Two Palo Alto pre-teens are introducing new-school gamers to old-school games at their garage arcade, all while contributing to the community.
Eleven-year-old neighbors Owen Yeh-Lee and Jacob Prabhu have operated OJ Arcade since February 2016.
Neighbors and friends are invited to play 1972 Williams Superstar pinball, 1980s Donkey Kong multi-cade, 1980s Atari RoadBlasters, and other games that both boys created by hand.
“A lot of the games here are vintage and probably only adults have ever seen them before,” Owen said.
The idea for the arcade sparked after a trip to a museum. That’s where Jacob saw a pin ball machine for the first time and decided he wanted to build one.
Soon after, a neighbor gave him a pin ball machine for free. He began playing the games with Owen, and the duo decided to open the garage for business.
While most of their friends play video games on a console inside their homes, Jacob says the experience doesn’t compare to playing the traditional way.
“Although you could probably play Pac-Man online, it’s just not the same experience without the joystick or the wheel to steer,” he said.
The first customers at OJ Arcade were the boys’ siblings. Now they can serve up to a dozen players on busy days.
“Saturdays we open up the garage door and the boys bring the arcade out to the driveway and open it up for anybody who wishes to come,” said Cathy Prabhu, Jacob’s mother.
All games are 25 cents and a ride on a wooden go-cart costs 50 cents.
With the help of their parents and siblings, the boys decided to donate all arcade revenue to the Brentwood Academy School Library in East Palo Alto. So far, the duo has given the library $300.
“We didn’t really know what to do with the money so we decided, ‘Hey, let’s help out some people who aren’t as lucky as us,’” Jacob said.
The arcade is open most Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Check the arcade website for more details.