The Importance of Tabletop

Today, I am going to write a rousing article today about the importance of tabletop gaming. I could simply tell you that nothing beats a night of gaming with your friends and family. That’s more than enough of an argument. No elaboration needed. But what kind of fun would that be? Let me take you on a trip down memory lane…

playing

When I was young, I was admittedly a video game junkie. I spent my days holed up in my room with my controller in hand and snacks nearby. Loud digital noises assailed my ears, bright pixels assaulted my eyes. And life was good. It was a solitary one though.

Jump ahead to high school, where I picked up Magic the Gathering. I found that there was a certain magic (forgive the pun) that came from spending my time in the school foyer playing with other social outcasts. (Magic was very much a niche thing back then.) It  was the gateway to a lifetime of tabletop experiences.

In college a certain little anime known as Dragonball Z was a big deal. This was the Toonami era. Students of all kinds stuffed themselves into lounges to watch the next exciting installment, and we usually hung around to talk about it afterwards. So, you can imagine my excitement when I visited a local game store down the street from campus, and found that they had a Dragonball Z role-playing game! I had never run an RPG before, but I figured that it would be time to learn. We got a group together and had a blast. And that was it. Tabletop gaming was now a passion rather than a hobby.

I still take time to play, as often as I can. Every week, my friends and I get together, head out to fill our bellies with local Kent cuisine, (Have you ever had a slice of Ramella’s pizza?) and we settle in for a night of gaming. We typically cycle through Dungeons and Dragons one week, and Scion the next, with a smattering of board games for good measure. It’s the thing I look forward to the most every week.

Why? Because there’s something just flat out magical about tabletop gaming, something you just can’t get from a video game or anything else. A group of people playing a board game aren’t just playing, they’re in a battle of wits. Resources are bought and sold, territories are conquered, and deals are made. It brings out our ruthless sides, as well as our benevolent sides. We eliminate our rivals, or we work together to defeat a malicious threat.

Togetherness is the point.  It’s all about being there, in the moment with your hearty band of adventurers. It’s about looking around the table and wondering which of your friends is going to go turncoat and knock you out of the game. It’s about an experience you just can’t get with a headset and an Xbox live account.

As long as there are people who want to play together, to have fun together, and maybe throw down some dice (together!), there will always be a place in the world for tabletop games.

Not just a Magic Store

It’s the day of a big MTG qualifier/GP/anotherhugetournament. Tables are filled, hundreds of people throwing down in a bid for cardboard supremacy. 

If you’re seeing this, you must be playing somewhere else. 

We’re a game store. We sell RPGs, minis, accessories, CCGs, and all sorts of stuff. You’ll see Magic the Gathering on the shelf too. And apparently this makes us a Magic store. 

There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t hear “What kind of a Magic store is this?” and the answer is always the same. “We’re not a Magic store.”  And people are utterly blown away by this concept. A lot of people have tunnel vision when it comes to their favorite games. Hey, it happens. Nothing else registers in their minds but the one game they happen to play. No other card game EXISTS other than to be mocked or measured up against your favorite game. And of course, this isn’t limited to Magic. It exists in all other games too. They all have their diehards. 

But I never set out to appeal to any ONE group. I want to provide a unique experience that can’t be duplicated by others. And that doesn’t just apply to what we sell, but to our community as well. We’ve done off the cuff events. I dragged a TV downstairs and stayed open late so we could all play Injustice: Gods Among us when it launched. Because it was fun. We’ve had taco parties, pizza parties, Halloween parties, and everything in between. 

Why? 

Because it’s fun. And the people who attend these things have a lot of fun. (I would hope.) I know it’s not a Magic prerelease or a major tournament, but why should it have to be? Why do My Little Pony screenings every weekend? Because a LOT of us are Bronies. Yes, it’s a group you might not like, tolerate, or understand, but we’re all inclusive. There is no hate here. Only love. And a dash of insanity. And that’s the kind of awesome that’s hard to find anywhere else. 

Yes, there are a lot of “Magic stores” out there. And you’re more than welcome to go to them if that’s your thing. Find a store that suits your hardcore needs. Every place is an experience of its own.

As we move forward into the fall, you’re going to see a LOT more of what makes GG so unique and out there. Parties? sure? multiple events for those of us who play other games? Absolutely. I’ll finally be flexing my DM muscles for D&D Encounters this fall. More Ponies are going to be played. More Krosmasters will be drafted. More minis will be painted and played. And yes, more Magic prereleases will happen. (Midnight ones especially..Khans of Tarkir anyone?) 

You can buy booster packs anywhere. You can feed your money to the big box retail machine. But you can’t buy an experience. (Okay, you can, but those tend to be a bit seedy…) When Wal-Mart or Target provides fun, quirkiness, or a sense of community, let me know. Until then, I’m gonna put on my party hat and get back to planning some cool stuff for you all. 🙂 

Supply and Demand

I’ve talked before about supporting small businesses. You can go back a bit and read that blog entry if you’re interested. 

 

I’m kind of going to go a little further on that front, and talk about something a little more close to home.  

You might not know this, but we game store owners are not fabulously wealthy. We have families to support, mouths to feed, and the future to save up for, same as you. For those of us who choose to make this our livelihood, we’re equal parts insane and hopeful. Sure there are other game store owners out there who want to be an all encompassing game monopoly, or ones who are concerned with being THE BEST at whatever game they support, but for most of us, all we want is to go day to day. And we really love and care for our stores and our community, because they’re our livelihood, and even more importantly, because gaming NEEDS a community to stay strong and healthy. 

Now let’s talk about bigger stores and BIG BOX retailers. They are more than willing to put down absurd amounts of money on products, because they can usually move them pretty easily. (Be it impulse purchases near the checkout lane, or massive amounts of theft at your local Wal-Mart or Target.) But they’re usually okay with it. They have millions of dollars to work with. They can afford to take a hit if things don’t sell. And yes, game companies eat this up. (Not all, but there are a couple) and go so far as to limit traditional game stores in favor of the big boxes. And this is terrible. 

We rely heavily on pre-orders and interest to gauge how much our communities want a new game. If there isn’t a buzz about it, we won’t invest heavily into it. Because if it doesn’t sell, we’re in trouble if we put a ton of money into it. If a new Magic set comes out, and nobody pre-orders a box or two, we might not stock much of it, because the interest doesn’t seem to be there. 

That’s why we at GG are very supportive of special orders. (We even offer discounts for it.) Because it doesn’t take us that long to get you a game you want, and it helps us make sure that if we order it, somebody will want it. 

Now why talk about the differences in the two kinds of stores again? Because its relevant. People will go to Wal-Mart, buy tons of packs of the latest CCG, then tap themselves out. Then they go to the local game store, and find they have packs there. But they won’t buy them because they tapped out their wallets. And if enough people do this, you have people sitting around playing, which is awesome, but with cards they picked up from bigger stores. Which is awesome for them, but doesn’t help keep the doors open for your local game store. 

And yes, I admit that I don’t always carry alot of CCG boosters. And that is typically your reason. I spend a lot of my days watching people come in and brag about what they bought at a bigger store, or about huge events at other stores. And I say “Well if they’re getting it there, I’m going to focus on other things that sell well here!” It’s a logical reaction. And one that helps keep a roof over my head. And while it’s good for the player who found the cards wherever, it’s bad for their local game stores, where events can be run. 

And people might say “Well I don’t have a lot of money, can I trade cards in?” And the answer to that is usually “sure!” But then if the case is filled with singles that don’t sell, it becomes a losing proposition. Why take in what won’t sell for things that do? It’s bad for everyone, because then I can’t focus on stocking the shelves with things you DO want. 

I had considered how to say this, but I’ll be blunt: If you don’t get your product from a game store, you won’t HAVE a game store. It really is that simple. For many of us, this is a labor of love. We love what we do, and are willing to accept that it’s going to be hard. But we keep it up out of love. Our community means everything to us, but we need a little help from them to keep things going. And that help comes in the form of buying product from us, or spreading the word about us to new people. Gaming is an activity that is meant to be shared by everyone, and big retailers don’t give a crap about it. 

And yes, you might say “well that’s fine, because if you go down, there will be other places to go.” 

And if that’s your mentality, then well…You’re a terrible human being. 

Kickstarter: To Kickstart or not to Kickstart.

Kickstarter: A place people go to present new ideas and products with minimal risk. If a project doesn’t get funded, no big except for a little disappointment. More often than not, nothing but time and minimal money are lost. If it succeeds, sweet. 

 

The allure of tons of exclusive content, stretch goal rewards, and all other sorts of cool extras are very appealing, and can really get some mileage out of your pledges, and some of them are just plain awesome. 

But here’s the kicker: I don’t support Kickstarter. Not really. 

As a gamer, all the new games that pop up on Kickstarter are drool inducing. The extras are gravy on the delicious mashed potatoes of gaming. But then I step back, remember that I’m a retailer, and the lovely feast quickly becomes cold and stale. 

Why? 

Because deep down, I believe that Kickstarters are detrimental to the Friendly Local Game Stores. 

Yes, I went there. And before you scratch your heads or raise pitchforks and torches, let me explain. 

As a FLGS, we thrive on hype for current games, and the excitement of upcoming games. Because nothing is more exciting than picking up a game and realizing there’s more down the pipeline. You get hyped, and excited, you put in that pre-order with your store. 

But then Kickstarter comes along. It offers the next expansion. Because funding a new product can be scary. It offers the expansion you want, but for the same price you would pay in a store, you’ll get extra swag. And stretch goals. And you go “Well holy carp! That’s amazing!” And you click that fund button. 

Okay, sweet. You’ve scored that product. But then your FLGS gets the game down the line, after its met its funding goals. And they stock it, and promote the awesome new epansion. But nobody buys it. Because they all got it from Kickstarter. And it sits on the shelves. Sure, the FLGS can always attract new fans to the games, as they should, but a large part of the target audience for the game has already picked up their expansions from Kickstarter. 

And I know it sounds like sour grapes, but the reality is that your local FLGS wants to stay open. To give you a safe warm place to play games with others. And they should all want that for sure. But when things come in and don’t sell, it makes it hard for them to justify new purchases. For some smaller stores, hype for new stuff is super important, because it helps make ordering those new things less of a risk. 

In this way, I suppose Kickstarter and FLGSes are very alike: 

-Often, the goal of a Kickstarter is to gauge interest in a new product. If it doesn’t get funded, people might not be interested. And little is lost. 

-FLGSes rely on hype of new stuff, and pre-orders are important too. It gauges interest in new product. Major retailers can afford to order pallets of new stuff and if it doesn’t sell, it doesn’t sell. But investing in a new item can be pricey and more of an impact on a FLGS if it doesn’t sell. 

So there’s that. Now, some companies do alleviate this somewhat by offering Kickstarter exclusives for retailers. It’s neat to be able to get these books for customers, but ours tend to come with no real frills. So the customer who picks it up themselves from Kickstarter gets tons of extras, and has little incentive to get it from us. 

So am I saying Kickstarter hurts small businesses? Yes and No. Like I said, if people love the project on Kickstarter and fund it, then the companies who make the product can release it in stores. But we lose a lot of fans who already love these games. Yes, we can still find new people to amaze with these awesome games, but it’s a little harder when we lose all of the established fans. 

But on a positive side, When we as store owners find cool retail levels on kickstarter, or even just invest in it ourselves, we often get the products much earlier than the general public, and can use them to generate love for the game. ( I did this for Golden Sky Stories and Relic Knights!) So they can be a positive investment for us. 

So there’s good and bad. Ultimately, you’ll do what you want. It’s up to you. But the next time you click “Fund”, think about it a little bit. In the gaming community, it’s super important to show your support for your favorite games so they keep getting made, but its also important to support your local game store, and say “Hey I heard X is coming out soon, can I preorder it?” Maybe they’ll be nice and slide you a discount! (We certainly do!) 

Thanks for listening to me today. Until next time!