The Passion Behind the Installation
Lucky Strike’s Jim Bennington on Going Larger Than Life with Fast & Furious Arcade
By Matt Harding
Lucky Strike Entertainment also chases the “Oh wow!” moment for guests and to do just that, its newly-renovated Chicago location features a whopping eight linked Fast & Furious Arcade drivers, making a 16-screen statement that you’ve got to see to believe. It’s more than a game – or a row of games – it’s an attraction unto itself! The big footprint of linked machines is a next-level installation that hopefully can inspire others in the industry and show what’s possible at FECs. RePlay recently heard from Lucky Strike’s director of entertainment, Jim Bennington, about why the company is placing their bets on Fast & Furious.
RePlay: Tell us why Lucky Strike decided to go all out with the Fast & Furious Arcade placement.
Jim Bennington: Since 2004 with our first Lucky Strike arcade location, we have remained committed to allocating floor space, marketing resources and operations support for larger-than-life experientials as a cornerstone for group play. Our Lucky Strike Chicago F&F attraction is no exception. This thing is as much fun to play as it is a visual impact in the venue.
The Raw Thrills design team has done an amazing job pulling all the best elements of their game development experience to deliver a new breed of world-class motion-based experience that can be appreciated by all ages and driving skill levels.
What did you think when you first saw the game? What about it do you think will particularly wow players and bring them back for more?
To answer that we have to go back to some place and time that neither Andy Eloff (Raw Thrills’ VP/COO), Chris Snitchler (Lucky Strike’s Integrated Systems Administrator) or I can pinpoint – but know it was before 2019. We were discussing the differences between good and great attractions in a modern arcade, what legacy games we would want to play on modern technology and most importantly, support and maintain it beyond five years. With Raw Thrills’ history of continually supporting their game catalog, it was a fun conversation that revealed gaps in the attractions market at that time.
Next thing you know, there’s an invite to join the leadership and Raw Thrills design team for a “Lunch and Learn” video call in the spring of 2021. It was that call that really helped me appreciate the depth of extremely talented humans that make up the Raw Thrills team and I felt honored to be welcomed into their circle.
The rest of 2021 into 2022, it became clear to me that Raw Thrills was up to something. When we got to peek behind the curtain in early 2022, it was jaw-dropping to see. Their team had produced a complete experience and wrapped it in a global IP with stunning detail, fluidly smooth motions synchronized and focused on the player experience. I didn’t make Bowl Expo 2022 and only got to play for the first time while at the Big Buck World Championships. As a player, that was the day I fell back in love with racing games. As an operator, I was excited for the next evolution of motion-based amusement attractions. The game has layers of features to drive repeat plays during the same visit.
Tell us the details of your installation and why you decided to make such a big statement.
The Chicago arcade was going through a renovation last summer. We were preparing for the reopening and had to make a hard call to reduce the scale of a major attraction due to supply chain and reduced support issues. That created the perfect opportunity to present F&F to our founders and board of directors for consideration. The uniqueness of this game’s presence is a big statement – whether it’s a 2-, 4-, 6- or 8-car setup. It’s a gorgeous game that has immediate universal appeal.
What challenges did you face to clear space on the floor for such an installation?
Oddly enough, even in a climate of supply chain excuses, I don’t feel we had any challenges accommodating the game. Everyone did their part. When introducing a new entertainment option at Lucky Strike, each department head has a responsibility in delivering a quality experience to our guests. For example, our Event Sales teams are excited to introduce Fast & Furious Arcade as an enhancement to our team building and larger group events with hosted races. Our marketing and in-house production teams are engaged at a high level to introduce the attraction to our guests, while our dedicated arcade technical team provides a premium play experience.
The delivery and installation coordination from Shaffer Distributing was on point and keenly focused. With constant communication – from order to delivery – Marty Turner and the Shaffer Distributing logistics teams are masters of their craft, landing all the elements with ease. We had the attraction unboxed, built and playing in no time.
Want to give a shout-out to the other members of your team?
On behalf of the Lucky Strike Entertainment leadership team, we’d first shout out the people that crafted the essence of a fun experience – the designers, artists and engineers behind the scenes at Raw Thrills for producing a great game that scales from a single seat to mega attraction effortlessly.
Eugene and Andy have assembled a crew of passionate doers that respond as equally to the player experience as they do the operator’s needs – consistently supporting and delivering games that drive repeat plays. Major props to the Lucky Strike Games & Lanes Crew in Downtown Chicago that made this installation a success: Chicago GM Marlon Tse, Logan Petit, Isaiah Kathy, Cesare Smetters and Hunter Baldwin.
On a side note: I personally had the privilege to work with Don Marshall in setting up the photo shoot for this feature and that was a personal highlight for me being a lifelong fan of his work. Extras Casting, Craft Services, Grip and “Fog Wrangler” will be proudly added to my resume under his guidance.
Will F&F be installed similarly in other Lucky Strike locations or is this THE big one?
I feel confident that this is a new benchmark for a motion-based video game attraction that’s homegrown, produced and supported in the United States – that’s something to celebrate! As we create new Lucky Strike opportunities to include the full-scale attraction in our other locations, we may go big. I can tell you, it’s not easy to free up 36 feet of wall space in any arcade, so I am appreciative of the flexibility that comes with the option of scaling 2 to 8 units.
We are excited to create new experiences for our guests – such as developing a tournament to find and reward the best Fast & Furious Arcade racers. Scan the QR code at the start of the game and keep a close eye on the Raw Thrills Hall of Fame site to see how you rank against Lucky Strike Chicago!