A new arcade is coming to Alexander City this summer, bringing back a dedicated venue for classic video games.
The business, named Respawn Arcade, Pinball and E-Sports, is likely to debut in June or possibly July, according to the owners, and will feature traditional arcades, skee ball, air hockey, shuffleboard and modern video consoles.
Jessica and James Duncan, who launched the business last year, have called Alexander City home for nine years. They both currently work in the emergency services industry.
Jessica is a paramedic and EMS instructor at Southern Union State Community College in Opelika, and James has served as a paramedic firefighter with the Alexander City Fire Department for the last 17 years.
However, the couple are also lifelong video game enthusiasts, having a passion for the hobby since they were children.
“We both grew up playing video games, and one of my favorite memories growing up was going into Aladdin’s Castle in the Montgomery mall. Back when I was a kid, I would get five bucks from my mom and go play video games in the arcade, ”Jessica said.
As part of that hobby, the two collect vintage and retro video games, which Jessica said fueled the initial idea for the arcade.
“We collect all genres of games, old and new, just everything, and James found on Facebook several years ago a Mortal Kombat arcade machine and he was like‘ I have to play this thing ’,” Jessica said.
Since that time, the couple have collected dozens of video game arcade machines, repairing and housing them in their basement.
“I’ve always kept all my video games since I was a kid. I have a hand-me-down Atari and all throughout the years I’ve kept them. Ever since then we’ve just been collecting, and if we find them broken or cheap, we get them, sometimes driving three hours away, ”James said.
Among the more recognizable arcade machines in the Duncans’ collection are Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Killer Instinct and Pac Man. However, James plans to house video games from all eras in his upcoming arcade, not just the 80s, 90s or 2000s, but some of the first gaming consoles created, including the Atari, Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis.
In addition, the Duncans specifically expressed excitement about bringing their favorite hobby to Alexander City, hoping to revitalize an entertainment venue that has been absent in the city since James was a child.
“Other than the bowling alley when I was a kid. There’s been nothing else here [in Alexander City]. I used to play them at Walmart, ”James recalled. “That was where I’d see all the new stuff. Our parents would go shopping, and we would beg for quarters because we couldn’t play that kind of caliber game at home. ”
According to the Duncans, that sentiment seems to be felt by many in Alexander City, adding that community support has been overwhelming and that the prospect is attracting both older and younger generations alike.
“Anybody that we talked to about it wants to know more, and it seems like an equal split between people in their 30s and 40s who grew up with these games and ones who have kids and want to do birthday parties or bring them on Saturdays to play, ”Jessica noted. “But every single person that we’ve talked to has been excited about it.”
The Ducans are currently in the process of renovating a building along Calhoun Street in downtown Alexander City where they hope to eventually house the arcade. Among other amenities, the couple is planning to incorporate a snack bar, karaoke machine and birthday area into the building’s layout.
There are also plans to at some point to host sports tournaments at the arcade, during which professional players, individually or as a team, will compete in multiplayer video games. James said he is particularly interested in organizing tournaments around such gaming franchises as Call of Duty, Madden NFL and Capcom fighting games.
“We’re making a lot of progress and we’ve been working towards this specific goal for about a year now and are ready to put the wheels in motion,” Jessica said.