Dave and Busters: innocent fun for some and addiction for others

The room is always buzzing with the sound of laughter, the ringing of bells, and loud music at the local Dave and Busters. This place is like Chuck E. Cheese for adults: food, alcohol, and games. What more can a person ask for? The room was filled with the smell of food cooking in the kitchen, it was smoky, and the lighting was low so that the game lights would shine brighter, attracting passers-by to play and win tickets.

There were men and women running around with tickets overflowing from their pockets and wrapped around their necks with smiles that stretched from ear to ear. Their D&B ticket cups were filled to the brim with yellow paper tickets. “Do you think we have enough tickets for the Family Guy Monopoly game?” asked one of the boys as he and his friend ran to the prize counter to count their tickets. “I don’t know, but if we don’t, I don’t want to waste my tickets on some stupid prize, I want to wait until I have enough for the game. I’ve been waiting for this game for a long time! It’s taken me more than three times to come here to get enough tickets,” his friend said. A prize that would normally cost $20 at your local Walmart can cost hundreds of dollars here, but no one pays attention to price when they’re having this much fun.

There was a huge crowd around the Jeopardy game. Four people sat on stools in front of a large screen, competing against each other to see who could answer the questions correctly and get the most tickets. The game is set up as the show you can watch at home, whoever calls in first with the correct answer gets the most tickets. The people around him were shouting answers left and right trying to help the four who were playing; the music as loud as it was, made it hard for players to hear what everyone was saying to them. A girl with long blonde hair started screaming, “OMG I don’t know the answer! Is it George Clooney or Brad Pitt?” To her dismay, the answer to the question was Brad Pitt. He lost the game and lost the ticket jackpot; most of the entries went to a tall man with brown hair and dark brown eyes.

This man with dark brown eyes and brown hair is the center around which our story revolves. His name is Derek Foster. Derek doesn’t seem like your typical arcade addict, but I can assure you that he is. He looked like he stepped out of the southern men’s edition of GQ magazine and walked into the bar tonight. His hair is slicked back, he has a small beard on his face, and he wears Wrangler jeans and a plaid button-down shirt. He wears tan work boots and a John Deer belt wrapped around his waist. With every correct answer he gets in the Jeopardy game, he lets out a “Yes!” His voice is deep and he has the slightest hint of a southern accent.

“I’m addicted to Dave and Busters,” Derek said as he took a quick sip of his beer. “I’m here every week…sometimes two or three times. It’s a nice quick escape from reality. After I get off work at the lumber mill, I like to come here and blow off some steam, you know, play mole and try my hand at Jeopardy.”

The gaming floor is full of people playing their games. As I follow Derek to his next game, I can’t help but smell the mix of alcohol, sweat, and food circulating throughout the place. The smell of alcohol is strong; mostly because of the number of people who have spilled their cup of boos on the floor while being pushed across the game floor.

We come to one of Derek’s favorite games, the ticket wheel. “That’s how the game works,” he said with intense eyes. “First you push the lever on the right all the way in, now you have to make sure you push it hard or else the wheel won’t spin. After you push the lever all the way down, all you have to do is wait and see what number the arrow lands on. This is the easiest game and you get the most tickets.” Derek put his hand on the lever and pushed down as hard as he could, the wheel must have spun at least six times before finally stopping at number 50. Tickets started pouring out of the machine, but Derek didn’t take his tickets, instead playing over and over again until he had over 500 tickets. He then folded all the tickets neatly and put them in his Dave & Busters glass.

“My goal is to get that giant purple and black stuffed gorilla for my little sister…that’s 10,000 tickets. I’m almost halfway there! I hope I have enough tickets before her birthday, which is in four weeks,” Derek said as he looked at the giant ape.

It’s almost midnight and people start leaving the building one by one. The room grows quieter and quieter with each person who leaves. Some rush to the prize counter to cash in their tickets and get their prizes before they have to go home, while others save their tickets so they can get a better prize the next time they walk in. Derek is one of these people. He makes sure all of his tickets are safely stowed in his D&B cup, and he puts on his jacket and walks to his car in the cool, crisp night. “Maybe next time I’ll have enough for that gorilla, but not today.”

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