DeKALB – Patrick O’Malley’s love for arcade games started in his parents’ Maple Park garage. Following his passion, O’Malley opened Star Worlds Arcade and spent the next few decades nurturing his business.
This January, Star Worlds Arcade, at 1234 E. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb, celebrated its 30th anniversary, while many other arcades around DeKalb have closed, O’Malley said.
“Back in the ’80s, arcades were everywhere,” he said. “Here in DeKalb, we had at least five arcades, some corporate stores, a lot of mom-and-pap stores, but those faded by the mid 80s and then you saw resurgence back in the late ’80s into the ’90s. … But to actually still be around after 30 years, that’s one heck of a conquest.”
O’Malley first began collecting games and playing them with neighborhood children in his parents’ garage when he was younger than 12. Soon, O’Malley had to ask his parents to sign a lease contract that would allow him to move everything into a larger space. Now he supplies games for restaurants, bars and hotels.
“It hit a decline at one point but you have got to be a go-getter like we are too in the business,” he said. “To me, it’s important to be able to give a pizza place two or three video games if that’s what they want. Whereas a lot of bigger companies that are corporate, they are just going to look at that as just chump change and move on.”
Dean Beck of DeKalb said Star Worlds Arcade was one of the few places where you can get “that authentic arcade experience.”
“Star Worlds Arcade is a place of its own,” he said. “It has its own personality.”
Beck said he goes to the place not only to play, but also to socialize.
“He has a lot of those old games from my childhood that bring that nostalgia from that era,” he said.
Another regular, Hayden Wurtz, said he spends about eight hours per week at Star Worlds Arcade playing pinball and other games.
“I hope to see more people or more kids start being into the older games,” Wurtz said.
O’Malley attributed his success to the welcoming environment and said he wants to continue to keep on having a place where people can come in and enjoy the classic games.
“The secret is, there’s a lot of passion involved on my end,” he said. “You have got to love what you are doing to go through the high and lows of anything.”
As some of his older clients have grown up, now he has generations of gamers coming to Star Worlds Arcade, O’Malley said.
“So what kind of used to be an anti-social view on the arcade back in the ’80s, it’s now more of a social thing here, which is really cool to see that when people get together. Sometimes, it’s not only about the games. It’s about people getting together and hanging out and just talking and meeting up here.”