Have you ever wanted to get into any particular game? Have you ever wanted to play a game, but your friends are not crazy people who just want to play Star Wars Legion all the time? Have you ever thought “Gee golly I just want to try a new strategy out with someone who will have a different meta then my buddy group”? Well odds are that if you are in a town with over fifteen thousand people then there is a solution to those problems. Find a local game store!
I would not say that local game stores are the backbone of the gaming community, and I would definitely not say that every local game store is a good place to be. There are a lot of inherent problems with any store that focuses on social interaction and fostering what is inherently a social community. With that being the case I have been to game stores where people smell bad, where store owners are only interested in ripping off customers, or where other players become overly competitive and end up ruining the experience (this is really bad when you are trying to play a game with an official competitive scene… looking at you Magic The Gathering). I’m here to say that despite the potential dangers I have also met some really great people at these places too. Local game stores (or LGS) have helped me meet great people and are a sanctum of nerdyness that a lot of people need. Keep in mind a few things and you will be staring off your newest hobby with a whole new group of friends.
So the first thing is that game stores are not always the best at social media or marketing. Finding a store can be tricky when they do not show up on google, have a website, or even have their Facebook page miscategorized. Now that is definitely their problem if that is the case, but that does not help you get through the doors or into a local group. Here’s what you do if you can’t find a LGS. Look up the Facebook groups for any game that you are interested in playing in. Even if you are not interested in playing Warhammer or Magic The Gathering, odds are there is a group for your town and they will know where the locals go to play. They will hook you up with store locations, times that people will play, and if they are a good group you’ll make some friends too. It’s the easiest way to find that hole in the wall store that is tucked in the back of a mini mall somewhere.
The next thing to do is find out if a LGS is going to be a good store. It’s hard to determine when you walk in if the a store is trying to rip you off, or if they are going to treat you fairly especially if you do not know exactly what you are doing. There are some signs that any person can see to tell what kind of store you are in. First off is look for community support. It’s easy to find out if a store is looking for money from the gaming community or is trying to foster the community. Remember they are a store and the ultimate goal of any business is to make money, but there is a right way and a wrong to do that. Look for community boards that will tell you about local events to see what kind of games are being played. Some stores will have adventurers league for DnD and others will have Warhammer tournaments, but some stores may not have both. Just because a store does not represent your interests does not make it bad either, but if you have options then look for stores that foster your interests. Another way too find out if a local game store is a good one or not is to talk to the people that work there. I’ve honestly never been to a store that is so big that whoever is not in charge is not there. The managers and owners are almost always involved in the day to day, and if you get there when it isn’t too busy then those people will be interested in helping, talking and finding out how to get you involved. The last thing that I would say is to compare your notes. Use the internet to compare and find out if a local store is treating you fairly. Now there is almost always a local mark up, that is just the truth of shopping local, and honestly it is worth it to me. But if you are coming in with a magic single that you want to sell or that comic that has been passed down from your grandpa then you are going to want to know what the Ebay price is. Just look stuff up and see what it looks like. This is of course just universal shopping instructions but it counts.
If you like you LGS than jump in! It is time to meet people, play games, and just have some fun. There are some things you should keep in mind for these stores and it should not have to be said, but I still have to talk about it because these are real problems that these stores have to deal with.
The first thing you need to remember when going to your local game store is to be clean. Do not go into a store if you have not showered that same day. Do not go into a LGS if you are not getting your clothes from a clean pile, drawer, or however else you organize your clothes. I do not care if you will be late for your game or whatever. This is a room that is going to be full of people who will be close to each other. Be clean because it will help everyone.
Win or lose, do it with grace. When you are playing games you are probably going to start loosing a lot at first. Like a lot. I think I was playing X-wing for almost a year before I won my first game in San Antonio. It does not help that some of the guys there were ranked nationally in that particular game, but the point stands. I knew who I wanted to play with because I did not want to be talked down to. On the other hand I knew who I could beat and I did not want to play with them if they were going to come up with a million reasons why they lost or accuse me of cheating. Every person going to a local game store collectively owns the responsibility of making the game fun for everyone and being an ass makes the game fun for no one.
Other then those two huge pet peeves I have there really is not any way you can go wrong. Have fun, meet people, and play games with others. Odds are you’ll meet people who are having fun too. The ultimate piece of advice came from Matt in our podcast about Larp. He said, that you will know if something is good if you look back on the event and think you had fun. If you didn’t then it’s a bad fit for you. Maybe it’s not a good for for you but that doesn’t mean its a bad fit for everyone. So go have fun!
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