A Great Afternoon of Gaming at FTW, Denver

ftw denver signageWhile some of the most modern video games can leave me feeling a bit bewildered with all their input devices, I definitely enjoy the video arcade and always have. I didn’t grow up feeding quarters into machines, but… I did go through some allowance getting good at Pac-Man and trying to master pinball machines, no question. Any time a new arcade opens up, I’m ready to give it a try and see what’s new and what’s reinvented for the modern era. And my kids? Seriously? Kids and arcade games? That’s a no-brainer!

One of the coolest bowling alleys in Denver – Lucky Strike Lanes – recently converted what was a mall storage area into a 15,000 square foot video and gaming arcade that it’s calling For The Win (FTW) and when they invited me to bring the gang along and check it all out, we were definitely down for that! Located in the Pavilions Mall just off 16th Street in Downtown Denver, Colorado, it’s central to just about everyone in the city and a great way to spend a few hours.

Lucky Strike Lanes has thought it out well too: The newly redesigned bowling alley / bar area is a great place for parents to grab a beer — they have 24 beers on tap! — and watch the big game while the munchkins are over at the arcade using up all the points on their game cards. In fact, next time there’s a big soccer match on, that could be great fun. Hmmm…

The company was kind enough to offer to cover our food tab while we were there, in addition to our gaming cards, so I brought my 20yo daughter Ashley, her boyfriend Dylan, my 13yo daughter K- and her pal M- so we could all have a fun (albeit exhausting) afternoon. Four and a half hours later we called it and walked out!

Armed with our $25 arcade point cards (each had 175 points loaded onto it), I headed to a corner where the classic pinball machines were. I like pinball and really want to get one for my house. Someday. They had three, the best of which for play was Ghostbusters, but the best for all the audio sound effects was Star Trek, hands down:

classic pinball games ghostbusters and star trek, ftw denver

While I was doing that, the kids were off exploring the various games: FTW Denver features over 100 games, so there’s something for just about every skill and complexity level, from skee-ball to, well, this monster, a Nintendo racing game where the sensors are under your feet:

ftw denver mario running video arcade game

The kids tried this one and while it was very funny to see them figure out how to run in place like cartoon characters (e.g., super fast) the game itself seemed to end pretty quickly if you weren’t the winner of a particular event or race. So it goes with arcades.

There are some more traditional arcade games too, including the ever-popular basketball shooting:

shooting hoops at ftw denver

Meanwhile, the younger two found games of their own to enjoy, including another Ghostbusters game: a shooting game!

ftw denver ghostbusters shooting game

I love all the oversaturated neon and while the dark room with flashing lights gets a bit fatiguing after a while, it’s definitely a very different world to my usual, calmer environs. It also, as you can see, makes for some really cool photos if you can hold your camera steady enough. All these photos were taken with an Apple iPhone 7, if you’re curious. Does pretty darn well in tough lighting conditions, as is shown.

Meanwhile, my vegan daughter and her Montana-born boyfriend were shooting bucks and fireworks with the Big Buck Hunter game:

buck hunter, shooting fireworks, ftw denver

I have photographic proof that my daughter was shooting deer with this game, but as she assured me with mock indignation “they’re just digital, Dad!!”. Luckily, she won’t have to turn in her Vegan ID after all!

The most entertaining game was also one of the most frantic: Four player air hockey! Huge amounts of fun, if a bit hard to keep track of with more than one puck in play at a time:

four person air hockey, ftw denver

The play surface includes embedded score counters, though everything’s moving way too fast for anyone to actually look down and see how they’re doing. Madness, but with much laughter and shouting. A winner.

I do want to add a brief note about the weird points system that FTW Denver uses, because games aren’t 5 points or 10 points, but are fractional points. Here’s how many points it costs to play a pinball game, for example:

points system ftw denver

2.4 points each time I played Ghostbusters or Star Trek. Weird. I actually asked the manager about it and they had no explanation, just saying that’s how it’s all figured in corporate. My suspicion: The goal is for you to always end up with a few points left on your card as a way to encourage you to add a few bucks and keep playing. Smart, really, and I can absolutely see the little runs running up and saying “Daddy! Can I have another $5? I have 2 points left on the card and there are no 2 point games!” This also means you can do the math: If you buy a $25 card, that gives you 175 points, or 72.9 pinball games. 🙂


We didn’t so much stop and take a food break as we kept having snacks and appetizers show up at our table in the bar area (adjacent to the arcade). We went through chips and guacamole, a “WTH” chocolate cookie with ice cream, Crispy Wisconsin Cheese Curds (which were more like deep fried cheese balls, and quite tasty), a grilled cheese sandwich that surprisingly had meat inside, and at least one other thing that was eaten by the time I got back to the table. Later, while bowling I had fish and chips.

With a full bar, Lucky Strike Lanes could have covered whatever we wanted, but we drank a lot of Arnold Palmers and water, actually, and the younger girls shared a soda. Pretty straightforward, really, and as the designated driver, I always avoid even a single beer because, well, a) I don’t much like beer and b) driving while even a bit drunk = stupid.

I have no food pictures because I was never there when the food was delivered and you don’t want to see half-eaten snacks, do you? 🙂


Rather to my surprise, we end up going bowling a fair bit as a family, including when we’re on road trips or vacation. so everyone in my family is pretty good at the game. I did really well, racking up a 136 in my first game. Our younger friend M- had only bowled a few times in her life so she was anxious at the beginning, but the whole alley setup is so chill — and you can have bumpers show up, a great invention for younger and less able bowlers!! — so she had a great time too, even with her two-digit score.

Here’s Ashley showing off her bowling form:

girl bowling, lucky strike lanes, denver

The seating area in the alley was relaxed and convivial too:

girl in seating area, lucky strike lanes denver

Finally, more than four hours after we showed up, we were exhausted and took our leave of Lucky Strike Lanes and FTW Denver. A great afternoon and much fun. Certainly great to have it all covered too, as it’s a somewhat spendy entertainment located in the prime real estate of downtown Denver. The arcade cards were $25 each and bowling runs $5.95/game/person + $3.95/person for shoe rental at the time we were bowling (it’s less expensive before 5pm and on Tuesday and Sunday).

FTW Denver and Lucky Strike Lanes Denver are located in the Pavilions Shopping Center on the 16th Street Mall in Denver, Colorado. There’s ample paid underground parking in the mall too.

Disclosure: Lucky Strike Entertainment paid all our expenses, including arcade play cards, all food and beverages and bowling. Which was pretty darn sweet!

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