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My Experience With FTW Arcade In Chicago

Without doing much research, I decided to try out an arcade while our family was visiting Chicago. It was very much a modern arcade, with all of the gambling and confusing card deals that go with it. But if you know what to avoid, it can be a lot of fun, even if it isn’t anything particularly novel.

It has been a long, long time since I’ve seen an arcade take actual quarters. I’ve seen money exchanged for special coins, hourly rates, or, as the case was in this arcade, cards. You swipe a card for each game you want to play, and if the game involves tickets, they’re automatically saved to your card. As I’ve mentioned, it can be really confusing to guess how many “points” you need, especially if you haven’t been to that particular arcade before.


The first thing I gravitated towards, as in any arcade, was the air hockey table, for two reasons: I believe that the quality of an arcade’s air hockey table says a lot about the rest. If it’s loud, adds unnecessary rules, has a short time limit, or has (or lacks altogether!) a low-quality board, puck, or paddles, then it’s likely that the rest of the arcade will have similar problems. The second reason is that I really like air hockey.

It was off to a bad start. There were three tables, one of which was an unholy four-player mutation. But of the other two orthodox tables, one only had a single paddle, making it essentially useless. But that still left one good air hockey table left, and things were going great for a while! I was playing against my nine-year-old sister, and we were having a blast going back and forth, eventually tied 5-5. Aaaaand then we timed out. I’ll admit that we’d been going for a while, but it still really annoys me. Eventually we had a rematch, reaching 5-5 again, but I got two more points and secured the win.

We also had fun with a “roller coaster” ride thing, where the seats would move around slightly and shake while air was gushed at you and a non-interactive video played out on screen. We did the racecar, minecart, and actual roller coaster scenarios. It wouldn’t be something I’d do with my own time, but it was fun to experience with my little sister, who got a kick out of it.

I wasted something like 30 points trying a claw machine that had Mario and Luigi plushes, but to no avail.


One of the highlights was a Star Wars ride, where I went inside the cockpit and had a control for speed and one to shoot. The screen took up my entire field of vision, much like VR, and the sound was obnoxiously loud in there. All the same, it was a really cool, one-time experience that lasted for a good while, even though the actual game was simply shooting at a few enemies, and I still lost.

We played Skeeball. It was skeeball. We both sucked at it.

There was a standard racing game, although it kinda sucked. The speed was annoyingly low, and the course was extremely tame. It was cool how the seat would move when the car did, but either my boost button wasn’t working or the game wasn’t explaining it right to me. There were two blue flashing boost buttons, but no matter how much or how hard I pushed them, the car kept crawling along at its snail pace. But the really funny thing is that I nearly won the race without boosting at all, because the AI was actually a joke.


My sister forced me to play the arcade version of “Connect Four” with her. It’s still connect four. I lost.

The last racing game we played was a skiing one, where we stood on our skis and shifted from right to left. While there was a way to turn your feet inward to change something, it was too awkward and not really worth it, as all the game really required was going through each conveniently placed speed boost. This was another pretty easy racing game, although my sister beat me and won a free game.


Finally, we played a DDR rip-off where the directional buttons were all diagonal. I don’t know if that helped at all, but I felt like I had more fun with this machine than I ever had with DDR. Perhaps it was my more recent experience with rhythm games, but I got an A rank on nearly every song (on easy mode, to be fair). And it was also a great value, letting me play three fairly lengthy songs for the normal price. I was exhausted after doing six nearly consecutive songs, but it was also the most fun I had in the arcade!

Overall, FTW arcade is pretty standard, with a lot of your mobile game adaptations and greedy machines that promise tons of tickets but more likely take 30 seconds and give you next to nothing, and no retro machines. But it’s still a fun place to hang out with friends and family, and while I can’t speak to its quality, it also includes a bar. If you’re in the Chicago area, I’d recommend it!

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