends and guests can interact while having a little fun.
At Baron’s Billiards in Laconia, owner Mike Baron agrees that games are both a great way to decorate a room and an ideal way to spend time with family.
Games like foosball, ping pong and pool are all “things to keep your attention upon the game and the people you’re with,” says Baron.
After a lifetime of playing pool (including winning a few trophies) and running four different pool rooms, Baron is a bit partial to billiards.
“You can play pool if you’re 9 years old or 90 years old,” says Baron.
The tables at Baron’s are meant for entertainment, but they look beautiful, too. Baron’s offers Olhausen tables, a company here in the States that Baron considers one of the best, plus Drawknife tables (pictured at left), which come in earthy “handcrafted” designs perfect for many New Hampshire homes.
“We’re blessed to be in an area with a lot of lakes, mountains and trees — the rustic appearance fits right in,” says Baron.
He will also customize a table for you to not only ensure that it will fit in your room, but he can also add pieces of your home. Custom tables use all New England wood (most of it comes from New Hampshire, but a little comes from other New England states), and if you have wood from your own property, Baron is happy to make a cue rack or triangle to go along with your table.
Baron’s tips for first-time buyers are to buy as locally as possible for better quality, and to also ensure proper installation and delivery. Many tables purchased over the Internet, says Baron, are dropped at the curb. After struggling to move tables that weigh in the hundreds of pounds, improper installation can crack the slate or cause a number of other problems.
The second piece of advice when planning a game room, says Baron, is to do some measuring and homework. At www.baronsbilliards.com you can utilize the room planner and look over some pointers and frequently asked questions to make sure you’re off to a good start.
Helping families put together game rooms, says Baron, is one of the best parts of his job. If you’re curious about planning your own, he’s happy to help. NH
This article appears in the January 2009 issue of New Hampshire Magazine