THE HEART AND BLOOD:
Your Local Game Store (LGS) is the heart and blood of any gaming community! It’s really as simple as that.
Local Game Stores are of course also businesses, and it can be difficult combining love and business, and while there’s a fine line between making money of love and making money of what you love, do not for a second be mistaking: If you have decided to run a game store, then you are in it for “the love of it” and you probably have COJONES (or the female equivalent) the size of water melons - and not the tiny ones, but the big ass ones. Only a FOOL will ever start a Local Game Store.
I have no doubt that it is but a few of the game stores around the world who are not struggling. Not necessarily financially, but finding that beautiful balance between what you as a game store owner find to be worth the effort (and your hard work) and what is actually worth the effort and your hard work. Sometimes compromises have to be made - and it ain’t always pretty.
Luckily for Game Stores, board games are IN again. There were a long period of time where that wasn’t the case. Only nerds played games. Today everyone and their auntie play games.
Game Stores come in all sizes and shapes. Some of them are big lavishly decorated high-tech stores located smack in the center of everything catering for all desires of any player of any game, others are housed in dark obscure basements with just enough inventory to make it work, while a few, maybe just that one in the entire world, have refurbished a church and created a gamer's Heaven! (see the top photo).
IN THE HEART OF COPENHAGEN:
Right in the heart of Copenhagen we are blessed with three Local Game Stores. There’s the behemoth, the multimillion dollar business Faraos Cigarer (eng. Cigars of the Pharaoh, from that classical Tintin comic book), that has a wide range of activities from tabletop war games to Magic the Gathering. They run a tight ship and have always been supportive of the gaming communities. Once in a while you can feel that they are big timers and don’t always seem to have time to be your cozy neighborhood friend, but they are about business. And it’s fine.
Then there’s the ol’ timer, the Nerd Store that has always been around: Fantask. My God, they were around when I was a kid. Same people in the store even. And I’m sort of getting old. They are your super-nerds! It says on the shirts. It’s painted on their faces! They are S U P E R N E R D S! If they don’t know it, it doesn’t exist. Seriously. I’m not sure the store is going to last beyond the current store owner. She’ll go down with that ship - and that ship will probably go down with her first. It’s a pity though. I always liked them. I guess time has caught up with them.
I've put my fair share of hard earned money into those two stores. Probably Thousands of dollars by now.
And then there’s OUR small cave: Analog Spilleklub (eng. Analog Gaming Club) or ASK as it’s called. The name itself is also the Danish word for an Ash tree, which in the Danish language carries with it quite a lot of symbolism. In Nordic mythology, the tree at the center of the world was an Ash tree called Yggdrasil. So, our lair being named after that particular type of tree is quite significant. For the owners most likely, and for this story in particular.
Analog Spilleklub, ASK, is where the Star Wars Destiny Community in Copenhagen, Denmark, found a place we could call home. When we had nowhere to go with our cards and dice, Mads Utzon and his dad stepped in and offered us a venue that would soon become much more than just that. Now, ASK might not be your average Game Store, but the philosophy of the place is very similar to any LGS: Friendliness, coziness, content over form and PASSION!
Well ... maybe apart from the fact that there’s a large fridge where beers are kept cold alongside other refreshing beverages, but let’s admit it, we are grown-ups (sort of) and we are mostly there for the beers. Other than that there are Star Wars Destiny players, L5R players and lately various groups playing all kinds of obscure card games have started showing up. It’s awesome!
When the time came for us to start recording podcasts, almost a year ago now, we had decided that we wanted to record live from our game store: ASK. For two reasons:
1) It was easy to get people to join in on the podcast because they were already at the store at game nights, and
2) We wanted it to be a community thing. The podcast was going to be a common project. A team building thingy. Even if it ended up with me being the host, Mads the co-host and Adriana the producer. But everybody would be a part of it. That even became a part of our identity “as always recording live from ASK Gaming Cafe in the heart of Copenhagen” (that obviously only makes sense if you've actually listened to the podcast. If you haven't, what are you still doing here? Hurry and download all the episodes now!).
It’s been a year and counting in ASK, we’ve hosted a traditional Danish Christmas dinner there, several Q-tournaments, impromptu gatherings, celebrations of great victories, more than 15 podcasts recorded from there and a week ago, we had our first BBQ at ASK. People brought their own meat, we supplied the hot coal and salad. A Danish summer night spent chewing ribs, sausages and playing Destiny. Sure, it might still not be your average Game Store, but as already stated, the love that drives this place forward and keeps it alive is exactly the kind of love that fuels any other Local Game Store, whether it be in the US, Greece, Lithuania, Iceland, Italy, the UK or Denmark.
The ASK gaming group has also been the foundation for our trips to tournaments around Europe, including the Galactic Qualifier in Spain, Regionals in Germany and Sweden, EUROS in the UK and of course WORLDS in the US, and as an unexpected bonus I can now count Mads Utzon amongst my very best friends.
On top of that it’s just nice to know that whenever you are in need of a booster pack you’ll always have a place to find it, or sleeves for the cards or binders or just some nice company.
I DO NOT HATE ONLINE STORES:
I’m not writing this article to hate on online stores. I get it, running an actual LGS with an inventory and a register and a manned desk is not the easiest thing in the world, and in some places it might even be impossible. Sometimes there are simply not enough customers to make the darn thing financially viable. But there are things that online stores will never be able to give us, despite their lower prices and convenience of delivery straight to the mailbox. And it’s not intangible things. I’m not even talking about the friendships and coziness, I’m talking stuff like tournaments and events and such.
I've also done my share of online shopping, and maybe my Amazon purchases has killed off a small time clothing store as well ... it might just be. I'm no saint!
But in the context of this article, then I find it saddening when you hear of Star Wars Destiny gaming communities where they are lucky if they can gather 5 people for a Quarterly tournament. Where the entry fees can barely pay for the prize kit itself. That’s crazy! On the other hand, it also makes me annoyed when I realize that some Game Stores are deprioritizing Star Wars Destiny to the extent where not even the store owner knows the game (and it even sits right there on the shelve in the store). If the store owner can’t even guide the customer who might have ended up purchasing a bag full of 2 starter sets, a booster display and all kinds of accessories, then why are they running a store in the first place? I still remember showing up to my first Star Wars Destiny tournament with 4 people registered. One of them didn’t even know the rules, and had an illegal deck. That guy also happened to be the TO. We all need to step up our game!
WHAT CAN YOU DO FOR YOUR LGS?
"Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country" John F. Kennedy famously said in his inaugural address (1961), and although it might be a bit too edgy for what Local Game Stores are about - they do not secure world peace after all - then the sentence is still applicable.
So what can we help our LGS's out with? We can help run tournaments! We can help run demo-events if the store itself does not have the competencies at hand to do so themselves. We can do simple things, like clearing the space properly after a game night, or show up early to get things organized prior to a game night, not only suggest activities, but also how to implement and facilitate them. Find out who in your play group has the necessary skills to make it happen. In this instance it really only is your imagination that limits you (sort of). By lending a hand to your Local Game Store and reaching out, you show them - literally - that they might not get rich on running a store, but it's well worth the investment.
THE TRUE WAY OF THE FORCE:
A new Star Wars Destiny set is about to hit the streets soon (SOON, you hear me FFG!! SOOOOOON!!). We are all starting to look for a place to put our pre-orders in, and those "as cheap as as it comes advertisements" are really starting to look alluring, but I’ll recommend we use our Local Game Stores: If you have one. It might be 10$ more per Booster Display, but if you manage to sell one or two of your extra Legendaries on the secondary market, you’ll probably make it without a dent in your wallet. Most LGS’s will be willing to give you a nice discount on pre-paid pre-ordered stuff, and as a result you’ll hopefully have a place to call home also in the foreseeable future.
N.B. Sometimes i hear people complain about LGS’s making money off running gaming nights, and although I doubt they actually make money from that activity (when taking into consideration that they need to pay rent, electricity, tax and whatnot), I’ve never heard anyone rant about restaurants making money off cooking food. It’s the same thing man ... you might be able to sit at home in your underwear playing TTS with whatever Jack comes along, but that’ll not be the same as when you sit face to face getting a few games in with your "new friends" drinking a beer or whatever beverage you prefer at your LGS.
I’m not trying to romanticize the idea of a Local Game Store. Not at all. There are also examples of really bad ones out there - for whatever reason they’ve turned sour. No worries though. Bad stores will die, that's the nature of bad businesses (for most parts), but then again, good ones will also die if we don’t support them.
A BUMPY RIDE:
I started out as an x-wing player, and did the competitive scene for a bit, but somehow got entangled with Destiny instead, and maybe I should have realized at that time, that Fantasy Flight Games is not exactly the steadiest company around. Well, that's not entirely true. FFG is the kind of company you want as a friend. They f*ck up once in a while, but they'll eventually come around and make things right. Sort of. They are NOT the company you want to handle your mail though!
Sean Aguilar aka Pearl Yeti from Artificery wrote an article back in April 2018 called "#RallyAid - Let's save Destiny", and although I don't agree with all of the article, I do sympathize with most of it. And the main bulk of it actually comes back to the ideas in this article. Fantasy Flight Games also need to be friendly towards the Local Games Stores and thereby implicitly to the players who keep the games alive. As we mentioned in our YOUR Destiny Podcast Episode 12, this is a 2-way street (well actually more of a love triangle). We all need to support our Local Game Stores, who in turn will need to support us: the players. We are all indispensable components (for this game).
Funny story to cap off this article ... On Day 1A of Worlds, Mike Gemme aka BobbySapphire of the Hyperloops was standing alone looking around at the end of the day. He had just completed his amazing undefeated run, 6-0. A great feat in its own right. He was obviously looking for something. And because I’m a LGS supporter at heart I knew what he was looking for: A HUG! I gave him one because it’s pretty damn awesome to go 6-0 at Worlds. I think he was happy for that. Maybe it’s just because I’m a huggable guy. I would like to believe that it’s also a skill I’ve attained, or at least honed, from being around people in my Local Game Store.
Do you remember all the recaps that were done following WORLDS or EUROS? How most of them were saying how awesome it was to be at the tournament, but that the greatest experience was to meet all of those players IRL? I mean everyone apart from Edwin Chen, obviously, he'd probably look at his Sabine mat and feel pretty dope regardless! Now, that's the kind of experience all of us who are blessed with great Local Game Stores (or clubs) have on a weekly basis.
Btw. if you are close to any of the Game Stores who generously allowed me to use their pictures in this article, why not give them a visit the next time you pass by?