Friday, January 1, 2010

Basilisks Don't Talk

There is this tension as a game store owner between the fun of gaming and the necessity of running a business. Some run a game store as a venue for their gaming, while others, like me, actually enjoy the business side. Running a business in itself can be a game. There's a score you're trying to attain for every day, week, month and year. There are strategies and methods to obtain this score.

Retail is more art than science, so there's constant experimentation in marketing, merchandising and sales technique to hit your number. It's not just sales either, it's about building community, a noble effort in itself, but one that has a direct effect on the bottom line. It's a fantastically fun "game," with higher stakes the farther along you go. Still, it wouldn't be a worthwhile personal goal if I didn't also enjoy games. Owning a game store is a wickedly complex, economic low bar for anyone without a personal interest. That personal interest bloomed for me in 2009.

2009 was the year I became a full, cross genre gamer. In the past I was a role-player who dabbled in other areas; a necessary evil for running a game store. 2009 was different. How do I know this? I've got gamer dissatisfaction. This is when you've got a baseline unhappiness because you simply don't have time to play everything you want to play. I give myself an evening a week for gaming. The first half of the year was spent playing D&D, the second half was Warhammer 40K, with the end of the year spent cramming for board game season. I want to play them all, all the time, but time is limited with both a family and a business.

This is the first year I can say that. 40K started as a desire to understand a top game, but before I knew it, I was researching camo schemes and salivating over Forge World catalogs. I would brag about my 4,000+ points of fully painted Imperial Guard, but a more veteran gamer would just point out it's only my first army.

My lust for Dungeons and Dragons has since given way to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, as player dissatisfaction with fourth edition has grounded my campaign. I'll be running a campaign for WFRP in a couple weeks, with lots of studying left to do.

Board games started as "career development," a necessity for selling the 900 games we stock. It's probably still my weakest link. My friend Jay's observation that a bad D&D session is better than a great board gaming session probably holds true for me, but man, could I go for a game of Steam or Finca about now. This gamer lust almost feels like a betrayal of my long term mistress, Dungeons & Dragons. I feel like I'm on shifting ground here when it comes to my hobby.

A second part of gamer dissatisfaction is a comparative matrix that you judge games against where they often come up short. Games usually come up short because they lack the external stimulus that made a game memorable, like the first time a game tickled your brain the right way (Tikal), or memories of good times with friends (D&D and even Risk). Then there are the stories, like when Dave the Thief was turned to stone by a talking basilisk as it emerged from the fog. Famous last words: "Basilisks don't ta---." You just can't seem to get those feelings back in newer games.

The best you can do is create new experiences that you'll recall in the future, like playing Cookin Cookies with my four year old, Rocco, on our kitchen floor. I still fondly recall the games of Metro we played at the old store, while running back and forth to the counter as I ran the store simultaneously. I hope to create a bunch of new gaming memories with friends and family in 2010, time permitting.

"Basilisks don't ta--."