Geek's Guide to Durham
Everyone knows Durham is great for beer, food, and tech. But if you’re a geek, gamer, or any other sort of nerd, you might be surprised to find out just how many places Durham has that support your obsessions.
Posted By Discover Durham Staff on Jul 13, 2017
Whether you like board games, role-playing games, or good old fashioned 8-bit games, there’s a place for you here. Check out just a few of the places where you can freely get your geek on:
Located in the Westgate Shopping Center off 15/501, Atomic Empire has been pumping life into the local geek community for almost 15 years! Enter the building and get lost in aisles of comic books, board games, card games, collectors’ toys, miniatures, and tabletop RPG books. For those with a competitive spirit in them, the back half of Atomic Empire is a giant play area that is used to host game tournaments of all types. Grab your d20 and some pen and paper to join their Pathfinder or Dungeons & Dragons leagues, dust off that old deck box to play some Magic: The Gathering, or load up your rebel squadron to jump into the Star Wars X-Wing league. With beer on tap and snacks in good supply, you’ll want to check out their calendar of events and make this a priority stop.
When you just want to have a good time with some fellow game enthusiasts and avoid taking out a second mortgage to have a few drinks, the Fern is a good place to visit. This small social club has a dive bar vibe, featuring a whole wall full of board games that you can grab and play for free. There are no televisions in sight, so if you’re looking to catch a “sportsball game” (as they describe it), you’ll be out of luck. But if you want a couple drinks and to play some obscure board games, you may just find your new home.
For those of you who were raised in the 1980s on the backs of coin operated arcade games and pinball machines, you’ll feel right at home. Opening just a few weeks ago, Quarter Horse Arcade has brought the Tron-era arcade vibe to Durham. Their darkened room is lit by neon lights, and the dings and clacks of vintage pinball machines fill your ears almost immediately. Behind the bar, you can get a drink poured from bar taps shaped like Pac-Man or Link’s Master Sword, and if you’re hungry, you can grab some classic childhood treats like Pop tarts, Kool-Aid, or Sour Patch Kids. Bring some quarters and some friends and relive those 1980s glory days.
If taking a nostalgia trip to the 1980s isn’t your thing, then head a couple blocks up to Augmentality Labs, North Carolina’s first virtual-reality arcade. Opening on July 22, 2017, this building hosts six 100-square-foot VR stations. Stop by, put on your HTC Vive VR headset, and get lost in a virtual world. You can even book your VR station online ahead of time so you don’t have to wait in line. The owners also plan to have a space for old school gaming where you can fight your friends in Super Smash Bros on the N64, or team up to take down some bad dudes in Streets of Rage for the Sega Genesis.
If you’re looking to take your puzzle solving skills and apply them in the real world, there are plenty of options for escape the room experiences in Durham. In the Westgate Shopping Center (near Atomic Empire), you can find Mission X Escape, featuring more adult/horror-themed experiences. Near downtown you have a couple of options: Bull City Escape and NC Escape both offer 60-minute adventures with several family-friendly options.
Each November, cosplayers, comic fans, artists, and gamers gather in Durham for weekend-long celebration of comic culture. Get merchandise signed by the artists, participate in workshops, attend panel discussions, and go all out for the Saturday night cosplay party featuring live music and dancing. This year's Comicon is Nov. 10-12.
No matter what kind of thing you’re passionate about, there’s someplace to fill that niche. If you’re a big movie buff, maybe you want to check out Carolina Theatre’s Retro Film Series running from July to December. If you’re a fan of things that go bump in the night, check out the creepy creations over at Little Shop of Horror. If you’re more of the science and tech type, the Museum of Life and Science offers several adult-oriented programs, like exploring the museum kid-less or tinkering with parts and pieces to build something cool (all while drinking beer, of course). With this many options, there’s a little something for everyone in Durham.