If there’s one thing Retrovolt Arcade owner Bob Elson has learned since opening his arcade two years ago, it’s that everyone likes playing games.
“I thought when I originally started on this journey that the vast majority of clients would be people very similar to me: a guy in his 40s reliving his youth,” says the lifelong gamer. “I quickly found out that I was very, very wrong. We have literally everyone from 4-year-old kids on step stools playing pinball to one lady who came in with her family who was 100 years old.”
Elson, who first opened a pop-up arcade in Mentone from January to April 2017 before opening his Calimesa location in July 2017, offers guests 22 pinball machines and 60 arcade machines at any given time.
“Our pinball machines range from the late 1970s up to present day,” he says. “So a customer can play a very recent title from Stern Pinball like ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ or play a title like ‘Genie’ from the late 1970s.”
Though Elson aims to have that classic arcade vibe, there is one significant difference.
“We operate on pay-per-hour model,” he says, adding that it’s $10 per hour per person and kids under 10 are $5 per hour. “All of our games are set on free play so a customer can come in and pay and then play as many games as they like in the time they purchased.”
Elson sees his passion for games reflected in his clients, who sometimes travel from very far away to play at Retrovolt.
“We regularly have people from San Diego and Los Angeles drive out just to play here,” he says. “We also get a lot of out-of-state people stop in particularly from Arizona as we are right off the 10 Freeway and we make a good rest stop. But we have also had people from Sweden, England, Canada and a guy drove up from Mexico [to] stop in and play on our opening day, he was that excited.”