Game On

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Ernesto Treviño is putting a social spin on a popular activity.

Inside a plaza across the street from the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle is Iron Bones, a “modern arcade” that has the latest consoles and games in a setting where kids can do what they already love together.

He watched his children and nephews get into gaming and get bullied in school for it. He knew a place to play with like-minded kids was a need in the community.

After looking around for what he envisioned, he realized he’d have to create his own space if he wanted to do it right.

“I have a total of 25 to 26 consoles,” Treviño said. “Of course they all have TVs. Some are curved monitors. We have screens of all different sizes. It’s a lounge type of setting; we even have sports packages on TV so they can come in and watch games.”

Iron Bones offers more than just the latest games. It is also a place for gamers to get together, make friends, and enjoy a safe haven.

The idea was born at the height of the pandemic when the house was noisy, and Treviño was getting into games. He noticed that video games were something that captured the attention of youngsters in his family.

Gaming has steadily shifted from an arcade trend in the 1980s and has moved closer and closer to home. At-home gaming with consoles, like PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo systems, has become commonplace over the decades.

Cell phones make it even easier to play a video game at any time.

This easy access to digital fun is great for gamers, but the downside is a possible disconnect from others and social anxiety outside of games. Treviño feels that Iron Bones can tackle that problem by getting young people in the same room to “squad up” in person.

“Maybe your kid is a little too isolated, and you want them to socialize,” he said. “It’s the place to be. There are a lot of ways to get in trouble, and we want to be able to give an option away from that.

“It’s a good place for kids. We hope parents can feel comfortable when they hear about us. We’re an arcade. You don’t have to drop your kids at the mall, worry where they are and spend a lot of money.”

It’s not his first business, but Treviño said it’s a stiff challenge to stay profitable in this economic climate. Helping kids who might be shy or bullied in school and giving them a place to have a good time is enough for him. He has seen Iron Bones turn into a place where people can feel safe.

“For the kids that go, it’s definitely worth it — a dream come true,” Treviño said. “It makes me happy…doing something good for the Valley.”

Iron Bones is located at 200 W Expy 83 Suite N, San Juan, TX 78589. The arcade offers monthly memberships, as well as daily passes.

Nathaniel Mata