The D&B Experience

Busted or worth the hype? GI judges the Dave & Buster's in Columbia

We at GI believe in the arcade experience. We believe that a trip to the arcade should be satisfying and worth making. If not for the games, then for the atmosphere and competition that can arise from finding like-minded people to enjoy video games with.


Arcades are a dying breed, with few chains left to provide that one-of-a-kind experience. Columbia, S.C., used to be a place where you could get that arcade experience in several various locations. Back when the scene was viable in the famously hot town, Dave & Buster’s — a mythical arcade chain — was rumored to put down stakes in town. Alas, that dream died 15 years ago. Or so we thought. In 2017, D&B finally opened its doors to Columbia entertainment seekers and arcade purists alike.


Gaming Insurrection ventured forth to see if this near demigod lived up to the hype.

A little bit of history

Gaming Insurrection is always ready to travel for new arcade experiences. With the announcement of a Dave & Buster’s coming to Columbia and its eventual opening, GI was curious about the near-mythical arcade chain coming to its hometown finally.


There’s a little bit of history involved with D&B coming to the Soda City. Way back in 2002, Columbia was hotly rumored and anticipating a D&B opening in the Spring Valley area. Local arcade enthusiasts eagerly traded rumors and stories of the chain opening a large arcade off Sparkleberry Lane sometime in the spring or summer of that year. Except it never happened. What came in its place was Putt Putt, which is a decent arcade chain but no D&B. Putt Putt admirably served the area for six years and then shuttered its doors, taking with it the only viable old-school arcade experience and alternative to Columbia stalwart Frankie’s Fun Park.


Jump with us to 2014, and once again D&B was rumored to make its way to Columbia yet again, except this time, it was real. The chain was finally a reality in Columbia, with plans to open the next year. Despite stretching on to 2017, Dave & Buster’s finally made it with a grand opening Feb. 13, 2017, ready to compete in Columbia’s lackluster arcade scene.

Visiting for the first time

GI made its way to Dave & Buster’s recently to finally get a taste of what it’s like. Traffic coming and going to the location has been steady since the opening and during our visit, the arcade and restaurant sections were packed with patrons well past 10 p.m. We made our way through the throngs of crowds to try some of the games on hand and didn’t have to wait long for any of them. The games were plentiful and there was a variety of genres, from rhythm games such as Pump It Up to racing and ticket redemption and old standby classics such as Ski Ball.


We were highly disappointed to note that there were no fighting games and no Dance Dance Revolution machines, which were the lifeblood of arcades since the early to late ’90s.


The lack of fighting games and DDR rather dampened our enthusiasm from that point on. We were, quite frankly, expecting something more along the lines of Japanese arcades or the lesser-known Lost Ark Video Games in Greensboro, N.C., known for holding on to the games of yesteryear and frequently rotating and updating its stock. Dave & Buster’s has a reputation as a good arcade for adults, so it was disappointing that it was mostly child-friendly games surrounded by an adult atmosphere.


Also, we noted that the prices were high. Game credits were not cheap and many games took quite a few credits. For a mediocre selection, the prices should match what we’re receiving, though we’re chalking up the prices to the location (Harbison) and clientele.


The verdict

If you’re looking for a slightly more up-to-date and newer Frankie’s that doesn’t have an outdoor area and serves beer and other adult friendly drinks, Dave & Buster’s is the place to go. It’s not exactly the savior that Columbia was searching and waiting for, though it’s something different and competition for the ever-present and failing Frankie’s.


Dave & Buster’s could surprise, however, and rotate in newer stock or change the atmosphere. For now, we at GI are giving it some time to see what the chain does and its overall impact in Columbia. We do hold out hope, however, that the old-school arcade experience will make a return to Columbia and raise expectations and the profile of the city’s arcade experience.