Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Supporting Your Local Game Store Part II

So, I mentioned in my last post that I'd discuss the other two local game stores, as well as going over when I buy online.

The other two game stores locally aren't here anymore, first of all. One is under new ownership in a new location, and the other is gone. And no, I won't name either of them.

As I've matured, my taste in game stores has changed. The game store I used to support had a role-playing and miniatures focus, and it was constantly filled with miniatures gamers. I stopped shopping there when I transitioned to being more of a board gamer than a roleplayer. And when I realized that there were better ways to run a store.

It was the typical Gamer Hole style of game store. That is, there were piles and piles of games in no particular order. The store was cluttered, and the gamers there were the typical unsocialized style of gamer. The owner was more interested in playing games than in running the store, and made liberal use of his regulars for free labor, resulting in a counter which was frequently unattended. I once stood at the front for twenty minutes, waiting for help because I didn't know who was running the register. It was a classic example of monkeys running the zoo. My wife flat refused to set foot in the store after he second visit, as the atmosphere made her extremely uncomfortable - both in terms of the "It's a girl! What do we do?" factor and in terms of the Gamer Funk. Sadly, too many gamer stereotypes have a solid footing in reality.

I never even tried to take my wife into the second game store. I only visited it twice, and both times it was because a friend of mine had seen an out-of-print book I'd been looking for. It was the Gamer Hole taken to the extreme. Where the first store had stacks and stacks of games, this one had stacks and stacks for games mixed liberally with porn. You could be flipping through a stack of First Edition AD&D, and find three or four hardcore pornographic magazines mixed right into the middle of the stack. The aisles were extremely narrow - there wasn't even room to walk around other gamers without both of you holding your breath and trying hard not to touch. There were no windows, either, and the store was under-lit. Badly. I felt like bringing a flashlight with me every time I headed that way. And I took a long shower after visiting.

So if these are your local game stores, then - by all means - shop online.

I actually discussed ordering online with Brian from Phoenix yesterday, when I stopped by to play a game. It took a while to get through the game, because customers kept coming in, and they take priority (which is how a game store should be run).

But here are the circumstances under which when I'll buy online:

1) When it's an in-print game that Brian can't order in for some reason. I can think of two types of games covered by this: Self-published games such as Cobras in the Cockpit and games which are limited and exclusive in some way, such as Mordred. Funagain also used to have some exclusive games. Now that Funagain is working as a distributor as well as a retailer, Brian can get these games in. There are also games that Brian can't get because they're not distributed in the US.

2) When there is an online-only promo. Valley Games makes a special promotion available for each of their pre-orders. Brian could theoretically pre-order them for me, but the additiona effort involved more than offsets the benefit for him.

3) When a game is both out of print and not available though his distributors. Lots of games go out of print, but distributors will frequently still have the game in stock. I remember being able to order Fasa's Star Trek RPG for nearly five years after it went out of print. I loved that game.

In nearly all other circumstances, I'll purchase through Phoenix. GenCon for me is primarily a scouting run - I don't tend to spend a lot of money, there. I come back and ask Brian to order games that I saw that looked cool.

... and that's about all I have to say about that.

For now.


  1. You mention a point that's salient down here in Bakersfield -- game store specialties. I play mostly at The Gaming Experience, which is a mix of card games, miniatures and RPGs, and which has been known to have its weekly D&D group and its Warmachine league going at the same time. The other store in town, Paladin Gaming, has a selection of board games but seems to be entirely a card games store, in terms of the in-store gaming.

    I've suspected that card gaming is the big money-maker for many stores, to the point that I wonder if the Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh players are what makes it possible for Brian to stock a Giant Wall of Board Games.

  2. Now I know the name for the last game store I was in -- a Gamer Hole! It was 90 minutes away from my house, but my friend and I were exploring so that didn't matter much. However, it was a bit disappointing to finally get there and find a dirty store with a staff that didn't seem to know anything about the games on the shelf. It also appeared to be the Saturday hang-out for 10-year-old boys while their moms went shopping. It made me thankful that my son has a nice, clean Books-A-Million to go to for Yu-Gi-Oh tournaments.

  3. Anonymous2:10 PM

    Jim, are you in Bakersfield, California?

    Eric, I have a guess as to which game stores you are speaking of. If we're thinking of the some places, the rundown place you mentioned last was a ctually a fun destination for me because of, as you mentioned, the odd stuff you'll find. MOvie stuff, porn, comics, minnies, shirts, and all sorts of other bric-brac. I vaguely remember being pleasently surprised by some of the stuff I was able to discover there.

  4. Brian, I am indeed in Bakersfield, Calif. I moved here in May. The gamers are nice, but there aren't nearly enough of them for someone who spent time in the Puget Sound Warhammer/Warmachine and board gaming scenes.

  5. Anonymous6:23 PM

    Jim, I had no idea you moved... Eric never mentioned it to me.

    I a ksed because Bakersfield is where I was born.

    Take care!