Women We Admire: Aimee Rubin of Game on State
Aimee Rubin gets a high score for her inclusive, family entertainment space that is “Everybody’s Arcade”.
Down along State Street in Media, the brightly colored awning above the entrance to Game on State hints at the fun and games inside. It’s an arcade and it’s packed with old-school faves like Pac-Man, Donkey-Kong, pinball, and more. To top off the nostalgia there’s also a candy shop inside, brimming with modern and vintage sweets. With Game on State, owner Aimee Rubin set out to create a wholesome place for kids and families to play together. But she’s also fulfilling another mission: to provide employment to individuals with disabilities.
As a former teacher and longtime resident of the Media area, Aimee has always been active in the community and someone who wants to help. During the pandemic, she and a neighbor formed Circle of Giving, a charity that was providing basic necessities to families in need, which has raised more than $200,000 to date. However, wanting to help empower disabled individuals is a mission that’s close to her heart because it hits close to home.
The story of Game on State is partly her eldest son’s story. As a child, he was diagnosed with a rare chronic pulmonary illness and has “special needs around executive function and anxiety,” explains Aimee.
In the fall of 2020 her son went away to college, but things didn’t work out and he came home after six weeks. He began working a retail job, but struggled with the role and wasn’t hired back after the holiday break. She found out that the management hadn’t even realized her son had special needs, just that he had difficulties on the job. So they let him go.
Aimee hit a breaking point of sorts. “How am I going to fix this?” she thought. “I can help all these other people, but how do I help my own child?”
Customized and Supported Employment
Aimee spent many hours of many days on the phone trying to get services for her son and trying to figure out “what form or what department to get this or that?”
Eventually she found her way through the maze and discovered the Community Integrated Services (CIS) of Delaware County. This organization places individuals with disabilities in jobs using a customized and supported employment program. Aimee explains the program this way: “local businesses can partner with CIS and customize a job for individuals with disabilities, so that they can be successful.”
Through this CIS program, Aimee’s son began working at a job with the support of a coach. With that assistance in place, he progressed along a path to success and independence. Nowadays he’s happily working in a full-time position as a job coach, helping others with disabilities.
Aimee was incredibly grateful to have found this program for her child, but wondered, “What do people do who don’t have someone like me to find the answers for them? What happens to these other people?”
She realized that there was “this whole population out there that needed help” and that wasn’t acceptable to her.
The Lightbulb Moment
Through her work with the Circle of Giving charity, Aimee learned about a prime storefront space that was available on State Street. It was right in the heart of Media’s shopping district. One day, her husband Eric, who had loved going to arcades down the shore as a kid, said he had an idea. “What if we opened an arcade in that retail space on State Street and hired customized and supported employees?”
“That’s when the lightbulb went off!” says Aimee. “He always wanted to open an arcade and I wanted to help people.”
What’s more, they both agreed that although Media had a lively and walkable downtown, there really wasn’t that much for kids and teens to do. They felt that bringing “the nostalgic feel of arcades to Media,” would be a welcome addition to the town.
That lightbulb moment happened in February 2021. By October of that same year, Aimee and her husband opened Game on State and declared it “everybody’s arcade.” This motto sums up Aimee’s business mission. That is to provide a safe, inclusive gaming space for individuals of all ages, backgrounds—and all levels of abilities. Beginning at day one, Aimee has worked with CIS, to hire disabled persons and create customized roles for them.
“We create jobs for individuals based on what they CAN do, not what they can’t do,” explains Aimee. And there are a lot of tasks that her disabled employees can do at Game on State. They greet customers, create candy boxes, and fill the candy bags, which need to be weighed, sealed, and labeled.
When deciding how many disabled employees to hire, she modeled her staff on the percentage of the US population who are disabled.
Aimee says, “About 20% of our employees have disabilities, like Pedro, who has Cerebral Palsy and uses a speech device. Pedro is the most amazing individual. He sits in the front and greets everyone using his device and he maintains the candy selection. He did a story time with the kids at Christmas and taught himself how to stamp our shopping bags with his elbows. We call him our ambassador.”
When kids and adults come into the arcade and browse the candy, they interact with Pedro and other disabled employees. It helps everyone become more accustomed to seeing disabled persons with an active role in the community. And that’s good for everybody.
Says Aimee, “I really feel as a teacher and a mom that you always want to lead by example. My goal was to have children come into the store and see these employees who may be in a wheelchair and normalize it. I want kids to see that those individuals can work and realize, ‘I can go up and talk to them.’
In this way, she hopes that “the community can be a kinder place.”
Game on State is a diverse and inclusive entertainment space where everyone can enjoy nostalgic and modern gaming experiences in the heart of downtown Media. As a timed play arcade, no quarters are required—gamers can play any game they want for $7.50 per half-hour or $12.50 per hour. Parents may drop off children, ages 11 and older, to stay and play independently and safely until pickup. Game On State also offers packages for birthdays, private events, and all kinds of gatherings. Be sure to check google maps for their updated weekly hours.