Image: Axel Koester/Sygma/Getty

That Time Steven Spielberg and Sega Built the Arcade of Your Dreams

Ernie Smith

GameWorks was a Hollywood-powered barcade so glamorous, Carmen Elektra hosted its launch.

Image: Axel Koester/Sygma/Getty

It's not clear whether Dave or Buster were shaking in their boots when Sega announced its deal with Universal Studios and DreamWorks SKG to build an arcade with an attached bar and restaurant, but GameWorks certainly drew a lot of attention upon its 1996 launch.

The concept, which shared its DNA with both the famed arcade/bar facilities and with large theme-style restaurants like Planet Hollywood and, uh, Fashion Cafe, actually shied away from calling itself an arcade.

It had a restaurant. It had an internet cafe. And it was designed to be much more of a destination than a mere arcade. But when it came down to it, it was what the classic arcade had evolved into.

Whatever it was, it was a big enough deal that MTV held a premiere party for its location in Seattle, hosted by Carmen Elektra and Simon Rex, and featuring performances by Beck and Coolio. One thing it did not feature, however, was Steven Spielberg, who offered creative input on the concept but was busy directing Amistad at the time of the location's opening.

He did leave a message with the network however: "I'm an addicted game addict, I always have been, and that's the reason for my involvement in Sega GameWorks."

But when the going got tough, DreamWorks got going—pulling out of GameWorks in 2001. (Game addiction only goes so far.)

Ultimately, though, it was Sega's show, and it had a few tricks up its sleeve—including (as shown in the photo above) something called "Virtual Arena," which appears to be a take on Sega's Virtua Fighter series, mixed with the Activator motion-sensor controller for the Genesis. (Here's a video of the game in action.)

These days, GameWorks is actually still active, with seven locations nationwide, though under a different owner—Sega bought out Universal in 2005 and sold it off in 2011, and there were a couple of bankruptcies in there.

If you find yourself willing to visit a GameWorks, head to Chicagoland, which has a special treat. Because the still-active Stern Pinball factory is nearby, the GameWorks location in Schaumburg, Illinois, tends to get some of the company's newest machines. But if you get bored, there's a Namco-owned, Pac-Man themed barcade within walking distance.

Schaumburg, the barcade capital of the world? Perhaps.

Re-Exposure is an occasional Motherboard feature where we look back on delightful old tech photos from wire service archives.