GUIDE: Orlando For Gamers

You know about our theme parks, airboats, and access to Florida’s best beaches - but did you know that Orlando is a fabulous destination for gamers as well? According to a 2018 WalletHub study, The City Beautiful ranked as the second-best city in the country for gamers - coming in just behind Seattle. The study analyzed 20 key factors of gamer friendliness.

Some of Orlando’s top rankings included: video-game job openings per capita, arcades per capita, and electronics stores per capita, but that doesn’t begin to reveal the real appeal behind Orlando’s gaming culture. Today, “six-in-ten Americans ages 18 to 29 and 53 percent of those ages 30 to 49 say they play video games often or sometimes," said a Pew Research Survey… and every one of them can find a new gaming challenge here in Orlando. Check out some of our favorite locations that are sure to be a win with the gamer in your group. In fact, these venues are likely to score with everyone in your travel party!

Dave & Buster’s

Dave & Buster’s is a well-known restaurant and entertainment center with well over 100 locations across the U.S. and Canada, including one on International Drive in Orlando. A recent announcement revealed that a second location will be opening as an anchor at a new shopping center planned for the Celebration area at World Drive and I-4. The first Dave & Buster's was opened in Dallas in 1982.

The I-Drive Dave & Buster’s location offers an impressive array of the best and flashiest video games, along with virtual reality, billiards, bowling, and private event space. There is ample seating at tables and a bar, and plenty of televisions with sports on display - so this is a fine place for families escaping the heat and theme park crowds, or those gathering with friends to watch a game and have a few drinks. The food menu is more than a little tempting (revolving items that reflect culinary trends), and with ongoing “Eat & Play Combo” offers, you have no reason not to make a full event of your visit. Eat, drink, be merry, and win many tickets!

Player 1 Video Game Bar

Perhaps you’re hoping to check out something a bit more unique? If a chain just ain’t your thing, consider Player 1 Video Game Bar. Nestled within a nondescript strip mall near Walt Disney World, Player 1 is the kind of place you could blink and miss - so keep your eyes peeled!

For a minimal cover charge (about $5 typically), you can enjoy unlimited play on everything from classic to modern cabinet and console video games. Superior atmosphere and like-minded folks await - pull up a seat on a couch to jump into a game on modern consoles with other players or pull up a stool at the bar to enjoy local and national craft brews - taps, bottles, meads, ciders, IPAs, sakes, and even craft sodas. Player 1 regularly hosts events such as cosplay and trivia nights.

The Geek Easy

The Geek Easy in Winter Park describes itself as “the perfect place to chill out, play games, read a comic, watch TV, and grab a bite to eat”. While not entirely a gaming center, it’s more of an overall hub of the gaming culture, and all of the geeky little orbs that integrate within that realm. Best of all, it’s hidden at the back of a comic book shop.

Various events take place weekly at The Geek Easy, from open mic and trivia to board game nights, and even “Nerdy Karaoke”. Gamers will love the kitschy decor, and the food/drink menus are a nice change from the bleed-you-dry prices of the tourist district - even if the options are bit more limited. The beer offerings are more extensive than the food, but the grilled cheeses are the stuff of local legend!

The Cloak & Blaster

At The Cloak & Blaster in Waterford Lakes, you’ll find pub food, a wide assortment of craft beers, sodas, and teas, and more games than you can shake a pair of dice at! The theming of the environment is about what you’d expect from a Tolkien/Middle Earth/fantasy-inspired tavern, and that theming plays a part in everything - all the way down to the menu, with items like Gollum’s Fish N Chips, Smaug Burger, Dragon Eggs, and Lord of the Wings. The downstairs “main hall” at The Geek Easy is a rustic, earthy zone promoting the nostalgia of tabletop games, while the upstairs “citadel lounge” pays homage to video games and RPGs.

Joysticks Arcade Lounge

Joysticks Arcade Lounge (near the Downtown area) is the cure to your retro urges and pop culture cravings. From classic games to funky-nostalgic decor, you can even reserve VIP lounges themed around Star Wars or The Goonies, if you have a reason for a group celebration… and really, don’t we all? Joysticks carries an elaborate drink menu, featuring everything from craft beers to candy-inspired specialty cocktails. There are ongoing events at Joysticks like Trivia Tuesdays, Karaoke Wednesdays, 80s Jams on Thursdays and Sundays, and Happy Hours Friday and Saturday. Best of all - if you’re drinking, you play for free!

I-Drive NASCAR Indoor Karting

Orlando has always been home to an assortment of go-kart tracks, but the new wave of tracks are being crafted indoors, and I-Drive NASCAR was the first to really perfect the indoor karting experience in Orlando’s primary tourist strip. I-Drive NASCAR is a great venue for young and old alike, with high-speed electric karts, and a quarter-mile track featuring three hairpin turns to venture upon. BUT - the fun doesn’t stop with the end of the race. The gaming area features up to 60 arcade games as well as bowling and billiards. Guests are welcome to watch the races in progress from the The Grandstand trackside bar and restaurant, with daily happy hour specials Monday through Friday, and a full menu of fast, fun food!

Arcade City

Okay, it’s entirely possible that you don’t intend to make gaming a central focus of your Orlando vacation. I suppose that’s acceptable, but if you do need an emergency game fix without much commitment, consider popping into Arcade City at ICON Park on I-Drive. Nothing too smashingly unique going on here, but it’s a great example of a modern arcade. You won’t find a lot of classic gaming options here, but if ticket-redemption games are your style, you’ll be in heaven! Bonus points for the fact that you’re at ICON Park, where you have the option to take a spin on the Eye - Wheel - or whatever it calls itself these days, visit the celebrities at Madame Tussauds, find your inner Jacques Cousteau at Sealife Orlando, dig up some edutainment at the Skeletons Museum, or drink and snack your way around the courtyard where free entertainment always seems to be a thing. More bonus points - parking is FREE!

Pointe Orlando “Double-Shot”: Main Event and Nomadic VR

Pointe Orlando is an entertainment venue of epic proportions in its own right, but two new(ish) venues at Pointe Orlando specifically stand out as having extra gamer appeal. Main Event is along the lines of a Dave & Buster’s experience, but different. You’ll still find tasty, trendy eats, a great beer selection, sports of all types on the tube, hot new video games, but Main Event also offers 20 lanes of bowling, a billiards area, a gravity-defying ropes course, and some impressive next-level VR. Speaking of VR… Nomadic is the newest, most mindbending virtual reality experience in the Orlando area. No food or drinks to boast about at Nomadic (and who needs it with the slew of options at Pointe Orlando??), but you will be treated with one hell of a realistic VR adventure that will surely leave you wandering off to a local watering hole for some liquid courage.

Check out our original reviews on Main Event and Nomadic VR.

So, where do you plan to get your game on the next time you visit the Orlando area? For adults and children - with or without a little alcoholic enhancement - Orlando certainly has plenty to offer, depending on your gaming style and whether or not you’re looking to have a more social experience.

Of course, gaming culture is not all about fun and games. Well… yes it is, but there’s a professional and serious side to it as well. If you’re the gamer type, and curious to know more about how Orlando stacks up in the gaming industry from a more professional angle, check out this feature from Forbes.