Forget all the big hotels and gold-plated skyscrapers of televised Las Vegas. Set away from the forced, over-the-top and often pretentious glitz of the main 'strip' is Downtown Vegas, the alternative but equally as buzzing centre of bold and eccentric fashion, youth culture, art festivals and of course, a wealth of places where tourists get wasted.
It's amongst downtown's hookah lounges and Camden Town-like tattoo parlors that a new bar called out to us the moment we heard of it. 'Insert Coin(s)' calls itself a "Videolounge Gamebar" - the first of its kind in Vegas or anywhere that we know of that mixes two usually very separate pastimes; partying and gaming.
We'll admit to being skeptical at first. A place like this could easily take its gaming statement too far and end up a cringe-worthy gathering of super-nerds, or go the other way and show a complete lack of real understanding of our hobby and end up only appealing to your average Jack-the-lad Call of Duty player. But our concerns were cast aside when we turned up at its grand opening on Friday, April 15.
As you walk in you're faced by a centrally-positioned, illuminated bar with game t-shirt-wearing servers churning out drinks to punters, who can also hand over their IDs in exchange for a PS3 or 360 controller to play on one of the 14 TVs dangling above the bar.
A cluster of 37 of the most-loved arcade machines from 1978 to 2001 (listed here) line one wall, chomping quarters in their hundreds, while seating booths line the opposite wall, each one with two TVs and two consoles of your choice spanning from current consoles right back to the original Nintendo (NES). There are HDTV screens in literally every direction, most of them hooked up to PS3s or 360s and playing all of the most popular games from Halo Reach and Call of Duty: Black Ops to Street Fighter IV, Gran Turismo 5 or Marvel Vs Capcom 3.
It sounds like a LAN centre, yet with a lively dance floor powered by real DJs playing all the big tunes currently rocking Vegas's nightclubs (with the odd video game-influenced house or dubstep track thrown in here and there, as you can hear in the video we recorded on our iPhone below), it feels like an otherwise perfectly cool bar that even non-gamers would feel comfortable frequenting.
Everyone there seems to harbor a love for video games but it's far from a geek fest. Looking around you'll see many people just chilling at the bar with friends in the club-like environment. Meanwhile we watched one dude sit and play three hours into Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on SNES, totally unfazed by the thumping music, flowing beer and near passed-out wife. Elsewhere two guys at the bar, cigarettes hanging from their lips, hammered buttons in furious Mortal Kombat bouts.
Others mixed it up, shaking a leg on the dance floor in between sinking quarters in the arcades, while larger groups stuck to their booths where they had two-player Super Mario Kart or Halo sessions going. It's almost bizarre, but it seems to work.
Unsurprisingly, the bar's founder, Christopher LaPorte, is a big gamer himself. "I would go golfing with my clients when I'd rather be playing Street Fighter," he told CVG. "I've been playing since I was six years old, playing the Nintendo PlayChoice-10 arcade machine at the super market because I didn't have a Nintendo." That's old-school.
He even suggests this could be the answer to reviving the arcade scene in the West, too. "It's the social aspect of the gaming world," he said. "It's fun to play against somebody sitting next to you. That's what the arcades were 30 years ago. The arcade scene may have died, but everyone wants it back - you just have to find a way to do it."