The Good Life… Booze, Games, and Geeks in Boston

When you first walk in, The Good Life looks like every other downtown bar in Boston on a Tuesday night — suit-and-tie types sipping gin and tonics at polished fine-wood high tables. But follow the LCD glow emanating from the bar’s basement, and things are gonna get geeky.

I’m not talking PhDs snortling about Kafka geeky. I’m not talking trivia night geeky… I’m talking table top tournament geeky, old school console geeky. I’m talking BYO controller geeky!

It’s Game Over – the weekly game night at The Good Life.

A Magic: The Gathering tournament at The Good Life
A Magic: The Gathering tournament at The Good Life

Would-be challengers huddle around a long central table, fingering the dollars in their pockets, waiting to join in the Magic: The Gathering tournament, while a few feet away a ragtag Rockband group of no-hit-wonders belt the high-pitched part of “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

In a dark booth across from the bar, a Nintendo 64 flashes GoldenEye 007 game play. Across from that an enraged gamer cries a desperate “gah!!” as Mario flies past Koopa Troopa on his tricked out go-kart. From the far corner a beepy rendition of the Aladdin soundtrack has pulled in a decently-sized audience around the resident Sega Genesis to watch Abu and Aladdin jump their way through town (seriously, I forget how magnetic that game is! Just try to tear your eyes away from the gameplay).  Street Fighter IISonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario Kart, GoldenEye 007, NBA Jam…

Yup. The Good Life has restored the 90’s to its rightful glory – the dark basement of an otherwise bougie downtown bar.

Tabletop games at the bar... and consoles on either end
Tabletop games at the bar… and consoles on either end

Add to that booze and some seriously addictive fries and sliders… ya, I’d say that’s pretty good livin’.

I can’t speak to the bar on any other night, or even the upstairs part of the bar on Tuesdays for that matter, but their game night is pretty epic.

Boozy Munchkin Zombies!
Boozy Munchkin Zombies!

Armed with a Munchkin Zombies deck and a recent paycheck so I can shell out $10 bucks a pop for their cheapest Bourbon, I’ve only ever had a great geeky time. Drinking and gaming? How can you go wrong?

Even in an era where somehow geek got cool and everyone hearts nerds, it’s great to have a place where you can geek out as hard as you want, shout awkward obscenities at NBA Jam, or furiously debate the finer details of a Class card without getting that “okay, this got too real” side-eye we’re all familiar with. It feels almost clandestine.

When you finally manage to pull yourself away from the console, clear up your tab, and readjust to the natural light, you feel like a super nerd agent emerging from your secret underground nerdquarters, back into the normal bar scene that’s been unfolding upstairs all this time. You might even give a secret nod to the bouncer on your way out and look away before he throws a wtf? face your way.

Seriously when's the last time you got your hands on a Nintendo64 controller
Seriously when’s the last time you got your hands on a Nintendo64 controller

Unlike many of the Tuesday regulars, I don’t work in an industry where I run into a lot of gamers or comic book readers, so a refuge like game night is a necessary relief where I can shamelessly unleash the geek.

Because even though geek is cool these days, we all still get that “whoa. too much” look when we get way too into it and reveal just how deep the geeky runs. And if you’re like me, you get that surprise face even in a crowd of the geekiest geeks. The other Black girl who shows up some Tuesdays knows exactly what I mean. They never suspect us. Eventually I’ll hunt down some browner geek havens, But in the meantime…

I’ve slowly accumulated a ring of nerd havens since I moved to Boston a few years ago, and I figure maybe there are some Beantown noobs out there who could use a starter map:

Comicazi in Davis Square hosts weekly game nights, a comic book club, a sci-fi reading club, Magic tournaments, a monthly Drink and Draw, and even a monthly comedy night!

MIT Game Lab hosts some headier gaming events, including talks and conferences on game development, educational gaming, etc., and weekly talks on game development every Friday .

AND they’re hosting Play Day at the MIT Museum this weekend as part of the Cambridge Science Festival

Pandemonium Books and Games in Central Square has a basement full of games, expansions, and gamers gaming. Literally every night of the week they host a variety of tabletop gaming events, including Magic, D&D, Yu-Gi-Oh, and an open board game night.

The Million Year Picnic in Harvard Square hosts signings with comics artists every now and then, but what’s more enjoyable is that the staff here is crazy knowledgeable and friendly and will talk to you for hours about the minutiae of 80’s comics history until you get your geekery fill.

JP Comics & Games in Jamaica Plain has weekly D&D and Magic tournaments, plus a occasional comics forums.

The Garment District in Kendall Square has all your cosplay needs! (okay, so you’ll probably have to hunt around and get to sewing for the details, but this is a great places to start)

And in case you were living under a rock… Boston Comic Con is coming up next weekend – April 20!

Expect a full report!

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