HONOLULU (KHON2) — It’s National Video Game Day! Let’s explore how video games have impacted our everyday lives and where you can find some arcades around Hawaiʻi.

Video games are as much a part of how we understand and interact with computers as are mathematical calculations.

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History of video games and arcades

The advent of video games began in the 1940s and 1950s when few people could afford a mainframe computer let alone understood how to use one.

According to the Smithsonian Institute, “computers took up entire rooms and were so expensive that only universities and large companies could afford them. Most people had both a limited understanding of what these electronic behemoths were able to do and an unfamiliarity with the types of mathematical equations these machines were regularly programmed to compute.”

This is how video games entered the world of computing. Early computer programmers utilized strategy games like Tik-Tak-Toe and William Higinbotham’s 1958 Tennis for Two in order to attract more interest in how to research and utilize computing.

This, of course, led the computing industry to court university students. In the 1960s, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offered access to a group of students led by Steve Russell to their new PDP-1 computer.

They asked the students to dig into the computer’s capabilities and create a program that would:

  1. Utilize as many of the computer’s resources as possible and “tax those resources to the limit”,
  2. Remain interesting even after repeated viewings, which meant that each run needed to be slightly different and
  3. Was interactive.

While successful in creating Spacewar, it was never meant to be for mass consumption; however, with the growth in popularity of television sets in the average U.S. household, video games was on the verge of finding their way into homes across the U.S. with the vision of engineer Ralph Baer.

He believed that television sets could be used to interact with consoles, allowing the average American access to video game computing.

As video games evolved, so did how Americans interacted with them.

In 1971, the very first arcade cabinet was built because “Spacewar! Inspired two students at Stanford University, Bill Pitts and Hugh Tuck, to create Galaxy Game, a version of Spacewar! that was coin-operated and ran on a computer housed in a wooden console.”

Video arcades popped everywhere during the 1970s and became a staple of teenage life in the 1980s. These computing games went from the hands of elites with access to people everywhere across the globe, leading to the creation of Esports.

According to Southern Illinois University, “Esports traces its origins back to 1972 when home consoles first became common. In 1980, the first nationwide Space Invaders competition was held with 10,000 participants. A year later, gamers competed in the surprisingly cutthroat, inaugural Donkey Kong tournament.”

Fastforward to 2002. Esports’ popularity is growing exponentially with 540 million Esports viewers globally as of 2023, and it is predicted that this number will reach 640.8 million in 2025.

“Esports are video games played in a coordinated competitive environment, organized into online tournaments, to allow for multi-player competitions in the genres of first-person shooters, fantasy world battles, online sports, etc…,” said Russell Yamanoha, ʻŌlelo Community Media’s Marketing Director.

Where to find arcades in Hawaiʻi

While we can access games online and via consoles from virtually anywhere, arcades tend to have a very special place in our society.


Hawaiʻi Pacific University’s HPU Esports Arena is located downtown on the water at Aloha Tower Marketplace. It is a space of 3,000 square feet outfitted with cutting-edge gaming PCs (RTX 3080 GPUs), next gen consoles, virtual reality stations, casual seating and viewing areas, and outside viewing.

“As Hawaiʻi’s first esports arena, we are proud to open our doors for community and corporate events, field trips, gaming tournaments, learning and networking events and more,” said HPU’s Esports information site. “We also sell snacks and drinks at the front desk!”

Jungle Fun Island is located in Ala Moana.

Royal Arcade Bar is located in Chinatown on North Hotel Street.

Tilt Studio is located in Pearlridge.

Fun Factory is located in Kahala.

Lucky Strike is located in Ala Moana Center.

Dave & Busters is located in Kakaʻako.

On Hawaiʻi Island

Slow Your Roll is also located in Hilo.

Gam3Escape is located in Hilo.

Tilt Studio is located in Hilo.

Fun Factory is located in Hilo.

KBXtreme Premier Entertainment Center is located in Kailua-Kona.

Fun Factory is also located in Kailua-Kona in the Kona Coast Shopping Center.

On Maui

Tech Savvy is located in Kahului.

Fun Factory is located in Kahului.

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On Kauaʻi

Fun Factories are located in Kapaʻa and Līhuʻe.