By Stewie Sutherland
There’s nothing better than going to your favourite club, is there? The atmosphere is golden, the patrons are familiar and when it’s your friend’s shout you can just tell them “the usual” and know what you’ll be getting. Now imagine if you could have the same thing, only with Xbox 360’s and Nintendo Wii’s replacing the usual spirits and ales. Sounds good, doesn’t it? It was this slick, outside-the-box idea that created Mana Bar, soon to be Australia’s first video game bar set in the city of Brisbane, the Sunshine State. Despite being hard at work getting everything ready for it’s opening, Mana Bar’s Guy “Yug” Blomberg kindly granted AMO an interview to talk about this awesome new concept…
Mana Bar sounds really innovative: where did the idea come from?
I came up with the idea while having drinks and playing video games of course! I used to run regular parties, usually with a projector setup alongside a Wii or Xbox 360. I noticed that there was no longer any stigma with video games, the girls were playing them as much as the guys, and it fit in perfectly in an environment with live DJ’s and drinks on hand. From there it was a case of taking the idea to some likeminded friends and stubbornly running with it!
Sounds like fun! How long has it taken to get the whole project up and running?
Over 2 LONG years. Who would have thought opening a bar would be so much effort – I certainly didn’t! Most of that was negotiating the lease of the venue, raising the capital, and running the numbers to make sure this was actually a potentially viable business model.
I hate to ask but have there been any setbacks?
I think we’ve had setbacks on an almost weekly basis – initially we’d planned to open the venue at the beginning of 2009! We’ve had to face all the usual issues of setting up a licensed venue, along with the problems associated with doing something new and unique. Overcoming those challenges has been the most difficult part of the process, and it’s a testament to the friendship between myself and the other three owners that we’ve made it this far!
So what kinds of drinks will there be? Any game-themed ones you’ve whipped up?
We’ll have all the standard offerings of beers (two on tap), spirits and wine, as well as alcoholic slushie machines as well! One of the other owners – Shay Leighton – is actually a cocktail designer with over a decade of experience, and he’s feverishly working on our final cocktail list – which will be gamer themed.
Bar’s and pubs all have different themes and settings, so what sort of atmosphere will Mana Bar have?
The venue will be decked out like a cocktail lounge – we want the place to be accessible to a wider audience, and don’t want to alienate anyone by being too ‘hardcore’. Dim lights, blue halogens behind the bar and in the feature cabinet really give the place a unique sense of atmosphere. The music will change on a nightly basis depending on the events and the crowd, but needless to say don’t expect any heavy metal or R’n’B.
Now if you want to be in an Aussie bar, you have to be over 18 years old, but are there any restrictions on what games will be available?
None – that’s one of the perks. Since everyone in that bar will be over 18, we can showcase any game we want – especially considering the highest rating of games in Australia is MA15+.
What’s the general theme of game’s that will be available? Multiplayer, racing games, FPS, or just any and every kind?
We want to focus on the more social games – multiplayer, turn based, pickup and play type games. Think most of your first party Wii titles (Wii Sports, Mario Kart, New Super Mario Bros, etc), rhythm games (Guitar Hero, Rock Band, etc), sports, racing, fighting, platformers. The coolest aspect however is the scope we have for events during the weekdays, when we can have more traditional gamer games on offer, and run tournaments, launch nights, etc.
Mario Kart Wii and liquor? Fun! But what sort of systems will be available? I can imagine you wouldn’t want any of the old console wars to go on!
We will be exclusively featuring the latest generation consoles – no older consoles or PC’s I’m afraid (although we do plan to do a few events based around 80’s and 90’s classics available through Wii Ware and Xbox Live).
Will Mana Bar feature a membership club at some point?
We’re definitely thinking about it, although there is no room for a VIP area as such. Memberships would have a sort of ‘achievement’ system built into them, and offer members access to exclusive events, discounts, prizes, etc.
Any plans to franchise or open up more bar’s in the future?
Ask me again after we’ve opened at least one. 😛
How has support and sponsorship been? I’m sure our local readers would be keen to know how to contribute towards Mana Bar too!
All the major and minor game publishers and distributors are fully on board and supportive, and we’re looking forward to working closely with them to provide unique experiences at the bar. Your readers can contribute by coming once we’re open, and telling as many people as they can!
Sound’s great! Lastly, anything you’d like to tell our readers about Mana Bar that we maybe haven’t covered?
This really is a passion project for all involved, and we’re really excited about the potential. What we really want though is as much community involvement as possible – this is our bar after all, we can do whatever we want with it! If enough people have a good idea for an event, or a particular game, or anything – we’ll be listening. I truly believe the direction the venue will take is in the hands of the people that support it!
If you’d like to keep track of Mana Bar’s progress towards opening night, you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter and finally via their website. An extra special thank you once more to Yug and the crew of Mana Bar for taking the time out to talk to us!