Godzilla, Terminator and Popeye: Radioactive Pinball Arcade opens for business

Aug. 26—A new family-friendly destination is now a part of downtown Aiken, representing a huge milestone in the lives of Eric and Erin Edwards, co-owners of Radioactive Pinball Arcade.

Doors and flippers went into action Saturday, Aug. 26 as the business, at 113 Laurens St. S.W., had its grand opening, playing host to approximately 160 customers — "four groups of 40," in Erin's words.

The Edwards' establishment offers customers the chance to test their wits and reflexes against machines from as far back as 1949, with the eldest of the bunch being a "Three Musketeers" machine, from 1949, donated by local residents Buddy and Melody Brinkley. On the other end of the spectrum is a "Foo Fighters" game, a product of 2023. The total at the moment is 43 pinball machines and 30 arcade/video games.

"I view this as a little bit of a museum, because it's not really a bar, and it's not really a restaurant," said Summerville resident Thaddeus Kasubinski, a self-described pinball and arcade collector.

"There's a lot of places out there today that are bar/restaurants and will have pinball. This is a very nice, curated selection of pinball machines, from brand-new stuff ... all the way going back to electro-mechanical pinballs," he said.

"You can get a soda. You can relax. It's nice and cool. You're in a historic building. This is a real experience for anybody at any age. Doesn't matter who you are or where you come from. That's what pinball's all about. You go up, you press the button and you play."

Options for consideration include machines dedicated to Star Trek (of the Kirk/Spock years), James Bond ("Dr. No"), Jurassic Park, Deadpool, Elvira, Star Wars (as well as "Stellar Wars," a possible cousin) and "Stranger Things." Golf fans with a sense of humor may appreciate "Teed Off," an apparent salute to "Caddyshack," complete with a gopher holding a commanding view of the action. Some games are entirely button-based, while others involve a steering wheel or simulated handguns.

Warning signs at the door note that parental discretion is advised, due to some games containing adult language and themes, and also that the setting may be inappropriate for people with epilepsy or light sensitivity, due to flashing lights. Minors must have adult supervision, and food, drinks and pets (due to pet allergies) are not allowed.

The business, Erin noted, is "closed on Mondays and Tuesdays for maintenance, because these machines require a lot of upkeep and have to be cleaned and polished and waxed."

Dusty Holsonback, a nephew of the Edwards, was part of Saturday's cleaning crew, which can involve anything from getting a pinball "unstuck" to performing basic sanitation on a machine that has been getting plenty of use.

Kara Harsey, a customer from Beech Island, was among Saturday's prize-winners, as she bagged a certificate for free admission for a month. Speaking on behalf of her family group, she said, "We really enjoyed it. It was great ... We were surprised at how many machines were in here."

Eric said the Godzilla machine was hugely popular during the course of the opening day. "I have not gone by that machine once and not seen somebody playing it," he said.

Among other names up in lights were Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Back to the Future, The Munsters, Halloween, Centipede, Lethal Weapon 3, Tron, Metallica and Indiana Jones.

"There really isn't anything specifically like this," Kasubinski said, "because a lot of places, the alcohol comes first. Then the pinball's next. In this place, the pinball and the arcade comes first, and then if you want to drink, you can, so I really like that."

Hours are 3:30-9 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 3-10 p.m. Fridays, noon to 10 p.m. on Saturdays, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays, and the facility is available, when closed, for booking private parties. Details are at 803-373-1717.