I recently gave my cousin a campus tour. I showed him the acoustic benches, told him stories about a man named Smoot, and even took him sailing on the Charles. But what was it that fascinated him the most? What was the catalyst behind his newfound desire to be a beaver? Certainly not the abundance of Athena clusters nor the world class gym. Instead, it was — I know you were thinking it all along — the Student Center arcade. Its sole apparent purpose, other than providing two outlets of DDR mayhem, is to lure prospective students to campus, namely, my 10-year-old cousin.
Don’t get me wrong; I like to play video games. But it does not make sense that the most prime real estate on campus is dedicated to a space that an infinitesimal minority uses. Moreover, this minority only really uses the two DDR machines. If you poll the people at the other machines (as I did today), most don’t even go to MIT. The reason is simple: the majority of MIT students who play video games have better systems and games in their rooms, which they can play for free. The arcade was put in place at a time when it was used as a stress-relief; it no longer serves its purpose. A small group is utilizing a mere fraction of the space. It is obsolete.
Economically, the arcade represents a huge loss in opportunity cost. It does not present MIT with a monetary incentive, as it offers negligible profits. If the space was rented to an outside vendor, MIT could make money from rent or commission, while students would simultaneously obtain a desired service. If I am wrong, and there is truly a demand for 80s video games, the profits made from the rent of the space could buy better games to be put in dormitories, not to mention the existing games and pool tables. Moreover, most serious gamers play online, thus there is little need for a centralized gaming room.
I have a suggestion; it is a hackneyed, yet viable, option for the dead space: Starbucks, yes, I really said it. The stores are franchised, and thus, the benefits are threefold. First, MIT would directly profit from the sale of beverages. Second, there would be decent coffee this side of Kendall Square. And third, students could work at the store, thereby increasing the options for work study. An alternative to the Starbucks suggestion is a competitor to La Verde’s; the prices are ridiculous.
Something that presents no benefit to students or the institution has no place on our campus. The Undergraduate Association should do its job and optimize the little space available to students. Stata already boasts a day care center.
Aditya Kohli is a member of the Class of 2009.