How Fortress Australia is bringing back arcade culture to the next generation - Fortress Melbourne
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How Fortress Australia is bringing back arcade culture to the next generation

11 November 2019

Hail Fortress Adventurers! A short story from me that (I hope) helps you understand the origins of Fortress Melbourne. In my life, aside from friends and family,  there are the two things dearest to me:

  1. Metal
  2. Games

When I was 22, I decided to pass on a career as a lawyer and swear allegiance to the gods of metal. I then spent the next 17+ years working as hard as I could for the premiere heavy metal record label, Roadrunner Records. When I left I knew that the next challenge had to be in games, however that could be constructed.

Not being a software engineer, a pro esports player or even an ex-employee of a game publisher, I quickly realized that this dream was a tall order. Then I remembered something about my own game playing experiences and upbringing.

You see, I grew up in the halcyon arcade years of the 1980s. Most of my teenage life was spent in arcades like Flashback in Swanston St, playing Gauntlet, Punch Out or Golden Axe with my mates all weekend. We’d scrape together $5 each, and try our damnedest to make 20c stretch as long as we could.

We’d play those games, master them, and often end up with crowds of people lined up behind, cheering us on. I can still remember the heart-racing rush of excitement as we stood at the top of the stairs, looking at all of the glorious machines, sensing the buzz, and saying to ourselves, “This is my place, these are my people!”

The side-scrolling, beat ’em up, arcade video game – Golden Axe. Source: GIPHY

With this revelation, I asked myself how can we capture the spirit of arcades of old and bring it to Fortress? The sense of belonging, the urge to get out of the house and be immersed in a live gaming experience.

The idea grew shape as we thought about esports and the surge in popularity it has had in Australia. We started with our esports arena, as esports fans certainly love live and social experiences. Add to that a LAN lounge, old school arcade machines and follow that up with a medieval tavern!

The foundation was there for a giant “cathedral for gamers” that could bring that ancient 80’s arcade dream back to life. A cultural centre, a ‘home away from home’ but where? It took us ages to find the right venue. Happily, Emporium Melbourne soon joined us to take a look at their basement space…which then grew into the plans to incorporate the lower ground above it.

We had our arena, our medieval tavern, our LAN areas, our arcade…and plenty more. In fact, we had the biggest opportunity to create the dream that had for so long been in our hearts.

Fortress Melbourne bar and console gaming area
Concept render of the Medieval tavern and console booth area!

Now we stand on the verge of something truly enormous: the ultimate gamers venue. A place for everyone: tabletop players, hardcore esports fans, pro teams, casual gamers and old-schoolers like me. Just like a “home away from home”, we have already generated a culture within our organisation that is focused on some core values: inclusiveness, friendliness, and community.

I digress from the “origin story” – there’ll be plenty more to say in future newsletters about the inner workings of Fortress and what it is that we’ll be offering you all. For now, the main thing I wanted to impart: 80’s arcades were awesome gaming experiences, and if we can bring that spirit today to Fortress,  we’ll be well on our way! (Oh, and metal is still my religion).