In Brooklyn, you can drink beer while you do just about anything at some themed bar. Shuffleboard, darts, pool, mini-golf, horror movies, steampunk, old school arcade games; you name it and you can find it. And now the hipsters have an unlikely ally: Rubik’s cube obsessives. Together, this not-so-odd couple is bringing back the games of our youth.
Ars Technica has a comprehensive rundown on the comeback of the Arcade. In 2011, at least 12 independent arcades opened up in the United States. Sure, 12 isn’t such a huge number, but for a long time that number was negative – arcades were closing down, unable to keep their customers. It could be a fluke, but arcade lovers don’t think so. “I guarantee you’re going to see at least two or three in every city in this country within the next 10 to 15 years,” Chris Laporte, founder of Las Vegas arcade Insert Coin(s), told Ars.
Meanwhile, Rubik’s cube obsessives (and countless electronic distractions) had rendered the puzzle almost irrelevant. The world-champion cuber can solve the thing in 5.66 seconds. It took Usain Bolt almost four second longer to run the 100 meter dash a few days ago.
“Solving a Rubik’s Cube isn’t hard,” said Tyson Mao, one of the organizers told the New York Times. “It’s not impressive that a 5-year-old would be smart enough to solve a Rubik’s Cube. It’s impressive that he would have the patience.”
To spice things up, Rubik’s cubers are introducing new events. There’s blindfolded cube solving, and some even solve it with their feet.
Like arcade games, sales of the cube are on the upswing. In 2000, Rubik’s cubes were the bad gifts you got in your stocking and threw away. In 2008 nearly 15 million of the little blocks were sold globally.
The Times even gives video games a nod in its tribute to the cube:
As a primary-colored offspring of the 1980s, the cube will forever be linked with fads like Pac-Man, neon leggings and Cyndi Lauper. Unlike those fascinations, the Rubik’s Cube is enjoying a resurgence of popularity and, in a world increasingly run by engineers and algorithms, relevance.
Maybe the unifying theme is challenge. It’s way harder to beat PacMan when you’re smashed, and it’s certainly harder to solve a Rubik’s cube with your feet, or with a blindfold on. The next time someone says the human race isn’t making any advances, you know where to point them.
More at Smithsonian.com: