My search for information on video game arcades in the city led me first to the Department of Consumer Affairs. The DCA handles all licensing and records for businesses in the city, so I figured they would have an exhaustive catalog of all businesses ever licensed to operate in NYC. This is the case, however after a brief chat with their Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) guy it became clear that a) this material is not accessible to the general public, and b) it is not well organized and would take a lot of time to sift through…meaning there is no database or catalog, just a bunch of files in a big room somewhere. Additionally I learned that “Amusement Arcades,” the category into which video arcades fall in city licensing, was only created a few years ago. Prior to that they were lumped into some sort of a general purpose category. Rocky start, I know.

However, I was able to get the FOIL guy to give me the list of businesses currently licensed as amusement arcades in the city…this data pretty much includes the license number, expiration date, and the address of the business. It’s a good starting point, and I’ve already begun to contact individual license holders to ask about the history of their business. The data I want to see is location and time of occupation in said location. I hope to use this information to make a temporal argument about the change in density of these types of spaces in the city from the initial video game craze in the late 1970s until now…and I want to compare this to the rise of retail gaming stores like Game Stop.

It seems that my biggest challenge is going to be getting older information from the era the DCA won’t let me see in their records (or couldn’t because of organizational issues). Hopefully by contacting the business owners I can get some sort of insight into the history of the arcade in NYC. Additionally, I plan to conduct some interviews with these people in order to procure anecdotal evidence that I can mix into my greater argument. I also plan on photographing and perhaps doing audio recordings at the arcades still in business in order to preserve the sights and sounds of these institutions. I may also select a few retail shops to catalog as well, as long as it’s permissible.

Additionally I plan to look at sites like Showpaper Gallery, which is currently exhibiting video arcade games curated by the design collective Babycastles. Another site of interest would be Brooklyn’s Barcade. These sites don’t expressly fit into my argument about location and space and the consumer’s relationship to video games, but they are doing interesting work in preserving and promoting an aesthetic of “retro” gaming culture.