Two years ago I found myself in dire need of a new way to blow off steam -- an outlet reasonably inexpensive, decidedly not chemical, and ideally not cliché. I felt too old to go to most of the concerts I liked and had gotten too fat to skateboard. As luck would have it, I got a desktop computer. I didn’t need it, but it was a steal from a nearby company that was closing. I bought a game called Borderlands 2 and I was enthralled by how freaky-immersive video gaming had come in the 15 years since I’d last picked up a controller. Pretty quickly, I was as hooked as I’d been as a kid.
But soon I encountered a new conundrum, like many gamers living in New York City on a writer’s budget. Namely, it’s demoralizing to spend more than half your income on rent to live in the most electric city in the world when you hardly ever leave your apartment. With video games in the picture, the idea of leaving my post-apocalyptic settlement in Fallout to go to a poetry slam was hard to fathom. Even hanging out with people I liked was difficult: None of them had Lara Croft’s parkour skills. I published a novel during this time that I was supposed to promote. I had an internet presence to maintain. Work, presumably, called. But none of that was going to help me shut down the 12-year-old from the UK who kept calling me an old twat after he’d blow my face off in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
I’ve gotten better at participating in the real world. Luckily, the city is filled with places where you can take your gaming into the real world, where you can use it as a retreat once you run out of things to talk about, where you can use your gaming prowess as a flirting tool (I mean, probably not, but maybe). Here are the best places to play video games in NYC while retaining your humanity.