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Dave and Buster's

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Dave and Buster's is an international chain of entertainment venues that features arcade games, food and alcohol all under a single roof. The outlets come highly recommended as amusing places to spend your (or preferably someone else's) money.


The Dave half of Dave and Buster's is a large arcade divided between classic fare and modern high-tech machines. The low-tech games spit out tickets that may later be redeemed at the Winner's Circle for cheap prizes like key chains, t-shirts, stuffed animals and children's toys. Extremely wealthy and patient patrons may also trade their tickets in for tiny television sets, CD players or enormous lava lamps. Do not bother counting your tickets, as the store's employees can weigh them for you and give you a receipt.

The low-tech games can be divided into two sections. On one side are games that create conditions for cheap gambling. These include electronic backgammon and slot machines, coin piling games where the goal is to make numerous coins spill out of the machine, and wheels of fortune. On the other side are games of skill that include basketball hoops, skeeball and many carnival-style challenges.

The high-tech area includes shoot-em-ups, karate-style games and flying games. In particular, the Speedway houses driving games that simulate everything from motorcycles to runway trucks. Wherever possible, Dave and Buster's utilizes large screens, surround sound and force feedback controllers1. This is part of what makes Dave and Buster's so enjoyable, but note that the games are also wildly expensive compared to most arcades. Particularly recommended is the Brave Firefighters game, where the player points a hose at the screen to reduce damage and save lives in a brilliant turnaround on typical gaming violence.

Also notable at Dave and Buster's are the high-quality billiard/pool tables that typically take up an entire room in the complex. Mahogany shuffleboard tables are also present, but they often don't see much use.

Larger locations may also include virtual reality theatres or games, laser tag, golf and/or baseball simulators, and shooting galleries. Notably, most of the high-end games added to the larger outlets are even more expensive than the rest.

Food and Spirits

The Buster's half of Dave and Buster's is a restaurant and bar combination. While lunch specials are available on weekdays, the list of options is short enough to frustrate most diners. Be prepared to pay slightly inflated dinner prices regardless of when you stop to dine. The only exception is the Kids Only menu, which is priced similarly to a meal at McDonalds.

Dave and Buster's menu includes appetisers, salads, pizza, seafood, steak, ribs, chicken dishes, hamburgers, sandwiches and desserts. The fried shrimp comes especially recommended, as does the Chocolate on Chocolate on Chocolate Mousse Cake.

As for the alcohol, hard drinks and fancy margaritas are available, as well as the standard domestic and imported beers. Several beers are available on tap, and these vary by location but always include Guinness. A variety of wines are also available, but you are looking in the wrong place if you are seeking a rare wine. Drinks are on the expensive side and there is no happy hour.

Larger outlets may have an additional bar area besides the one located in the restaurant. This is usually of the sports variety, and in that case there will be numerous big-screen televisions to view the local events.

About Watching Your Money

You can't. In 1999, the average store made a whopping US$213,000 per week. In short, you should be prepared to pay more than you expected to regardless of your penny-thrift nature or your ability to keep track of your expenses.

Part of this genius monetary system lies in the chain's ability to provide patrons with everything they might need to stay alive except sleep2. Another part is the menu, which offers wildly tempting and expensive appetisers and desserts, and manages to keep the illusion of a lunch menu without actually having one. However, the key to their system is undoubtedly the dastardly PowerCards.

Dave and Buster's PowerCards resemble credit cards. They are purchased at various set amounts from a PowerStation before game playing can begin. The cards use a token system that is so far removed from any monetary equivalent3 that the patron often fails to register how much they are spending per game. Excited patrons frequently find themselves feverishly returning to the PowerStation to plunk more money into their cards.

Return patrons should theoretically keep their PowerCards, as it costs slightly less to refresh them than it does to buy a new one4. Also, cards that are used to nearly unendurable excess will give their owners a discount on future games. In reality, most patrons invariably misplace their PowerCard and must buy a new one each time they return. PowerCards often mysteriously reappear one to two days after they have been replaced.

Oddly enough, the only machine that does not take the PowerCard is the mechanised Fortune Teller at the front entrance. Patrons entering on an impulse should believe the unblinking fortune teller if she tells them a financial downfall is predicted in their near future.

Other Information

Dave and Buster's is generally open from noon until midnight. Some locations close early on Sundays. Most have extended operating hours during the summer. Since the establishment serves alcohol, persons under 21 must be accompanied by an adult at all times. There is a minimal dress code and obviously inebriated patrons are not allowed in. Of course, patrons are perfectly free to get inebriated after they have entered the premises. The service is pretty good, but the noise level is high in most areas of the establishment.

Large groups can schedule their visit in advance to receive a discount on food and games, to use special audio/video facilities, or to participate in sponsored events like the Corporate Challenge or the Mystery Dinner Theatre. The latter includes a three-course meal for reasons that are not entirely clear.

The history of Dave and Buster's is simple and always prominently displayed on the corporate literature. In the late 1970s, Buster's restaurant and Slick Willy's World of Entertainment opened around the corner from each other in Little Rock, Arkansas, USA. After a while, the purveyors noticed that their customers frequently rotated between the two establishments, and this seemed to be of mutual benefit. The two owners decided to try a joint venture, and the first Dave and Buster's opened in Dallas, Texas in 1982.

Dave and Buster's now has over 25 outlets in the United States. There are also locations in Bristol, England; Birmingham, England; Toronto, Canada; and Taipei, Taiwan. Another location in Herne, Germany, is expected to open in Autumn 2000.

1Such controllers include driving yokes and pedals that simulate the feel of bumpy terrains, as well as pistol and machine gun controllers that kick in the hand when fired. The latter are sometimes misaligned, so be prepared to compensate.2Well, one probably shouldn't give them any ideas, or they'll add hotel facilities next.3It costs US$1 for four tokens or $20 for 100. Customers may win additional tokens while buying or renewing cards. A decimal system is used to express the cost of games in tokens, so a game might cost .4 tokens or 1.9 tokens per play. 4It costs US$1 less, to be exact.

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