“Why on earth would you retire from teaching to open a game store?” I honestly wish I had a dollar for each and every time I have been asked this or a similar question over the past four years. The answer is simple: family and community.
Like most families, the one I grew up in was dysfunctional. Take the relationship I have with my older brother and sister: Time and time again, we hammered at each other’s weaknesses in the way only siblings know how. Even the brief periods of uneasy peace ended with extreme and horrible acts of betrayal, often committed against our own parents. And yet, this Christmas, we will once again sit down to play Risk. Or maybe Legendary. Or Sheriff of Nottingham. But probably Risk. The Game of Thrones version.
Risk is far more than a simple turn-based board game. It is a long way from the usual quaint image of kids with questionable haircuts gathered around a board with ecstatic expressions on their faces. It is a far cry from being the game described as a global map that has been carved up into territories. Players roll dice to determine the outcome of skirmishes, the ultimate goal being world domination. No, far from it.
The real gameplay happens around the table, rather than on the board, as we practice diplomacy, make and break alliances, develop vendettas and pull off hustles. In other words, it’s great practice for family life as, indeed, are most board games. They present lessons about taking turns and handling defeat. They provide an outlet for tension and rivalry. They require family members to sit down and interact with each other – increasingly important in a world where we spend much of our time in separate rooms, triple-screening and arguing over Skype about whose turn it is to change the toilet roll. But perhaps best of all, they remind us how to play. And how to be together.
I have long since evolved from Risk (although maybe not the Mass Effect or Game of Thrones versions) into an amazing world of board games and other forms of gaming. Some games are cooperative, some highly competitive. Indeed, in 2012, when I opened my first store, the Sci Fi Factory in Keller, it was with the incredible memories of my family and our time together that inspired the decision. I wanted a safe haven for those who love games — or want to learn games — to meet like-minded friends and have a clean, well-lit place to play and learn. I am passionate about gaming and the gaming community.
Often, people want to know the best part of owning a gaming store. Is it early access to all the hot new games? An unlimited library? Incredible owner discounts? Points earned in my constant struggle to be King of the Nerds? While these are all indeed tremendous benefits, my favorite aspect of being a game store owner is talking with customers. I love interacting with customers and answering questions — sharing what I know. And I love learning from them about new games as well. I don’t have to go to work most days — I GET to.
How many types of games are out there?
There is truly no way to quantify that, although it is certainly fun to try. Board games can be cooperative (Forbidden Island, Mice and Mystics, Pandemic, Eldritch Horror), team-based (X-Wing, Axis and Allies, Battlestar Galactica, Last Night on Earth), semi-cooperative (Dead of Winter, Resistance, Betrayal at House on the Hill) deck-building (Legendary, Smash Up, Dominion, Ascension, Descent), horror (Elder Sign, Arkham Horror, Mansions of Madness) and fantasy (Castle Ravenloft, Legend of Drizzt, Smallworld), among many others.
Other categories include role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder. In these games, players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. Players take responsibility for acting out these roles within the adventure, which is led by a Dungeon or Game Master (DM). As games of imagination, almost anything is possible (depending on what the DM allows). These adventures can take a day or even a year to complete, as the characters develop new powers and abilities as the game continues.
There are miniatures-based games, also known as wargaming, which involve players simulating battles, using small figurines to represent the troop, land, sea and/or air units involved. Many miniatures games are played on a floor or tabletop, with terrain represented by miniature scenery (hills, forests, roads, fences, etc.). The most common types of these games are Warhammer 40K, X-Wing, Bolt Action, Guildball and Dystopian Wars. Players will actually assemble their pieces from provided pieces and paint them. Some of the work our players do is so spectacular we have purchased a few display cases to show them off.
Collectible card games (CGCs) involve two or more players with a preconstructed deck of cards requiring them to battle against another opponent. These decks are built through the purchase of booster packs or single cards. The most common CGCs are Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh and Force of Will. Often, weekly multiple tournaments or leagues meet, some reaching over 100 participants.
So, why am I passionate about the gaming community?
Board games create a framework within which we can interact with our friends and family in a friendly competition. Board games require us to think, experiment and otherwise exercise our minds. They build critical thinking skills, analytical skills, develop advanced strategy skills, and help us learn to work as a part of a team. In short, they give us everything we need to be successful in life.
Board games provide us a way to escape from our current lives. They provide a desired experience that we cannot obtain in real life. Whether we are building a space empire as in Twilight Imperium, or creating a new world as in Settlers of Catan, we are branching out from our safe everyday world. We are pushing our boundaries, and that is always a good thing.
Board games provide an easy way to have fun with family and friends in a personal way — significantly more personal than watching television, or playing video games, or viewing yet another cute cat video on YouTube.
Every week new games come out. Every week I bring one home. And every week, we find an evening that isn’t already occupied by baseball, or church, or a science project, and we sit at the table, make popcorn and strengthen us a family. And, yes, if we practice diplomacy, make or break alliances, perform horrible acts of betrayal and laugh so hard we lose our breath for a bit, so much the better. That is why I game, and that is why I share my passion.