Saturday, February 13, 2010

In the Closet

Polyfabulum: (from Greek πολυ [poly, meaning many or several] and Latin fabulum [game]) is the practice, desire, or acceptance of playing more than one hobby game at a time. It can refer to the nature of a gaming relationship at a given time, or be used as a description of a philosophy of gaming, rather than a person's actual gaming status at a given moment.  --gary

I have a resistance to being classified a gamer. True, I wasn't always a gamer, in the polyfabulum sense, a multi-genred creature who can't be satisfied with just one game.  I was happy to play Dungeons & Dragons for decades before starting the store. In fact, my dream game store is a creature from the '80's, a "fantasy store" that's about a third RPGs, a third lead, and a third "other," like war games and those little creations in plastic baggies that were sold off spinner racks, like Car Wars. Alas, that is not our simple world.

I think my resistance to "gamer" comes from my academic training. In Buddhist Studies, you were considered not to be objective if you "went native" and actually practiced what you studied. It somehow clouded your brain and damaged your objectivity. I went to a grad school where practice was considered your first priority, so this slight was always at the surface, and we knew which "famous" scholars were closet Buddhists. The "gamer" situation is in reverse.

The baseline in the game trade is that you are a gamer, a compromised business person who "went native" and gave up serious business or endeavors in exchange for a hobby store, in which the store is your hobby. In that world, I think I seek to stay objective by resisting the "gamer" moniker and comparison to the type of people I associate with those stores. I'll commiserate with my customers about their D&D campaign or their 40K list, but professionally I want to talk turn rates, cash flow and SBA loans. Business is right underneath the surface. I never play games during my work day and always make sure my in-store gaming is clearly off the clock and not as an employee.

In a trade where everyone has gone native, and there's hardly a reason to stay in the trade without going native, I desperately seek to stay objective and business focused, which turns my self perceived rebel Han Solo into more of a money focused Ferengi like Quark, spouting Rules of Acquisition (actually my rebel alter ego is more Garak the tailor). It even feels crass to me sometimes, but taking to business as second career, it's hard to have perspective.

This business-gamer dichotomy isn't cut in stone, however. I think as I get more comfortable with the business side (remember I'm a business convert, not a trained professional), I'll likely put on that gamer cloak with more confidence and acceptance. There is a huge amount of resistance to owning a game store with the outside world. My family is happy I'm "having fun." Landlords won't give me the time of day unless I can somehow shove my financials in front of their faces on their way out the door. Banks can't decide if I'm a high risk (during the holidays) or a financial genius (after the holidays), as my credit score roller coasters from wildly fluctuating utilization rates. So for most of the world I stay closeted, at least until they can't deny my business acumen.