The third place is the concept of having a social location where people spend time that's not home or work. It's all the rage and the key to getting more customers in the door. You see it in Starbucks, where rather than rush you out the door, they encourage you to stick around with popular music, Internet access and comfy chairs. Bookstores do this too, with places to sit and read, waterfalls, and their own coffee shops. We've added the mom's lounge, but the game center is our third place.
A game store is actually a much better third place than the examples I've given, because people actually interact. Are a bunch of people drinking coffee physically in one room, but socially isolated, really together? A game store is unplugged and you'll need to interact with others to play our games. But this opportunity can also be a problem, because I'm first and foremost a business owner, a merchant, and not a cop, psychologist, or your mom. Our high level of interaction can be fraught with perils, something the average Starbuck's employee probably hasn't had to deal with.
This was made clear this week when an upset mother paid me a visit. Her daughter met a boy at the store. Hyjinx followed when they got together later on. Although I'm sympathetic, what was I to do about it? The mother was hoping to track this guy down, through sign-up sheets or the like, but we have open gaming, and no such sheets. She shook her head in disbelief at our open third place community. Starbucks doesn't sign you in, nor does the park down the street, so it doesn't quite follow that we would somehow log our customers (another consideration when considering security cameras). In fact, that assumes a level of responsibility that I frankly don't want to have. If you ever doubted our third place was more intimate than a Barnes & Noble, here's your proof.