A friendly local game shop (FLGS) can fill a lot of roles. A laboratory to try out unfamiliar games. A sample size to poll potential customers and test new products. A gathering place to share puzzly experiences. A social center to make new friends.
Sadly, there’s one fewer place to enjoy those simple pleasures now, as my friendly local game shop is closing this month.
I don’t know why, precisely. Maybe the 2019 financials weren’t as rosy as they’d hoped. Maybe the landlord raised the rent to unreasonable levels. Maybe the omnipresent threat of cheaper online purchases won out. (I certainly didn’t mind paying a little more for a game there, because I knew who the money was going to. But not everyone feels that way.)
I’m not entirely surprised. Last year, they cleaned out their comics section to focus more directly on games, RPGs, and miniatures. It opened up some space in the store and generally made for a cleaner, more accessible floorplan, which was a plus. But I guess it wasn’t enough.
It’s a bummer.
Sure, there are decent game selections at stores like Target and Barnes & Noble, but nothing as varied or extensive as the spread at the FLGS. I can’t tell you how many games I stumbled across there that I’d never even heard of, whether by wandering the stacks or seeing a play-through of a new acquisition demonstrated by the staff.
It was the perfect place to discover games, often serving to inspire gift ideas for friends. (Similarly, I miss Toys R Us, as simply browsing the selection there led to plenty of spot-on purchases for nieces and nephews.)
I usually stopped in a few times a month. I didn’t always buy something — my game library is pretty beefy already — but I liked to see what was new, what was moving a lot of copies, and what the locals were playing. I even got to meet local designers who were showing off their wares, which was always a treat.
I’ve been back twice since the announcement, and it’s nice to see how loved the place was, even if that couldn’t ensure its long-term success. Regulars have already snapped up tablecloths and other materials with the shop’s logo, and I know at least one person offered to buy the sign outside. I’ve heard several customers lament that they didn’t know where they’d go now for game tournaments, RPG events, and other game-centric fun.
The back tables — usually reserved for trying out new games, hosting tournaments and launch events, or serving as gathering places (charged by the hour) for roleplaying groups to indulge in some social storytelling — are instead full of games, equipment, snacks, promotional materials, and everything else they can slap a tag on and price to move as they liquidate their stock.
But, for the most part, the energy there is good. Games are vanishing from stacks of in-store inventory, as are displays, signs, neon lights, and other trappings of the store. The staff is in decent spirits.
I’m not sure if I’ll go back again before it’s all said and done. But it was nice while it lasted.
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