What are some special ideas you have for your gaming shop that makes it different from others?
In my area there have been several game stores. Two major chains and several small stores that have come and gone over the years. One of those chains went out of business. Not due to lack of business – they were being very successful – but because the owner had tax related issues and was forced to liquidate. Many of the small stores that have failed have done so because of the large chain that remains. The smaller stores have attempted to depend on one product to carry their business: Magic: The Gathering. This played into the strength of the chain as they are primarily a Magic store but have very deep pockets so whenever the small stores would try to hold a major tournament the larger store would hold a corresponding one that offered 5 times the prizes to suck the air out of the smaller location until they fell. Then went back to business as usual.
The first differentiator is not depending on one product with one night a week with the store having gamers there. The large chain started out as a toy store, then shifted to Beanie Babies when they became popular, then pivoted to discover Magic and Video Games when the Babies lost their appeal. They are not gamers but opportunists and they actively discourage any other gaming besides Magic. While Magic Singles is a strong market it is not the entirety of the genre.
Knoxville hosts an Anime convention annually, but does not have a single store other than Best Buy with an anemic selection that offers any Anime products. I will open the store to the Anime Club for weekly viewing nights and have a projector so the screen will take up an entire wall and provide a small theater quality experience.
Next I will have weekly Board Gaming nights where people can set up and play their favorite board games From Talisman to Risk, and Arkham Horror to Railroad Tycoon. All games will be welcome. Miniature leagues and strategy games like the old Avalon Hill games will be a staple as well. Also my years working the convention circuit have provided contacts at most of the gaming companies that will come to demo new products giving fans a connection to their favorite creators.
Role-playing was where I began my gaming experience and The Pathfinder Society will be at my location, as well as a variety of tabletop RPG’s. Live Action Role Play will be welcomed and venues like Nero and Solar supported. Also the Society for Creative Anachronism and Amtgard will be supported and have a place to meet.
Finally – Fandoms such as Harry Potter, Firefly, Game of Thrones, and any others that want to use the location will be welcomed and supported. Special events, guests, cosplay and other community building will be a mainstay of the Dragon’s Guild.
Prize tournaments, Friday Night Magic, Warhammer 40K Leagues and other competitive environments will also be fostered but in a healthy way that will build up players just beginning and provide challenges for experienced players.
Can you explain why this idea, a place where gamers of all backgrounds can fit in and be comfortable and safe, is so important right now?
Over the last 15 years I’ve lived in Knoxville I have been to almost every game store that has been open. I’ve helped some of them with ideas for displays and other things to try to help them survive. In that time I’ve seen a lot of things happen that I would consider inappropriate, but they are overlooked because the perpetrators are high dollar customers – and they use that to their advantage. I want my store to be a place where it is safe for all players and all players are treated with respect. I have a 9 year old daughter who is the light of my life and she is growing to be an intelligent, opinionated Geek Girl with Nerd tendencies. At the moment there is not a single store in our area I would be comfortable with her attending as a middle teen.
The current selection of stores perpetuate the idea of gaming as a patriarchal event. Women that play are viewed as being there because their boyfriends are. People who are socially challenged – like one excellent player with Aspergers – are excluded or ignored and when they win are the target of derision and bullying. I have seen beginning players verbally harassed by experienced Magic players for playing slow while they think about what they are doing to not make mistakes by experienced players who want them to hurry up so they can get to the money rounds. All of these behaviors are wrong and will not be tolerated in my location for The Dragon’s Guild.
I live in a kinda purple area of a very Red State due to the University of Tennessee but in this environment it is very important to have a store like the one I want to build. I want a location able to teach the young another way besides the Red State attitudes they run into daily. I am building a safe place for women gamers to be empowered and able to feel comfortable and accepted. Stereotypes must be shattered for everyone to be equal.
Have you seen any backlash about your project?
Yes. When I first announced the crowdfunding initiative it was on several Facebook Groups. One of the Magic Groups from Atlanta immediately started with personal attacks about how pathetic it was that I was asking for money to open. That I must be a horrible businessman if I couldn’t go to shows and sell cards to get open. There were attacks about using my daughter as a marketing tool when I answered questions about why I felt the store was needed. And finally why bother with a store that was not in their area. The comradery of gamers supporting gamers was completely gone. The ironic thing is that Magic players are willing to travel several states for prize tournaments, and one of the foundations of the store will be every other month two day magic events with $2500.00 to $5000.00 prizes. It’s a core fundraiser for the store and when I was in Atlanta for a 5K tournament there were people there who travelled from Texas and New York to play – so with Atlanta being only 4 hours drive all of those players will most likely come to play when I am open.
What are some of your favorite games?
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons – I have a 3 year and continuing 1st/2nd edition game I DM.
Warhammer 40K – My Dark Eldar army is a favorite for me and a terror for my opponents. I love the hit and run tactics.
Magic: The Gathering – Although I haven’t played in this standard block I started playing with Beta and have never really stopped. When my son turned 16 we would go play together every Friday Night. I played pro-tour in it’s infancy and almost broke into the top 100 during Necro Summer.
Talisman with all the expansions for board games, and Dominion for a deckbuilder game.
xXxenophile is my favorite out of print game – just because of all the cool artwork and puns.
ANY of the old Avalon Hill board games like Battle of the Bulge, Squad Leader and Flat Top.
I know that gaming with your family is important, but do you manage to find time to game with other adults too? If so, HOW?
I have friends over every other weekend to game. We play the game I DM and I am currently using the city of Ptolis which I placed on my world and tweaked a little to fit. They are really enjoying the city campaign. Working 3rd shift right now seems like 3 days off when I get my weekend so there is plenty of time and we game while my daughter is sleeping so I don’t miss any time with her. My son is 26 and plays in the game as well.