Café welcomes gamers of all experiences

A new video game café has opened on Rideau Street.

Caffeine 1Up is a themed café located in Sandy Hill. You can order a latte and a Nanaimo bar, while spending a few hours playing games like Super Mario Bros.

Officially opened on Sept. 12, the owner, Heather Powell, said she decided to open her independent venture because she was inspired by her two favourite things: gaming and cafés.

“When I wasn’t working, I was gaming. I decided to squish my two favourite things together to make it more appealing for both myself and for the geeky community in Ottawa,” Powell said. “Our library has over 200 games now and is growing all the time.”

The café has 12 different systems with six themed stations. Patrons can pay $5 to play for as long as they’d like. Stations throughout the café take on the names of various video game worlds, from Ravenholm to Hyrule. Systems include: Sega Genesis, PlayStation, Xbox, NES, and Steam. The café also provides an LFG table, which stands for ‘looking for group’.

Photo by Lisa Xu

Photo by Lisa Xu

“If solo people come in, they can play with others,” Powell said. She added she has noticed new groups that come in will “start merging and playing together.”

An arrangement of drinks, snacks, and meals are also available for customers, like Milky Way mochas, scones, and panini sandwiches. Powell said vegan and gluten-free options are also available.

Heather said she wants the café to be inclusive and welcoming, and to not just be for hardcore gamers.

Having met her husband through online gaming, she said she wanted to create a place where people of all ages and experience levels can appreciate the community that gaming provides.

Caitlin Bloom, originally from North Bay, is a regular. Bloom said she found out about the café from her boyfriend, and that the two of them have been coming to the café every day since.

“We play a lot of Smash Bros, so that’s probably my favourite [game] right now,” Bloom said. “I always tell [my friends] to come here.”

Powell said she is glad to see “more and more niche cafés opening,” such as board game cafés, and Star Wars-themed bars. She added that she thinks Ottawa gets a bad rap for being “the city that fun forgot.”

Photo by Lisa Xu

Photo by Lisa Xu

“Ottawa is embracing it. It wants more stuff for different subcultures,” Powell added.

Powell said the community support has been overwhelming.

“People come in and tell me how they love the idea and how much they appreciate me opening in Sandy Hill, a place that needs a cute independent coffee shop,” she said.

Powell added she wants people to know that the café is a “mega-safe place, especially for girls that may be hesitant at playing some games.”

She added she is planning on a ladies’ night every month, where girls can play for free.