If you’ve only occasionally stepped into your Friendly Local Gaming Store (FLGS) to pick up the odd board game or a pack of card sleeves, it may seem pretty obvious what they do: they sell games. But that’s not all they do, and some of the services they offer aren’t always totally obvious.
Here are a few things that many great FLGSs offer the gaming community, and the customers who frequent their stores.
I have a special soft spot for my FLGS because of the robust gaming communities within them. I recently moved across the continent, to a city where I knew nobody and a place without social supports or friends. One of the things I first did was drop by the local FLGS and talked to them about the kinds of games I played and whether or not there were people who I could game with. Not only did the people in the store friend me on Facebook and add me to all the local gaming groups so I could introduce myself and know when and where people were getting together to game, they also made it a point to invite me out and make me feel like I had a home.
Connecting like-minded gamers is something FLGSs do without hesitation. Some stores have special female-only gaming groups, for female players looking to find a group they can be comfortable in, as well as having in-store hobby champions run gaming events. They also often have ways to connect gamers looking for groups, such as roleplaying groups who play a particular system and are looking for players, or people looking to get a regular group together for a legacy game. One of the best aspects of playing games is meeting like-minded people who share the same passions as you do.
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY – DEMOS & GAME RENTALS
It’s one thing to pick up a copy of Monopoly or Scrabble at a big box store for fifteen bucks, but dropping over $75 on a quality game can be extremely intimidating, or feel like gambling. As much as you can get a feel for a game by watching YouTube videos, you never truly know how personally enjoyable a game is until you play it, particularly when you add in the unknown variable that is the dynamics of your gaming group.
A lot of fantastic gaming stores offer free demos of games, in-store copies to play and open up, and even game rentals that you can take home and play with your gaming group. Games are ultimately an experience in a box, and you sometimes need to put your hands on it and get into a game to actually know if it’s for you. Taking advantage of offerings like this at your friendly local store can actually save you money. Realizing that as fun as a game looked in that YouTube video you watched (because it was played by highly entertaining people which made for a highly entertaining viewer experience), it wasn’t really fun for you, or that your gaming group hates it will keep you from spending money on a game that will collect dust on your shelf.
You can only truly know a game is that particular kind of special for you by playing it, and a great gaming store can help you try games without selling you a copy first.
I’ve once shown up at my gaming store to pick up a couple packs of premium card sleeves and the person behind the counter (who knew I didn’t really collect CCGs) asked me what I was sleeving. I told him I was looking to protect some cards for a boardgame that I occasionally played with my daughter that I didn’t want her to get dirty or sticky, which resulted in him recommending some lower-cost card sleeves that would still serve the purpose and told me I didn’t need the premium-level of protection. They saved me money, despite the fact that they didn’t need to. Instead, they chose to make me happy and earn my trust.
Additionally, if you’re getting into a game that has a learning curve (like miniature wargamers, CCGs such as Magic: The Gathering, or even a new-to-you RPG), your gaming store can give you a lot of support and guidance in terms of making the right decisions and purchases that will make you happy. If you’re looking to get into a new game at a competitive level, the best stores have someone who has an understanding of the competitive meta of the games they sell and can give you guidance on what sorts of things will suit your goals and playstyle within the game, so you’re not left buying things you’ll end up not using or enjoying.
HOBBY SUPPORT & SPECIAL EVENTS
When I first got into gaming, I was a student with a tiny apartment that certainly couldn’t host a decent game. My local gaming store, however, had tables aplenty and scheduled gaming nights where people could come in, play games, and hang with friends.
Stores run all sorts of events to help get people gaming, often times with little perks. Organized events are a mainstay of FLGSs, where people who show up even get a little promo for simply being a part of the event (like the Magic Open House, where I showed up and got a free pile of cards, and in turn I started collecting Magic.) Local gaming tournaments are also a fun way to meet people and grow your own gaming circle. Most stores don’t profit off of these events, instead turning whatever small registration fee collected from players into the event’s prize support.
Some stores run special events with big game designers, and let people play games with the designers whose games they love. Some even host events for aspiring game designers themselves, helping those local designers use their gaming community to playtest and refine games.
On top of all that, I’ve gone into my store with miniatures looking to get some painting advice and got it (for free). Heck, there are even stores that have airbrushing hoods available for gamers to use, because airbrushing miniatures under your oven hood is NOT IDEAL. Several of my favorite gaming stores have also hosted special hobby support seminars and flown in talented professional painters to teach unique painting techniques.
Such events and hobby supports for the community are invaluable, whether you’re a longtime gamer or just looking to try something new.
UNIQUE COMMUNITY SUPPORT
How many businesses would not charge a bride a fee to host a wedding? A friendly local gaming store, of course. How many big-box retailers are willing to host charity gaming events within their walls, where funds raised support local and national causes? Friendly local gaming stores often do. Would any online retailer bring copies of games to a hospitalized gamer so he can keep his spirits up? A caring gaming store did. Do you play sports for a small, local league who gets support and sponsorship from local businesses? I was proud to wear a local game store‘s logo on my backside when I played roller derby.
Because local gaming stores are run by people who live in the community you do and aren’t big, faceless corporations, they have a unique stake in helping and supporting the local community, because they live in it. Their kids might go to school with your kids, their employees might be your friends, and they might even support the businesses that employ your friends and family.
What are the things that make you continue to support your gaming store? Tell us in the comments!
Featured Image Credit: Teri Litorco
Image Credits: Teri Litorco, Chris Edwards, Scott Jones Photography