Tucked behind a labyrinthine arrangement of pinball machines and arcade games in the dark series of rooms he calls his "headquarters," Adler's professional world looks a lot like a teenager's dream. Sitting in his office in jeans and a baseball cap, between a collection of decorative garden gnomes and a stack full of rolled quarters — both the literal and the figurative currency of the small gaming empire he's crafted out of his childhood hobby — he acknowledges this. "I can play games whenever I want," Adler says, and grins.

And the biggest game of all is about to begin. "If we do it right — which we will — that's a huge step," he vows. "I've grown from an arcade kid into an arcade adult, and I want to make this an arcade city. But it's the kid back there at the McDonald's that still guides me."

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