Sanctuary: A Gamer’s Vintage Arcade

Back in the days before everyone had an Xbox or PlayStation, you had to leave home if you wanted to play Pac-Man, Q*Bert, or any of your other favorite video games. Jeremy Wagner loved those games, and, as seen in Zillow’s “Sanctuary” series, he has re-created the sights and sounds of the video arcades of his youth – right in his own basement.

Q: How would you describe your sanctuary?

A: Several descriptions: This used to be my playground, this is the dream God helped make a reality, it is my quiet place late night.

Q:  Where is it located?

A: Just outside of St. Louis, MO, in my basement.

Q: What do you like best about the physical space?

A: The lights, the sounds, the feeling like I’m home, or never left the arcade as a child.

Q: What’s your home like? Is your sanctuary is an extension or departure from your home? 

A: Ranch style, 6 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, finished basement. It’s an extension of our home. When visitors come, they migrate from the upper level to the basement. It is fluid.

Q: Did you have your sanctuary in mind when you chose your home?

A: We were looking for a new home because of our expanding family – we were having more kids. The space for a basement arcade was a must when looking for a new home.

Q: Do you own or rent your home/sanctuary?

A: Own.

Q: What was the tipping point that made you say “I’m doing it – I’m creating a sanctuary”?

A: When all my arcade machines slowly kicked all the cars out of the garage at our last house.

Q: How was it created/built, and by whom?

A: I created and built it myself. My father-in-law helped build the bar.

Q: What was the biggest challenge in creating your sanctuary?

A: Dealing with water issues. The unfinished part of the basement was leaking water two days after we moved in, and that area was supposed to be my future arcade. I spent two weeks digging trenches, laying a new French drain, extending all the downspouts away from the house, and sealing all the cracks in the basement. But it’s seven years later, and there are still no leaks!

Q: Has your sanctuary always looked the same or has it changed over time?

A: My sanctuary has changed with time as I have maxed out my space with new games, rotating games, more lights and lighting (like neons and LED strips) and more wall decorations.

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Q: How much time do you typically spend in your sanctuary?

A: Maybe six hours a week, unless friends are over or I’m having a large group over for various reasons. Work and family take up my time.

Q: How did you get into that video games in the first place?

A: I have a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. I’ve been working with electronics since I was 12. When I first found out that I could buy broken arcade games cheap, it seemed like a natural use of my existing talents. Plus, fixing them is very rewarding

Q:  Does your hobby influence what you do professionally or vice versa?

A: They don’t cross over.

Q: How does it make you feel to be able to have a space devoted to your hobby?

A: God helped me make my dream a reality. I feel blessed in more ways than you can imagine, which is why I share this space with as many people as possible – and often people I don’t know.

Q: Do you share your sanctuary with anyone?

A: All the time. In fact, the day after the Zillow film crew left, two guys came out to visit the space from San Diego. I have opened up my home and arcade to churches, birthday parties, graduation parties, holiday parties, summer camp kids, and many others.

Q: If you had to sum it up in one word, what does the space draw out of you as a person?

A: Creativity.

Q: Is this your forever sanctuary, or would you build another?

A: I’ve maxed out the current space, and I still have a creative streak in me. Someday there will be a new, bigger home and a new, bigger arcade.

Q: If you had a do-over, would you change anything about your sanctuary?

A: No. It’s perfect.

Q: Do you wish you had found your sanctuary sooner?

A: My life wasn’t ready for it, my finances weren’t ready for it, my faith wasn’t ready for it. It all happened in the timeframe that it was supposed to happen. I’m not saddened by that.

Q: What advice would you share with those who dream of having a sanctuary someday?

A: It takes time, patience and dedication. Anything is possible if you believe.

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