Star Worlds Arcade celebrates 35th anniversary

By Jamie O'Toole, Columnist

DeKALB — Celebrating their 35th anniversary with a day of arcade games, food and tournaments for prizes, the Star Worlds Arcade, 1234 E. Lincoln Highway, will welcome friends and families to come hang out. The event will begin at 5 p.m. Saturday. 

A $35 ticket will grant entry to all tournaments and unlimited play on all video games and pinball machines. Snacks, dinner and soft drinks are included in the ticket purchase, as well as a “Swag Bag” packed with limited edition Star Worlds Merchandise. Door prizes will be given to winners throughout the celebration. Tickets can be purchased at the arcade or online.

Leading up the the event door prizes will be listed on the arcade’s website. 

While the Arcade’s age and the price of a ticket share the same number, owner Pat O’Malley said he considers the demographics of his customers and their wallets. Most of the customers are college students and families, he said.

“Those two demographics are not loaded,” he said. 

Since 1985, when O’Malley first opened his arcade, the price of tokens have remained the same. He said the rise of technology has threatened business success, but O’Malley stays with the trends but keeps a traditional arcade vibe.

“We listen to the customers and see what they want, and then tweak it from there,” O’Malley said. 

In 35 years of keeping the arcade running, O’Malley has made some strong and valuable friendships with customers who go to NIU and live in the area. As NIU students graduate and advance in their career, they stay in touch with him, O’Malley said. 

O’Malley considers the loyalty of his customers and the bonds he’s made throughout 35 years to be his greatest accomplishment.

“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for [the customers],” he said. “The people are important.”  

In 2011 Star Worlds was inducted into the international registry of the historic video game arcades.

In 2016 O’Malley was personally inducted into the video game hall of fame and given an award for his community actions. 

O’Malley’s work doesn’t stop at Star Worlds, he said. Supplying restaurants and bowling alleys with games keeps the arcade’s inventory fresh and ever evolving, even as technology advances. Before sending games off to other businesses, the arcade will test them out and figure out which locations might benefit from a specific game. 

“Star Worlds is bigger than just DeKalb,” O’Malley said. 

Star Worlds supplied NIU’s Holmes Student Center bowling alley with games. Within the next month or so the Student Center is getting a bunch of machines, O’Malley said. He tested them out, and the games are in the warehouse ready to be installed for students. The video games being installed will range from classic to current games. 

NIU will soon be an extension of Star Worlds right on campus, he said. 

Star Worlds only wants to expand in the future, and find a bigger location in time.

“I’m taking NIU to a place that no other company in the area can, because I know the area,” O’Malley said.