Only a short walk from Dalston Junction’s Overground station, The Loading Bar blends in inconspicuously with the rest of the street. But once my eyes finally adjusted to the interior, I realised that these nerdy surroundings amounted to something special: for me, it was love at first sight.
The arcade machines dotted around the first floor gave the whole place a sense of vibrancy and energy. Coupled with this was the bar’s rainbow effect of alcohol bottles, injecting even more colour and warmth into the room. Equally eye-catching was the cabinet filled to the brim with every kind of board game you could think of, at least a hundred or more. All of these blended together enticingly – there wasn’t a single dull point to rest your eyes on.
But what more was on offer beyond these early impressions? Making my way to the back of the bar and heading downstairs into a brightly lit basement, I found the real USP of the Loading Bar. The entire bottom floor was a vivid videogame feast for the eyes, with a massive collection of consoles and arcade machines all freely available for customers to play.
The variety in the basement was staggering, including a Nintendo 64 and Super Nintendo Entertainment System, with Mario Kart 64 and Super Mario World cartridges already plugged in and raring to go. Three expensive arcade cabinets lined the back wall and offered a refreshing blast from the past in the form of classics such as Tekken 3.
Without a doubt the biggest attraction of the evening was the chance to try out Playstation’s brand new Virtual Reality headset. Most customers relished the opportunity, eager to experience this expensive but genuinely impressive piece of kit. True, the only game on offer was a short demo comprising three minutes of spooky shenanigans from the upcoming Resident Evil 7; but that was quite enough excitement for one evening! Screams rang out with each new participant, and my turn was certainly exhilarating and heart racing. The sense of community was strong, as we all gathered around afterwards to discuss our thoughts on the game and enjoy watching the new players squirm.
The Loading Bar started out West in Falmouth, before making the long trek to its current home in East London. It has been serving customers alcohol mixed with videogames for almost two years now. Hardly surprising that at weekends the venue is full to capacity with gamers male and female.