Gamers play Mortal Kombat II at Victory Pointe in the South Side. Photo by Brian Conway

After four months on pause, Pittsburgh’s newest arcade is back in the game.

Tucked between Jack’s Bar and the former City Books on East Carson Street on the South Side, Victory Pointe Gaming Lounge opened to the public on January 9 of this year.

It was a soft opening. The kitchen wasn’t ready, nor the upstairs area for board games, but the machines were in operation: classics like Street Fighter II, NBA Jam and The Simpsons Arcade Game, as well as brand new machines like Mario Kart Arcade GP DX and The Walking Dead pinball.

Everything here is original hardware,” boasts owner Joe Dukovich. “Nothing is emulation. None of these have computers in them running simulations of the game. These are all the actual game motherboards and components.”

A guest plays pinball at Victory Pointe. Photo credit: Brian Conway
A guest plays pinball at Victory Pointe. Photo credit: Brian Conway

After just 10 days of operation, they received bad news. Because of the number of arcade machines in operation on the premises, Victory Pointe fell under the category of an arcade. They would have to apply for an arcade occupancy rather than the entertainment occupancy they already possessed.

Dukovich was stunned. He decided to shut down operations rather than risk incurring further trouble.

South Side is a historic district,” explains Dukovich’s attorney, Wayne Deluca, “and arcades are not a permitted use, so I had to get a use variance to allow that business to proceed.

We had a lot of support from Councilman [Bruce] Kraus’ office,” adds Deluca. “They really liked the concept—in fact, his Chief of Staff came in and testified at the zoning hearing on behalf of the applicant.”

We filled the entire role sheet at the [zoning] hearing,” says Dukovich, “and we had no one speak out against us. I’m incredibly thankful to everyone who showed up.”

In spite of the optimism gained from the overwhelming support at the zoning proceedings, Dukovich wasn’t sure when—or even if—he’d ever be allowed to reopen.

We made emergency plans,” he says, “which would be just open as a restaurant with board games and maybe one or two pinball machines. But that would have been pretty heartbreaking.”

In late April, word came down that Victory Pointe could operate in its present location, but with some caveats: the arcade must close at 10 p.m. on weeknights, and by midnight on Friday and Saturday. Despite the restrictions, Dukovich was thrilled. His dream was back on.

Joe Dukovich, proprietor of Victory Pointe Gaming Lounge in the South Side, shows off his Street Fighter tattoo. Photo Credit: Brian Conway
Joe Dukovich, proprietor of Victory Pointe Gaming Lounge on the South Side, shows off his Street Fighter tattoo. Photo Credit: Brian Conway

On a recent weeknight, about a dozen people were on hand for a Mortal Kombat X tournament. In addition to tournaments, guests can purchase tokens to play state-of-the-art games, like the Wizard of Oz pinball machine and Transformers Human Alliance arcade machine. There’s also a $10 wristband that provides unlimited play of the older arcade and pinball classics as well as everything at the video game bar, which features pretty much every video game imaginable, for pretty much every system imaginable.

I think Pittsburgh wants a place like this,” says Dukovich. “We have what, five colleges in Oakland, and we have Google here now. We’ve gotten calls from various tech companies around Pittsburgh saying they want to come here and play games, because it’s something young tech people like.”

And as he points out, it’s a great option for those who don’t want to spend their time in the South Side blotto.

Brian Conway

Brian Conway is a writer and photographer whose articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and local publications. In his free time, he operates Tripsburgh. Brian lives in the South Side.