I live in Renton, Washington. Renton (and the Seattle area in general) is a hotbed of the game industry. Green Ronin, Paizo, Monte Cook Games, Privateer Press, Cheapass Games, Wizards of the Coast, and many more tabletop and computer game companies are in the area. One thing Renton in particular is missing is a game store that does more than run card game tournaments and stock a few board games. Strange, considering how many gamers live in the area.
So, you can imagine my excitement when a new game store, Heroic Knight Games, opened in the next town over (Issaquah, WA), just a short 15-minute drive from my house! I heard about it via someone’s Facebook post, looked them up, and drove over to visit one night a couple of weeks ago.
Paul, the owner, is a super-nice guy and the store is clean and a little light on stock, but hey, it’s a new store and I’m sure more goodies will roll in over the coming months. The really great thing about the place, was that about half the store is dedicated to sturdy gaming tables, so I have a lot of confidence in this store surviving and thriving. Why is that?
In the past decade or so, gaming stores have had to adapt to a changing marketplace. Most people do their shopping online in order to get discounts on the books and games we all love so much. And that’s fine, but that’s been a pretty big kick in the pants for game stores and has forced them to change their focus a bit. They can’t just be the place you buy your games anymore, now they have to cultimate a community of gamers and customers who want to play and hang out at the store.
There are still the card gaming stores. Those stores that stock all the most popular card games still being produced, including singles, and older boosters marked up to a level that makes you wish you’d never actually opened all those old packs of cards. They serve as a great place for card gamers to get together and play each other in tournaments, drafts, or for casual play. They can do very well, especially with regular card-game nights, but they don’t offer much for the non-card gamer.
Then there are the family game stores. These stores are often in malls and are typically stocked to the rafters with every board game, card game, dice game, and family game you could name. Sure, they make a nod toward supporting trading cards and role-playing stuff, but they really focus on providing parents a place to go to find something for their kids. The staff is always very friendly and knowledgeable, able to help anyone find a game, puzzle, or tchotchke to their liking. These places are nuts during the holidays.
Third, there’s the miniatures stores. These are either hole-in-the-wall places that have been around forever and have the creaking shelves and layers of dust to let you know that, or they’re nice and clean with lots of gaming and display space. Miniatures gamers are a fanatic lot and really get into the "hobby" side of the game: gluing, filing, priming, painting, flocking, etc. It’s time consuming, but the investment of time and money is usually worth it when your models hit the table.
Finally, there are the "gamers" stores. These stores are the ones that line their shelves with card games, board games, miniatures games, and role-playing games. They’re a combination of all the previous stores. They have a little bit of everything and they can either be dingy, little places that you don’t really want to take non-gamers into, or they’re bright, well-organized, and clean with places to sit if you’re not into looking at all the games. You could almost take a date there. A really cool date.
Heroic Knight Games falls into the last category. The owner knows he has to have a welcoming store so he can create a community that wants to spend time at the store. He wants his store to be a place people can get together every night of the week to play one sort of game or another. That, that right there is the big change in the last decade or so. Before ten or so years ago, very few game stores set aside space for people to game. Say nothing about room for 20 or 40 people to game at one time.
When you hang out in a store, when you get to know the owner, when your trust the people behind the counter to watch your stuff when you need to run to Subway for dinner, then you’re more and more likely to support the store by purchasing card sleeves, snacks, dice, and games, games, games. Even if you could get the game online for less money, the store adds that extra something that makes it worth it for you to drop an extra five or ten dollars on that next book, boxed game, or set of cards.
This guy, Paul, he knows that. He’ll do just fine… with our support.
Mutants & Masterminds Line Developer