When you walk down Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs on any given summer day, there’s a distinctive, lilting buzz emanating from the center of the busy thoroughfare.
It’s the combination of electric dinging, frenetic laughter, and outbursts of exultation coming from Ryan Family Amusements game room.
“I won, I won!” shouted 12-year-old Carter Etzel to his mother, Samantha, who was going head-to-head with her younger daughter, Grace, in a game of Connect 4 Hoops.
Carter pumped his fist in the air as the rainbow-colored Spin-N-Win slowed to a stop after a successful whirl.
The Oak Bluffs entertainment center features more than 75 offerings, from a variety of racing games and skeeball to giant Pac-Man and endless multiplayer arcade games. For years, the game room has been serving up friendly competition and old-fashioned entertainment to kids and families wanting a fun evening in town.
“Nice job, what prize are you going to pick out?” Carter’s mother asked him.
“Well, what kinds of prizes do they have?” he asked.
After a difficult year with little up-close interaction, Ryan Family Amusements is busy as ever as kids make up lost time with their friends, and parents connect with their children through the joys of gaming.
After popping open a small box containing a multicolored Slinky, Carter ran over to show his prize to his sister.
“I think it’s a lot of fun,” Carter told The Times of the game room, which he said has become one of his favorite places to hang out during the summer.
It was his first time hitting the big numbers on the Spin-N-Win, but Carter said he’s been scoring on the claw machines all day.
“I’m pretty good at those — I’ve gotten a bunch of stuffed animals, plus I just got this,” he said, displaying his new Slinky proudly.
Carter said he comes to the game room each Friday whenever his family travels to the Vineyard for vacation.
When asked what other hobbies he has during his summer trips, Carter said he likes going to South Beach right before the game room, to use his boogie board.
Another young gamer, 13-year-old Nick Roland, had just gotten back from having ice cream with his family across the street at Ben and Bills and was on his way to the arcade racing section of the game room. “I like to go fast,” Nick said as he drifted a dirt track corner in his virtual American muscle car.
Apart from racing games, Nick said, he has so far conquered all his family members at skeeball, and is looking for an opponent to give him a good challenge. “They haven’t even come close to beating me,” Nick laughed as he hopped out of the driver’s seat and headed over to the motorcycle racing area.
His braggadocio was short-lived, as his friend Jonathan left him in the dust on the final lap of a motorcycle race, and narrowly beat his score in skeeball.
Nick’s mother, Kathy, giggled as her son’s winning spree was put to rest, and said the game room is one of her favorite places to take her family, especially when she wants her kids to burn off some energy. “It’s definitely a whole lot of fun. I might enjoy it even more than the kids do, if that’s even possible,” she smiled.
One thing Kathy said she likes the most about the game room is the wide variety of experiences they offer, and the open setting of the entertainment center, located on the most happening street on the Vineyard.
“My husband and I love coming here with the kids because they have such a good time, and a lot of the time they end up meeting new friends — it’s so important for them to have those cool new experiences, especially after they weren’t really allowed to do anything for so long,” Kathy said.
Ryan Family Amusements is located at 19 Circuit Ave., Oak Bluffs. They’re open from 10 am to 9 pm every day during the summer. Call 508-687-9179, or visit their website at ryanfamily.com.