January 29, 2009

The Smell of Dust is the Smell of Death

On review, this post came off a bit snarky. Sorry about that, it's been a long week. You were warned.

I'm a big believer in FLGSs, or Friendly Local Game Stores. When I'm in the mood to buy a game product and have some cash to burn, I want to go heft that boardgame, flip through that module, or debate which pack of CCG cards feels luckiest. It about the environment—a 'we get it" atmosphere that can't be found anywhere else, save perhaps Gen Con.

Despite living about 30 minutes from New York City, game stores are in short supply for me. (On the flip side, maybe that's the problem: there's way too much to do out here.) When I find a new store, its a rare treat. Like many others, I'll also take what I can get, even if it's the really-a-comic-store-but-we-have-a-few-RPGs type of place.

I've seen a few FLGSs crumple in my time, usually a sad, slow death that is basically painful to watch. Two stores I frequent—neither I'll name—seem to be following this fate right now. Bummer. Yet some places seem to do it right. Some highly opinionated points I'd offer for FLGS success (bearing in mind I have zilch experience running said establishments):

1. Keep the stock fresh.

Get in regular new stock if it is available. Have a "New Arrivals" shelf. Don't make me hunt for the new stuff, it doesn't attract me to the old stock I push aside. Some days I only have time for a quick stop, and a quick discovery is a quick sale.

Don't swear off a line because a single book doesn't sell. I've seen it so many times—a store begins to carry a line, a book or two from that line doesn't fly off the shelf, and wham, no more new arrivals. Perhaps I've already got that book and I'm looking for the next. You never know.

2. Keep the "F" in Friendly-LGS.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but there it is. Be nice. Offer assistance, then back off. Don't follow me around the store, haunting me like a ghost, but don't ignore me either. I once walked into a FLGS, selected a $60 boardgame from the shelf, and then waited in vain for 15 minutes at the front counter to be acknowledged. I wasn't. I walked, and the $60 stayed in my jeans. Not good for your business, and not good for my attitude.

3. Diversify.

Think about mixing in non-RPG goods with your stock. I'm not talking totally left field here, but RPGers share a lot of similarly geeky interests. Show me 5 guys that play D&D, and I'll gamble one's a horror fan, one likes graphic novels, one plays the boardgame Descent, one owns a Playstation or X-Box, and at least one's an avid reader. Stock a bookshelf with fantasy novels and perhaps some thriller or horror fiction. Carry some graphic novels. Stock some toy figures (McFarland, etc). You get the idea. For geeks like me, it's one stop shopping. And hey, if the latest Pathfinder I'm seeking isn't there, I might buy the latest copy of Walking Dead or a boardgame instead.

4. Allow some "geek space" but keep your geeks in line.

Most stores are good about this. A FLGS is a safe haven for roleplayers, so allocate some space for them to throw down some dice. 
That said—and I hate to say this but it's true—control your customers. Every other game store I enter seems to have at least one fellow that's bellowing at the top of his lungs about his female elf wizard character or pinning me up against the wall in an unrequested conversation telling me the glories of his favorite game system with his nose 6 inches deep into my personal space. Not cool. It's worse if I bring my better half along with me or, worse yet, her parents. (And yes Virginia, it happens. I've gone on family trips out of state and had to enter newly found FLGSs with unexpected company!) In fairness, customer behavior isn't the sole responsibility of the FLGS.

5. Keep the place tidy.

Hence the title of this post. I used to find the smell of dust in game stores quaint. Now it makes me want to bolt. Hefting a game book from the shelf with a half inch of dust on it just makes me feel like I'm accepting someone else's leftovers. Even if you've had it in stock for 6 years, unless its an original Fiend Folio or Dragon #20, I don't need to know that.

Here's to all the great FLGSs out there. I love you guys, and I hope you all easily weather the current economic situation and keep rolling for years to come.

January 10, 2009

Geek Gifts

The thing about being a gamer is that we love our toys. Not necessarily our cars—though I had a red sports car in my youth—but our toys. You know, those little things that scream "Gamer!" when non-gamer folk see them. The Dark Knight calendar on your wall? That McFarland dragon sitting on your shelf? That Cthulhu bust in lifelike green? Geek toys.

Now that I've reached my forties (gasp!), I've pretty much informed my wife that she is my last bastion for the holiday or birthday "geek gifts"; my family can lower themselves to the occasional DVD, but that's about it—otherwise they ask what clothes I want. Now don't get me wrong, I've long since entered the realm in which clothes, home gadgets. and other practicalities are something for which I can happily shop—as a new father I even take real enjoyment picking out  baby clothes, gods help me ("Isn't that the cutest?")—yet there's a certain boyish charm to knowing that there might be a boardgame or GM screen or miniatures pack under the Christmas tree.

This year's guilty pleasures included:

The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks.

I loved Brook's World War Z; after seeing the title pop up again and again in my Rue Morgue -style readings, I finally broke down and bought this great work. I had never heard of the author, but damn if he didn't bring a thoughtful, fresh take to the zombie genre with that work. 

I'm a self-professed zombie addict, truth be told. I love movies about the shamblers, ever since watching Night of the Living Dead on the midnight show scared the living hell out of me as a youth. The Zombie Survival Guide looks to be an amusing, thorough work and I can't wait to dive into it. 

Speaking of zombies ... there's also the Walking Dead vol 8, Made to Suffer.

I purchased my first Walking Dead on a business trip in a Washington DC bookstore, in the shadow of the Pentagon. I didn't know it, but I was coming down with a pretty vicious little bug, and I settled into my posh hotel bed with the comic and suddenly found myself uncontrollably turning pages. Instead of savoring the book, as I do most comics, I was turning pages as fast as I could read. I couldn't wait to know what happened next. (It didn't hurt that the main protagonist's name was Rick!) It was (and is) that good. I slept a restless sleep, filled with zombie dreams and I woke up running a good fever, unable to pry the imagery from my head. I was hooked.

It's worth noting that I haven't actually purchased or read volume 7 yet, but my wife was able to find volume 8 and ordered me to find and read the previous volume before opening my newest arrival. No cheating for me!

Dead Space for the Playstation 3.

This hits all the right buttons (no pun intended). First person shooter? Check. Gritty space game? Check. Horror elements, with a touch of zombie-related Resident Evil-ness? Check. Once I finish wiping out those invaders in Resistance: Fall of Man, I'm headed into space. Look out, creepy alien things.

Last, but not least, a DM's Screen for 4th Edition.

My grognard friend Mark got this for me, as well as some official record sheets, stating "This doesn't mean I'm going to play this, you understand, but I figure you might get some use out of them." (He's a die hard 1st-Edition fan that can barely be talking into playing 3rd Edition and doesn't want to even learn another version of the rules, despite some of the good things I've told him about it.) He knows I'm open to all editions on one level or another, and it was a gift well given and happily received.

So what were your "geek gifts"? 

Here's to next year!

January 02, 2009

I am Nyarlathotep

Or at least this quiz says so. What about you?

Oh, and Happy New Year! I daresay 2009 shall be filled with lots of Cthulhu-style goodness.
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