Nerd Culture

GameWorks in Tempe Closes

It looks like it's “game over” for GameWorks in Tempe. And, no, you can't drop in a few more quarters to keep it going.

The long-running arcade and entertainment venue at the Arizona Mills mall, which was part of the nationwide GameWorks chain, closed its doors for good earlier this week after 18 years of serving up thrills and adventure to local gamers.

The lights at might still be on at the location, including its signature yellow and blue neon sign outside, but the plug was reportedly pulled on the place several days ago. According to the staff at Arizona Mills, it closed down on Monday, January 25. Its Facebook account has also been shut down while its page on the main GameWorks website has been deactivated.

New Times was unable to reach anyone at GameWorks’ corporate headquarters in California for an explanation for the closing. A spokesperson for Arizona Mills was unable to comment on the future of the space in the mall that GameWorks occupied.

Like other GameWorks locations, the two-story combination arcade, entertainment venue, and eatery featured a mix of video games (mostly of the high-end and redemption-oriented variety) with an in-house bar and grill (dubbed "Arena"). It debuted in 1997 at Arizona Mills around the same time as the mall itself and proved to be a popular attraction for many years.

Besides featuring many of the latest and snazziest co-op, rhythm, and racing games over the years (including a scores of Sega titles, owing to the fact that the chain was formerly co-owned by the company), it also featured an array of arcade classics like Donkey Kong and Tron on its upper level. There was also plenty of skeeball machines and other ticket-spewing contraptions that could be redeemed for some boss prizes like boomboxes and gaming consoles.

It survived several up and downs over the years, including recessions, the bankruptcy and sale of the GameWorks chain, and the arrival of other similarly themed “play and dine” entertainment venues and family fun centers around the Valley, such as Dave & Busters, The Main Event in Tempe, or the Uptown Alley in Surprise.

The Tempe version GameWorks hasn't been the only entry in the chain that’s gone under. Since 2010, more than a dozen GameWorks in California, Texas, Florida, Minnesota and other states have either been sold, shut down, or rebranded. Last September, the Salt Lake City one closed after less than a year in business.

Currently, there are still GameWorks slinging pixels, pilsners, and potato skins in Kentucky, Las Vegas, Southern California, Seattle and the Chicago area. 
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.