While walking towards the Brandeis shuttle stop at Kung Fu Tea, one may notice the array of bright and colorful game machines that Game Underground offers through the busy sidewalks of Moody Street. Founded in 2007, Game Underground’s story began in Framingham, MA and ended up in Waltham by 2015. 

When choosing the location of his business Jamie York, the owner and founder of Game Underground, thought about the business’ new location on Moody Street, namely considering “the neighborhood, the people, the convenient location so that people could walk to the store, take the commuter rail and buses.” He also thought about close proximity to other local businesses, such as local favorite Lizzy’s Ice Cream.

Remembering the beginning of his business, York shared that a friend hired him to become the manager of a place called “Game Universe.” When that business closed, York came up with the idea of Game Underground. “We wanted to have a place where people would have community, play games and also have some fun,” stated York, reflecting on the importance of common spaces that create opportunities for video game enjoyers to make connections and enjoy a good time. 

On his personal connection with video games, York said, “I was born in the just exact right time. I was like six when Nintendo, the original, came out. So I kind of grew up with games. When I was in highschool, it started to be 3-D, and then as I grew up to become an adult, things got better and better — better graphics. It actually works out for me because I have seen everything that we sell here, I’ve lived through its release.”

After having gone through the COVID-19 pandemic, York describes the experience: “We were able to hang on there and survive.” Adding on, “Honestly it was worth it to keep our families and community safe.” The lockdown had left the business closed for two months, not allowed to have the play machines on for another nine months. 

Reflecting on other challenges he has faced in founding and running Game Underground, York stated, “When we first moved here we had to do a lot of work with the city hall to get permits, and had a lot of helpful people in city hall to assist me. With higher online presence, we have to adapt and obtain things that people cannot [usually] get online”

ARCADE: Game Underground houses an impressive collection of classic arcade games.

At the time of the interview, we were able to witness community and connection making in action; Game Underground was hosting their Super Smash Brother Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch competition that day. The event hosted by the local business featured over 90 players and two of them were among the top twenty-five ranking players in the nation. When asked about other events hosted at Game Underground, York explained, “We actually have a schedule. Monday is fighting games like ‘Street Fighter,’ Tuesday is ‘Super Smash Brothers Ultimate’ on the switch, Wednesday and Friday, ‘Magic: The Gathering Arena,’ and Thursday is Pokemon Day. Every Saturday we have a big event.” 

York shared that each night has its audience; for example, 50 people playing “Street Fighter” on Monday and another 50 that play “Super Smash Bros” on Tuesday. Aside from event participants, the video game store is frequently visited by many college students looking to de-stress, families looking to have fun with their kids, and individuals highly interested in the variety of games offered in the location. When asked about the game selection available, York replied, “Pretty much everything you see here is something that I personally would like if I went to a place like this. We also have a very big music game audience here, so we get a lot of imported games from Japan.” 

Game Underground features physical game discs such as those for the Nintendo DS, a nostalgic device for many who visit the place. “People can bring in their games, you can get paid here, or trade-in for other products and cash, we also take trading cards like Pokemon,” stated York with all the possible things that can be done inside Game Underground. The video game store also participates in big events such as Anime Boston and helps host events, such as birthday parties and tournaments for players ages 15-50. 

Regarding his favorite memory with his store, York shared that he fondly remembers an event called, “Fighting in the Street,” where he took out a television in the street and invited others to play “Street Fighter 6.” Since its beginnings, Game Underground has fostered a center of community, one revolving around playing and appreciating the world of video games. On average, people can get 15-20 tickets in exchange for an entry fee, and with playing several games, players are guaranteed to bring at least a few candies or knick knacks home!