So Frankly...

So Frankly...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Game Stores – “Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?”

You’ve been to Wal-Mart and Target, maybe even Toys-R-Us, and you found Blokus, but where does someone buy Hive? Forbidden Island? These so-called hobby (or designer) games will not be found at a toy store or most major outlets, the possible exception being a major book store. There are three general categories of stores that will carry hobby games: local gaming stores, specific major outlets (including book stores), and online game stores. I will give a quick overview of each, and why you might consider buying from them.

Local stores can be tricky to find. If you look in the phone book under “Games”, you will frequently find video game or casino game stores. Often, a board game hobby store didn’t start out as such, but expanded into this style of gaming from video games or comic books. Because of this, it is worth it to call around to those types of stores and ask if they know of a boardgame store. Start with the comic book stores first; they tend to have collectors as patrons. Those collectors are more likely to know of the more obscure shops in town. Video game stores have a lot of kids and young adults as customers, who have none of the money, inclination or transportation to get around as much. The four stores I know of in my neck of the woods are good examples. Two started with comics, one with video games, and the last has always been a boardgaming store to my knowledge. One of them has a good selection. Many of these stores will specialize in one line of games. The good part about a gaming store is that they will have some knowledge of games, though not as much as you may think. Because of their specialization and due to their roots in other products, the staff often has less knowledge than, say, a golf store employee has about golf. Some will demonstrate games or have copies to try in the store. You will also be supporting the local economy. The bad part is that many of them are holes in the wall, and tend to be frequented by those who fall on the nerd end of the geek spectrum. These people are perfectly safe, despite any scary looks, but aren’t always the most helpful.

Barnes and Noble and the Books-a-Million stores carry some games, but the selection is pretty limited. These specialty stores tend to have word games, like Scrabble, or games having a literary tie-in. Around Christmas, the choices broaden and the hit hobby game of the year might well show up. Employees will know nothing of the games offered, but you are supporting the local economy.

I will make special mention of the GO! Games stores that are now being franchised. I have only been in one; it was a combination calendar and game store. The store had a lot of games, but many of them were mass market games and Flavor-of-the-month-opoly. Again, the employees knew nothing of what they were selling.

Finally, there are the online game stores, including Amazon. This is where you will find seemingly unlimited selection and often better pricing, even after shipping. Of course you will want to shop around online for the best price. Since there’s no one there to answer questions, you have to know a little about what you looking to purchase, but that’s why I am writing this blog! (Feel free to email me, too!) I have used both Amazon and Thoughthammer, and have heard nothing but good things about Funagain Games. If you have trouble remembering those, there is, but I don’t know their reputation. Of course, one of the biggest advantages is that you can shop in your jammies, though today more and more people do that anyway at Wal-Mart.

I have purchased items from all of these categories of stores. (My next three games will soon ship from Thoughthammer.) I would have to say online stores tend to be my first source due to the convenience and price. (A good number of my games are bought used from eBay and thrift stores, but that’s another topic altogether.) Have fun exploring all of the options; getting your game for the right price can be a game unto itself. On the other hand, the cost of this activity is very reasonable, so no one should lose sleep over it. I will talk about the value of gaming sometime very soon.

Roll On!

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