Riverside Game Lab opens Saturday, Sept. 28, between the Food Lab and Fox Performing Arts Center

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(This article was published by the Press Enterprise on September 26, 2019)

Go through one door this Saturday at Riverside’s Fox Entertainment Plaza and you’ll get comedian Mario Aguilar.

Go through another and you’ll get “Super Mario Bros.”

The Riverside Game Lab, a new 10,000-square-foot arcade next door to the historical Fox Performing Arts Center, a live arts venue where Aguilar will put on his show at 8 p.m., opens to the public at noon on Saturday, Sept. 28.The Game Lab aspires to be the home of both retro and cutting edge games. When visitors enter, they’ll see a row of pinball machines with themes like “Deadpool” and “Game of Thrones.” On the other side of the room are “Ms. Pac Man,” “Stargate” and “Galaga” in “cocktail cabinet” form — tabletop games for two players.

“One of the big things about Riverside Game Room is that we don’t discriminate between old and new,” said Alex Teran, a partner in the project with Jerry Tessier of the Pomona firm Arteco Partners, which also runs the food hall concept Riverside Food Lab in the Fox Entertainment Plaza.

“If you go to Dave & Buster’s, you won’t really find a game there that’s older than five years,” Teran said. And arcade bars in Los Angeles and San Diego focus on retro games made before 2000, he said.

At the Game Lab, multi-player experiences include virtual reality games designed like bowling alleys with vinyl benches and high stools at a rail, and two private reservation rooms that can be linked.

Pop culture references abound, from a snack bar at the entrance that sells Sonic the Hedgehog energy drinks and Rick and Morty dill pickle candy to the bar in back that’s decorated with Super Mario question blocks. The men’s and women’s rooms are designated with paintings of Mario and Princess Peach. The bar serves draft beer, cider, and hard seltzer.

The Game Lab is intended to complement the Food Lab, which opened on Labor Day weekend in 2018.

“When you go to the Food Lab, we want there to a reason for you to be here all day,” said Teran. “If you come at 4, you come here. You have a drink. You play some video games. You go have dinner at the Food Lab at 6. And then at 7 o’clock, your show starts at the Fox theater.

“We’re changing the experience from show up eat, leave, to come and enjoy yourself.”