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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Arcade in a Box leads local game scene

    Arcade in a Box, located on Grant and Craycroft roads, quietly carved its place among the last few years as one of the Southwest’s premier old-school arcades.

    Owner Ed Farias said his store might be the “biggest custom arcade-stick builder in the world.” With 3,000 sticks made over the last three years, he says demand just keeps growing.

    On top of personally building joysticks for fighting game fans, Farias works hard to avoid the fate of other famous arcades in the Southwest. Some impressive names now populate the list of defunct game centers, but Arcade in a Box has thus far avoided failing.

    “We’ve been super fortunate here,” Farias said. “In Tucson, it would be really hard to make it without a lot of luck.”

    With the fighting game scene growing steadily since the release of “Street Fighter IV” in 2008, Farias made many recent changes with Arcade in a Box. Primarily, he changed his focus from video game fans in general to his most reliable audience: fans of fighters.

    “When the economy got tougher, we decided to focus on fighting games because of the crowd,” he said. “They’re just really loyal. Now people will come here and we’ll throw up just about any fighting game they want to play. There’s always someone up for a particular game on any given night.”

    The new approach has clearly worked, as Arcade in a Box now routinely hosts some of the best competitive players on the circuit.

    Latif Alhmili, a Tucson resident known simply by his first name in the scene, took second place in “Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition” at EVO 2011 in Las Vegas this year.

    EVO, short for the Evolution Championship Series, is the biggest fighting game tournament in the world. Familiar names and competitors like Mr. SNK, Said3S, and Renic are also regulars of Arcade in a Box and the routine high-level play has led to other opportunities for Farias and his arcade.

    Arcade in a Box just began regular streaming online for weekend tournaments, according to Farias. “It’s been an interesting experience. Kind of tough to figure out, but we hope to make it something really good.”

    John Guerrero, a UA media arts senior and a regular at Arcade in a Box, plays “Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition” at least once a week there. One night, he participated in a “Money Match” streamed online, where he promptly beat Mr. SNK and won himself some cash.

    “You can go home and play online, but it’s not the same as having a community around you. Here, you get to re-live the old arcade feeling,” Guerrero said. He paused to give Mr. SNK a thumbs-up. “He just flipped me off. That’s the coolest thing, a bunch of people just get together and have a good time; it’s never malicious or anything. You have to pay money, but it’s totally worth it to have the experience of the community.”

    With the recent growth of the genre, there’s no real concern that the community will do anything but grow.

    “Since the semester just started, we’ve been seeing a lot of new faces,” Farias said. “We try to bring in students because it’s a new passion for most of them, and this is the perfect place to get better and be a part of something.”

    Guerrero said Arcade in a Box could be a daunting place for a non-gamer, but that it shouldn’t be.

    “I think the complexity of fighting games can intimidate a lot of people, but it shouldn’t,” Guerrero said. “Complexity and a steep learning curve make fighters so much more rewarding to actually get good at. If it’s that hard to win, it’s a different kind of thrill. All I can say is that if you think you might be into it, just come in for a few weeks in a row and try it out. This is the perfect place for it. Don’t give up. Just try to get better and before you know it, you’ll understand how it’s a constant evolution. I’m always learning. Everyone is always learning here.”

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