Grisaffi said the arcade business has been “dead” for decades, as he recalls walking into bars in the late 1980s to ask owners how much they would charge for their arcade games and walking out with free games.
But these longtime friends thought about taking the risk for a while and ultimately decided it was one worth taking.
Mr. Pixel’s is home to more than 40 pinball machines and classic video games such as “Donkey Kong,” “Asteroids,” “Ms. Pac-Man,” “California Speed,” “Big Buck Hunter” and “NBA Jam,” among others. Between the 1980s and 1990s selections that are constantly being rotated, the lineup of driving, shooting and fighting games offers something for everyone, owners said.
“In the immediate area, I don’t think there’s anything like us,” Grisaffi said. “As far as the business goes, I think one thing that’s great about what we offer is you can have a budget, and you can stick to that budget.”
At Mr. Pixel’s, individuals pay a $10 admission fee for unlimited play on weekends, and Thursday admission is half price. The venue is available for private events during the week.
Grisaffi said even after closing for about two months during the COVID-19 pandemic, local gamers were eager to return to extended operating hours upon reopening. The nature of the business brings out competitiveness in its patrons and keeps them coming back for more, Gorostieta said.
“Newer games have the wow factor as far as the graphics, and they’re nice to look at,” he said. “But with the older games, it takes a little bit more skill. So you can really develop your skills on that game and then obviously at that point, you’re challenging yourself to get a higher score.”
Operating Mr. Pixel’s is a side job for both Grisaffi and Gorostieta, who work in the film and insurance industries, respectively. They said they would love for it to become their full-time work one day, and they plan to expand the business to bring in more games from their personal collections.
“One of the things that I really like is when parents bring in their kids who don’t even know what an arcade is, but yet when it’s time to go, they practically have to drag them out,” Gorostieta said.
Mr. Pixel's Classic Arcade, 9110 Jones Road, Ste. 135, Houston. www.facebook.com/mr.pixelsclassicarcade