With COVID-19 causing non-essential businesses to shut their doors, millions are out of work. Local arcade owner, Imran Acosta of Texas Gamer Lounge is fighting against this, keeping all of his employees on staff and working safely.
“What do you do in this situation? You either turn it into a long, extended spring break and burn the days or try to redeem it and use it for something that would be better long-term,” Acosta said.
Located on Hunter Road near the outlet mall, Texas Gamer Lounge or TGL is a unique arcade that allows visitors to play game cabinets or buy them.
“It’s like a glorified showroom for what we’re selling,” Acosta said.
Since the arcade is currently closed, Acosta is having his staff work on a variety of tasks.
“For us, it’s more about trying to create a creative way to work around this. We’ve been moving games, fixing games, touching them up,” Acosta said. “I’ve been doing a lot of training. Someone who used to be an arcade attendant or cashier is now learning how to install buttons and joysticks.”
The arcade regularly holds tournaments for two Texas State organizations: Gamers at Texas State and San Marcos Smash Ultimate. Due to the outbreak, these tournaments and others that TGL runs have gone online. Tournaments are streamed through the arcade’s Twitch channel, which has become another task for employees to work on.
“A couple of our staff are streaming games, stuff like Smash Bros., Animal Crossing, all kinds of stuff, whatever we can put out there,” Acosta said. “Technically, they’re going to be paid streamers.”
Advertising major and TGL employee Daniel De Leon Aguilar regularly runs online tournaments for fun but is now able to do that through his job.
“He’s supplying us with computers, he has a ton. We will be streaming for the company. I’m pretty sure that the next tournament that I run will be for TGL,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar said Acosta has been careful to not have multiple employees in the arcade at a time.
“If we’re working it’s by ourselves,” Aguilar said.
Acosta may be one of the few arcade owners able to do this, given the unique business model of his arcade: repairing and selling cabinets as the main business, and letting the public play on the cabinets in the meantime.
Fellow arcade owner, Darren Spohn of Pinballz was not able to keep his full staff employed like Acosta. However, Spohn has been able to provide benefits and extra paychecks to the majority of them.
After Pinballz closed its doors on March 22, the majority of the staff was laid off. Pinballz launched an employee relief program for laid-off staff. The program allows individuals to purchase gift cards for future arcade use and the proceeds earned go to staff.
“The program is designed to bridge the gap between their last paychecks and their unemployment,” Spohn said. “We also have a hotline open for all employees to help them get their unemployment, and we paid our full-time employee’s benefits through April as well.”
Acosta is hoping that by the time that he is able to open TGL back up to the public that it will have more playable cabinets than before.
“We own a hundred running games (at TGL San Marcos) and then I own about 500 more, all in various stages,” Acosta said. “As many of those 500 that we can take from dead to alive the better that way we could have a lot more on display here, and a lot more games to enjoy.”