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London's last dedicated arcade calls for help after break-in

UPDATE: The HOG hits its £5k donations goal.

UPDATE 24/7/15 2.00pm Burgled London arcade The Heart of Gaming has hit its £5k funding target needed to get back up and running.

In little more than 24 hours, regular visitors and gaming fans from across the world have stepped up to provide the cash needed to help the community venue replace its stolen games and consoles.

The HOG is open again today from 2pm for the first time since it was raided by thieves earlier in the week.

Its GoFundMe campaign is still running. Extra money pledged will go to helping beef up the venue's security systems.

ORIGINAL STORY 23/7/15 4.10pm The Heart of Gaming, London's last dedicated games arcade, has suffered losses of over £5000 after a break-in.

Thieves smashed their way into the community-run building on Tuesday night and targeted its collection of consoles.

But, thankfully, none of its arcade cabinets were stolen or damaged, likely due to the fact that they do not hold any money.

"Because they hadn't touched any of the arcade machines, it suggested to me that [the culprits] had been in there before and 'cased the joint'," owner Mark Starkey told Eurogamer via a phone call today.

"If you didn't know us you would probably go for the arcade machines and break open the coin doors on each."

When we spoke, Starkey was rushed off of his feet. It has been an exhausting few days of picking up the pieces, dealing with police and breaking news of the burglary to his staff and regulars.

But Starkey has also been busy turning things around. Reluctantly, he has begun a GoFundMe campaign to help get the Heart of Gaming - affectionately known as the HOG - back open as soon as possible.

"There would have been a certain degree of pride in just keeping the place going," he sighed, "but this is just too big a hit. We can't simply get the bank card out and recover.

Missing: one TV. 'At least my drums are still there,' one patron commented on Facebook.

"Up until now I've looked at it from the perspective of me being a gamer rather than any kind of businessman. You can't walk here, you do have to pay to get in, why would anyone want to cause trouble?"

The thieves broke into the building via an upstairs fire exit, using a crowbar to break the security bar.

"I went to open up and a few things were not where they should be," Starkey recalled. "I didn't notice anything wrong at first because we're always moving things around, but then I noticed three of the TVs were not there at all. And then I was like... 'where are the PS4s?'

"They were very specific about what they took - it was all new generation stuff. There was a factory-sealed N64 copy of Majora's Mask that they left untouched but all the Wii U games were gone.

"I know what's worth more, but there we go. There were lots of rare game cartridges they could have taken."

The fire exit door, now missing its security bar.

Catching the culprits will be difficult, however. Forensics have visited the HOG to take fingerprints, but narrowing down who has been there and when is nigh-on impossible.

"Forensics might find prints of someone who is registered with the police but it could just be that they had visited us recently for some gaming," Starkey admitted.

"I think there's an unwritten rule in these cases that you just won't get your stuff back."

Starkey has had experience of dealing with insurance companies before and, knowing how long a claim can take to prove, made the decision to begin fundraising so the HOG's doors could be back open sooner rather than later.

Over £3000 has been raised in 24 hours, more than half of the HOG's £5000 target.

But despite being buoyed by the community's response - and donations from across the world - it is clear that Starkey still feels bruised by the whole ordeal.

"We've got a lot of young volunteer staff - they feel very passionately about the project. Sadly, they were the ones affected the most. Some were crying while the police came round and did their thing - more out of anger than sadness.

"It was one of those moments where you question if it's still worth doing what you are doing, but then when you see the support of so many people you feel you have to rise to the responsibility to keep it going for them. There really isn't anywhere else round here like us."

The HOG houses dozens of arcade machines saved from former gaming arcades at the Trocadero and Casino. It began life as a community project and still relies open the help of volunteers.

"It's very rewarding, but it isn't without its fair share of difficulties - sometimes something can happen and it feels like the whole world is against you," Starkey said.

The HOG had just finished a mural tribute to the late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata.

A Facebook post on the HOG's page today has detailed how locals and regulars have offered their help outside of the fundraising campaign.

Looking to the future, Starkey is upbeat:

"I'm pretty sure we will recover the losses one way or another and, if it comes down to it and we do get more money than that, we'll obtain a tighter security system."

For more on the HOG, Simon Parkin visited the arcade for Eurogamer back last summer.

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Tom Phillips avatar

Tom Phillips


Tom is Eurogamer's Editor-in-Chief. He writes lots of news, some of the puns and makes sure we put the accent on Pokémon.

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