By Samantha Johnson
In a cozy corner of a vacant retail outlet off Kietzke Lane, Reno Pub and Games invites adult gamers to their doors with hot dogs, beer and old-style video game consoles to arouse nostalgia. No matter what time of day, there’s at least one gamer there, seated quietly at a television screen or raging at a game of Mario Kart.
Inspired by a similar venue in Washington, Joe Pringle and Bill Ledford, the co-owners of Reno Pub and Games, described their experience with gaming pubs as a successful one.
“There was, like, this safe hangout for geeks and nerds,” Pringle said. “[They] could play Magic: The Gathering without feeling ashamed or trying to tuck the cards out of the way when somebody walks by.”
Pringle and Ledford worked together in a bookstore and came up with the idea of Reno Pub and Games after seeing the amount of gamers that participate in tournaments and events.
“People care about it and they get rowdy for it,” Ledford said. “There’s no place that’s a public, commercial venue that airs the events, like it was the big football game.”
According to Pringle and Ledford, the initial process of finding a spot to open Reno Pub and Games was a hard one, but after months of searching for the perfect venue, they opened in the former Swensen’s store lot in July of 2015. Reno Pub and Games is one of the first gaming bars in Reno, according to Pringle and Ledford, and there aren’t many venues like it. It differs from an arcade because it’s open until 3 a.m., and arcades are meant for only minutes of play.
“It’s an unreached market here in Reno as far as bars go or places for adults to hang out,” Pringle said.
Ledford extends this sentiment, commenting on the effectiveness of reaching out to gamers.
“The ways that people typically reach out to gamers don’t seem to be effective,” Ledford said. “You go [to pubs] to be there, not just to consume a product.”
Ledford also said that the model of gaming scenes that charge by the hour aren’t realistic compared to gaming within the home. The idea behind Reno Pub and Games is the “third space.”
“Your first space is home, your second space is your job and your third space is a place to get away from the other two,” Ledford said. “There’s a big culture for it.”
He went on to state that most of his generation grew up with video games and consoles like Nintendo and Atari and that most of those individuals still play to this day. He said the average gamer, according to his research, is 29 years old.
“There’s not something that’s directly catered to them,” Ledford said. “And it’s not just video games; there’s so many niches that aren’t represented.”
Reno Pub and Games has a library of board games, like Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, Sorry, Monopoly and more. They also host Magic: The Gathering games, Dungeon & Dragons sessions, as well as Super Smash Bros. tournaments.
“That’s what’s cool about the vaguer nature of our model,” Ledford said. “It’s not any specific bar, it’s not a Nintendo bar, it’s not just a Magic: The Gathering bar — it’s just a gaming bar.”
The majority of the pub’s income is through their food and drinks, while the games and consoles provided are mostly donated. They even have an old cathode-ray tube television for the more competitive gamers.
“CRTs have .0006 milliseconds of delay because there’s no video card,” Ledford said. “So these guys that play specifically Smash Bros. — the competitive ones — only want to play it on CRTs because they do things with an accuracy in the fraction of a second.”
Going into the future, Pringle and Ledford see their pub expanding to a larger space and opening up for private occasions and events like Reno Comic Con and Blizz Con.
Pringle and Ledford hope to continue hosting events targeted toward college students and older, but they are open to all-ages events, too.
“Whatever your group is, we will cater to you being here,” Ledford said. “Whatever the size and nature of the group, we will cater to you and whatever it takes to make this your spot.”
Samantha Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.