Jenessa Williams dives into Central Arcade's den of dorkery
In case you missed the memo, being geeky is no longer the social stigma that it was when many of us were at school. With multi-million dollar industries built in fictional worlds, there has never been a better time to fess up to that Warhammer addiction.
Far from an awkward confession after a few tins, Geek Retreat is a positive haven for all things gaming; an active celebration of all things computer, board and card. Perched on the edge of Central Road, the loft space is the stuff of introverted teen fantasy: open and friendly, with wide table tops, merch-stacked shelves and console boxes galore, overwhelming the eye.
Even on a Thursday night, the place is rammed...
Even to somebody whose primary experience of gaming is a quick dalliance with Pokémon Silver on a Gameboy as a kid, there are some highly enticing sights - deep, comfy sofas, elegant trading card folios, colour-coordinated manga comics…
Unlike similar endeavours that have popped up and disappeared in the city, Geek Retreat benefits from a reassuringly low-key approach. Even on a Thursday night, the place is rammed; surprising on one hand, and not at all on the other - build somewhere this specific in theme and the nerds will flock.
There is no entry fee and patrons are simply asked that, in exchange for free rein on the facilities, they consider purchasing one item of food or drink for every hour of attendance. Said refreshments are reasonably priced, with an impressively wide selection that includes chilli cheeseburgers, ramen noodles and vegan milkshakes. We opt for some American sweets and sink into a retro round of Pro Evo, taking advantage of the other patrons’ preference for one of the evening’s scheduled YuGiOh tournaments.
Herein lies the best thing about Geek Retreat. There is a huge programme of scheduled events in which to bond with fellow fans and improve your skills, but there are just as many opportunities for less ardent enthusiasts to simply relax and take in a competitive round of Connect 4, or try out a Kickstarter-funded game.
In a city where social opportunities so often revolve around booze, there’s something refreshing about shaking off the worries of the day with a wholesome cup of tea and a card game. Open right through from 11am-9pm on weekdays and 7-8pm on weekends, Geek Retreat is as good a place as any to socialise with friends outside of the pub, to entertain kids after school, to basically kill any sort of time.
Fully fledged geek or not, Geek Retreat serves a similar public service to a library, or a record shop; it's not purely about selling things, but about building a community of likeminded individuals and giving them a place to pursue their passions. May it set an example to us all.