Classic Gaming in San Francisco’s Gay Scene
Arcades seem to be dead in modern bar scenes, but in the gay district of San Francisco, the Castro, historical gay bars and gay bars that just can’t shut down due to the dedicated patrons that have been visiting for decades, billiards and pinball machines remain a staple. Only three gay bars remain that have both a pool table and pinball machines; The Pilsner, The Eagle and Moby Dicks. Every day of the week all three bars are dominated by gay league players. One can rarely get a chance to play as these league players take control of the table for themselves and eliminate, very quickly I might add, an outsider or tourist that may come in the way of a successful night. This leaves many to play pinball. The gay bar owners of these three bars have been running the bars for years and keep up the maintenance of both their pool tables and pinball machines.
The 440, a gay bar on Castro Street, does have The Addam’s Family pinball game but it is not only never on but never plugged in and if a patron were to plug it in and play they would be immediately told to leave as the bartenders absolutely hate the pinball machine. Why it is still there is a mystery to many. Perhaps it is the noise that it produces under the loud disco music or the bright light it produces in such a dark room. Fortunately, The Addam’s Family pinball game is also available at Moby Dicks where it is cherished and well played. In the past, the bar tried to take customers away from a more popular billiard, The Mix, by offering free drinks to anyone who played pool with out pants on. This fad did not last long as many patrons took the bribe out of hand. Out of the three pinball machines, they also carry Theater of Magic. It is noted by many patrols the many illustrations of spheres on the face of the game that match in size and shape of the scandalous gypsy’s bosom that adorns the game. It is the pit of many jokes for most observant players. Still, seventy-five cents a game, Theater of Magic is the most popular and has been there for more than a decade.
The Pilsner carries the pinball game Johnny Mnemonic, based on the 1995 film starring Keanu Reeves and is a must-play for many as it is considered an inside-joke that the machine has been there for over two and a half decades, but not as long as The Simpsons pinball machine. It is a shame that the newer generation of gay bars in the Castro and Soma don’t offer either a pool table or a pinball machine but the community is lucky to strive for historical preservation and the act of leaving machines for the younger generations by making these locations historic landmarks and therefore preserving the ability to play such epic past times. Billiard is seen as an outdated game to millennials but once they begin to play and learn how to better themselves it can quickly become a weekly addiction.
The Eagle in the Soma keeps the gaming experience alive by having Game Night every second Friday of the month. It was once every third Tuesday of the month but has grown by popular demand. Super Smash Bros 4 Wii U, Mario Kart 8, Ultra Street Fighter 4, and Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 and so much more. Anyone is welcome to bring their own games, consoles, and controllers. Tables and chairs are available for anyone who wants to play board games too. Due to the overwhelming amount of new tech twenty-somethings, the Eagle is completely packed for their monthly game night and it has quickly become the place to be as many people actually end up communicating more when they are forced to play each other in a gaming environments rather than in a dark, seedy leather environment that the community is used to. In an age where gays bars are becoming less and less a place to meet new people, it is great to have gaming as a device to bring the community’s youth back together with wise elders.