Stefan Mandle Turning Love For Video Games Into A Career
David Creed •
Stefan Mandle has always loved video games. Chances are if you were looking for him when he was younger, he was likely running into the pond at a nearby golf course filled with snapping turtles to collect golf balls he could sell for $.10 a pop. He would use this money either to buy baseball cards or head to the local arcade to play video games all day.
“There was an arcade called Dream Machine in the Hampshire Mall where I grew up and I would go there all the time,” Mandle said. “I’d fill up socks with tons of golf balls, make $15 and either buy baseball cards or bike to the mall and play video games.”
Mandle has begun a business called Nantucket Mobile Arcade. He has 15 cabinet machines you’d see in any arcade, but these are a bit smaller and stand at about five feet tall and are two feet in width. This allows him to bring them around the island to whichever event he has scheduled in a trailer, set them up at the venue, and once the event is over, packs up and goes on his way.
“I have some of the games in stock that I would play when I was a kid,” Mandle said. “I have Shinobi, Golden Axe, Ninja Turtles, and X-MEN. It is cool because I grew up playing those games and then at events I see everyone in my 30-45 age demographic and they just go ‘oh my god I haven’t played this in so long.’ I have NBA Jam down there. Then I have some newer stuff like Marvel vs Capcom that younger kids know. I have Pac-Man too and that is easy to figure out.”
These machines also require very little power and can be plugged into any outlet. They are rated for less watts than most lightbulbs. Once you rent the cabinets, you can play the games as many times as you want during the allocated time you have them rented out, rather than putting quarters or dollars into them over and over.
Mandle began to ponder the idea of creating this business after leaving EZIA, an island gym he co-founded, and started to brainstorm new business ventures. He began by thinking about the things he liked. An arcade kept crossing his mind, and he didn’t see another business currently offering anything remotely close to what an old-time arcade would offer.
“People love games. Who doesn’t love games,” Mandle asked “When I sat down and asked myself what I wanted to do next, I really thought I could turn this into an event-based business. All I need is a truck, trailer, and some storage. I am busy too. I’ve had gigs for birthday parties, private events at clubs, barbecues, and even weddings if they are kid friendly. The arcade is a nice way to get the kids out of people’s hair. I’ve also found wedding parties and receptions is another thing where its groom against the bride and that can be a hit.”
Mandle doesn’t offer your standard game console like Xbox or Playstation, and that is by design.
“I specifically don’t offer Xbox or Playstation because I wanted to bring the old-time, arcade experience specifically to Nantucket,” Mandle said.
Mandle said he enjoys the moments where he is monitoring the machines and sees families bonding over whichever game they are playing.
“The moment I set them up they are packed with kids and adults,” he said. “Part of the reason I didn’t do consoles is because the Dads and Moms will come and enjoy the games they grew up playing and the opportunity to play them with their kids. Suddenly, the whole family is playing NBA Jam together.”
“They are having time where they are competitive with each other in a fun, friendly way. It is similar to when you are playing a board game. It is a bonding moment. Moms and Dads are excited to show their kids what they played, kids are excited to learn it, and the games are fun and easy to learn. NBA Jam has three buttons; pass, shoot, and steal unlike some of the games on consoles like Call of Duty that have a bunch of buttons and things you have to do which can make them hard to pick up. These are easy.”
The full list of cabinet machines Mandle has are: Pac-Man, Golden Axe 1&2, Rampage, Big Buck Hunter World, Big Buck Hunter Pro, Marvel vs Capcom Clash of Super Heros, Marvel Pinball, Star Wars, Street Fighter II, Golden Tee, NBA Jam, Marvel Super Heros, The Simpsons, X-Men, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Most of these machines offer more than one game. Combined, if you were to rent out every machine, you would have 56 games to choose from.
Mandle said down the road, if he is able to continue growing his business, he sees an island where a stationary arcade is available.
“If all goes well and I can continue to grow this over the next five years, I would love to rent space and run an arcade there,” Mandle said. “I think it is feasible year-round here. I would have to have a paid employee live here who could fix these machines when problems arise. I would need to grow a lot more to get to that point, but I think it’s possible and years down the road.”
“If I can’t, I am so thrilled to just do a couple gigs per week and I have video games I can enjoy all to myself or I can sell. I play these games all the time at my house.”
You can learn more about this mobile arcade by clicking here.
All photos courtesy of Stefan Mandle.