Friday, August 6, 2010

NY Chinatown Arcade Totes Loves Homos

I've lived in New York City just over two years now. And no matter what neighborhood I've actually held residence, I've always felt my home was Manhattan Chinatown. I get my groceries there, I volunteer there, I eat there, I hang out there... and yes, I even game there. Chinatown Fair Video Arcade, or more colloquially known as the Chinatown Arcade, has been a fixture of the lower Manhattan neighborhood for quite some time. In fact, it's purported to be the oldest arcade in New York City, and also one of the last old-school Japanese-style arcades on the east coast.

I've always enjoyed dropping into Chinatown Arcade after a meal or between grocery stops, and I've even met some of my best friends at that arcade. So it made me really happy when Kotaku posted a recent story on how the hole-in-the-wall arcade has slowly become a safe-haven for a burgeoning queer gaming population:
"It's a friendly environment," said Amir Santiago,18. Along with Gabriel Cortez, 17, and Pedro Villalta, 17, he frequents Chinatown Fair at least three times a week, often coming after all three finish school. Cortez and Villalta come to the arcade to play Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) though it could look more like a practice routine. They both are capable of breezing through songs on the highest difficulty. Santiago admitted that he comes for the fighting games, in particular Tekken 6, but doesn't mind watching his friends play DDR. In between games, Cortez often sits on Santiago's lap. His boyfriend embraces him lovingly. "Teens feel safe to be openly gay here," Cortez later informed me. They're not the only ones to take liberty with the arcade's open environment. Queer and transgender gamers express themselves without inhibition, even during the arcades busiest hours.
 While I can't definitely say that Chinatown Arcade is the font of queer acceptance that the post seems to suggest. I do know that I've hung out with almost all of my gaymer friends in New York at Chinatown Arcade. If you're a native New Yorker and never been, make a point to stop by and offer up some quarters as patronage. The age of the arcade is passing and these last outposts of geekdom need to be preserved, lest all we are left with are the Dave and Busters of the world... *shiver*

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