Angel Correa grew up playing video games like Super Smash Brothers 3. Since his youth, he was fascinated with video games and felt there was something more than just the act of playing.
“I would sit in front of my TV on the ground and play for hours,” Correa said.
Playing a variety of video games on different gaming systems piqued his interest in not only playing games, but also creating and sharing them.
Correa’s store, The Game Gallery, originated in Easton and opened a new location in South Side Bethlehem in the beginning of April. There, community members can walk in from 12 to 6 every day except Mondays and play vintage arcade games.
To Correa, the store is not about showing off games like Pac-Man, Galaga or Mortal Combat. For him, the Game Gallery brings the community together and allows those who previously enjoyed these retro games to return to their childhood memories.
Correa prides himself on collecting original and authentic arcade boards for his store. An arcade board is a computer system dedicated to running video arcade games. He said it’s difficult to obtain these original machines because of their high demand and price — some cost over $3,000 dollars.
Correa’s fiancé, Michelle Fox, helped him find the space on the South Side. Correa said arcade games brought his family, including their 6-year-old son, Sawyer, together, and Fox said the store gives her family something to look forward to every day.
When Fox found the space at 14 W Fourth St., the landlord already had some bids. However, the thought of the Game Gallery was more interesting to her than the other offers.
“She liked that we weren’t just bringing another restaurant to the area,” Correa said. “We were different.”
Fox, who is Bethlehem born and raised, is excited to be able to give back by opening up a Game Gallery in her hometown.
“It is great to be a part of the community and bring families together,” Fox said. “Coming back and seeing the store in the heart of Bethlehem and how the city has grown into what it is now is what we love to see. The South Side vibes are exactly what we were looking for our store.”
It’s more than just South Side residents, teenagers and families coming into the store. College students from campus also traveled down the street to see the location during its first opening week.
Victoria McCulley, ’19, grew up in south Jersey and often went to the Jersey Shore to play arcade games on the boardwalk with her dad and brother. Although she does not consider herself to be the best player, pinball games were always part of her childhood.
When she heard about the opening of the Game Gallery’s location in Bethlehem, McCulley and her boyfriend decided to visit the store.
“We are really into arcade games and it is something that we can do together and enjoy each other’s company,” she said.
McCulley also loved that this was something new and different added to the community for residents and college students to join in and try. She thinks the addition of The Game Gallery could help revive the South Side community.
Although gaming has been known to be more male-orientented, both McCulley and Fox find these arcade games are more than just a form of entertainment for people.
Correa said in the combined 10 years that the Easton location has been open, the Game Gallery has seen an increase in female gamers. Not only do girls come to collect different vintage games or casually play the arcade boards, they have participated in more competitive gaming, called E-Sports or E-League.
“To further the presence of women in the store, we hope to instill girl gaming with intro classes to teach the inner workings of video game consoles and arcades,” Correa said. “We also hope to teach how to play Magic the Gathering, Yu-Gi-O! and Pokémon with our various events and tournaments.”
Correa is sure they will see a high number of female entries in the future of the store’s competitions. He said he hopes to transform the store into not only an arcade, but also a teaching space for circuitry behind these original arcade boards and how to play the games. He also wants to open the store to local artists so they can showcase their “game art” within the store.