That's right, two, count them, two posts on time in a row! Time for a new "What is this gaming thing?" segment, and now there's an end in sight. This is part 5 of the ongoing series, "What is this gaming thing?" Click here for parts One, Two, Three, and Four.
There used to be stores in the mall called either The Game Keeper or Wizards of the Coast--here they sold, obviously, Wizards of the Coast products, but also products from other companies. The walls were filled with wargames, modern and traditional boardgames, collectible card games, dice of many types, and other gaming related paraphernalia. I don't recall how I found this place, it's very possible my best friend Brian took me along to this place of wonder; inevitably, this became a place I'd regularly visit on any trip to the mall.
My spending was meager, I'm sure; I was in high school and college when the stores were open, and though I got my first job as soon as I graduated high school, most of the money I made went to tuition. Still, I picked up a few things--Lunch Money, a card game about fighting on the playground; Knightmare Chess, an addition to standard chess that makes things really chaotic; Plague and Pestilence, a game about, well, plague and pestillence, and which is now strangely worth $200-300; and a game that remains among my favorites, RoboRally, a race game where you program robots to navigate a dangerous factory floor. There were other purchases, including some of the "collectable" variety--we won't talk about those. Let's just say new gamers are often excited to play whatever they can get their hands on, and when your game group consists of three people, you're going to have to take some chances.
My collection was small, but even if it was at 25 games, it crushes that of the average household, where ten games would be a large collection. But one day something horrible happened. The last months of 2003, Wizards of the Coast announced they would be closing all their stores...and I had saved up a little money.
What does one have to do with the other? Well, if you've ever witnessed a store closing, you'll understand; I don't know how all the economics work, but apparently it's cheaper to try to sell everything out rather than pack it up and move the stock to another related store, even if it's right down the street. And if an entire line of stores is closing, the prices drop fast.
I was unaware of the announcement, but one day I walk in to the Wizards of the Coast stores (as the Gamekeeper stores had been renamed), and everything was 30% off, and stuff that had been hidden in the back room was "specially priced" at even less. I picked up a few things. I showed up the next week, and the 30% was replaced with a 40%. I picked up some more. This continued, and apparently there was a warehouse somewhere that also needed to be emptied, and though the staff seemed to be reduced, the stores continued to be restocked.
In the past I had to be cautious with my purchasing--I'd do what research I could, and usually make several visits picking up and putting down the same game several times before I actually bought anything. But when the games were marked down to 80% or more, and I was buying $40 large-box games for as little as $4, and other games for less than a dollar, caution all but went down the toilet. My girlfriend at the time (who I am blessed to be able to now call my wife) was also a bit of an enabler--boardgaming was firmly ensconced as a primary hobby, and her opinion was "Well, you'd probably buy it eventually, you might as well get them cheaper." She even threw in a few games she was interested in--I believe I picked up Cranium and two expansions for around $5.
Eventually, thank goodness, the stores closed for good in the first months of 2004. I'll skip mentioning an actual dollar amount (Jackie, I know you probably remember...), but I'd estimate that overall I paid less than 30% of the retail price of the games. Half of my closet was taken up by stacks of games, and I recall having to step around small piles of games to get to the closet. One of the trips, I recall, did involve Jackie and I leaving with so many large bags that, despite my chivalric intentions, there was no way I could carry them to the car myself.
I had some information on the games I had purchased, but largely my purchases were made by reading the synopsis on the back and looking at the cover. In retrospect I did leave many, many games that I would have done better to pick up--for instance, it would be years later before I purchased a copy of Lost Cities. I was also slightly puzzled by who this "Knizia" guy was, and why his name was on a dozen or more games. Ultimately this excursion lead to the discovery of a website that catered to boardgamers and provided a large amount of information on the games themselves, and provide an opportunity to trade away some of the games I didn't enjoy or simply had no interest in--Boardgamegeek.com.
Regardless, my collection had grown to several times its original size, and if I wasn't a boardgamer before, I certainly was at this point.
Which leaves the question...Where am I now in boardgaming?
Alright, finally got this thing posted. You may not believe me, but I usually write down segments of posts I'm planning, and flesh them out shortly after finishing the current week's post. This particular post was 75% complete several months ago, right around the time I posted Part 4 of this thing. I figure I'll wrap it up in the next installment of "What is this gaming thing?", and post a picture of my current collection.
Hope everyone is having a great Twenty-Ten!
The Gamekeeper image taken from the Wizards of the Coast website.