Tom Vasel of The Dice Tower created quite the stir recently when he ranted on about the Friendly Local Game Store (FGLS). In all the negative backlash, mostly on reaction to the tone he took, I think people tried to ignore his real message – the FLGS is not always friendly.
Nearby where I live, there are four “Friendly Local Game Stores” or FLGS. There used to be five but one closed a few years back. Let me tell you a little about each.
FLGS #1 is the best for wargame selection but it is small and impossible to navigate on a weekend with gaming tables occupied in the middle. If there is a game going on then good luck getting the cashier to pay attention! The RPG section is in a dark back area with sagging shelves. They still writes out sales invoices. My wife refuses to enter the place because the regular clientele creeps her out; probably because they hit so many of the negative gamer tropes. If I want to buy a wargame this is not the place I really want come to, much less bring my boys to.
FLGS #2 is right in my neighborhood. It’s within walking distance. If I want to play Magic: The Gathering or in an X-Wing Tournament this is the place to go. If I was competitive. I say that because the players I see are hyper-competitive and this is not the place for a friendly pick-up game. That said, they did support a game outreach event at the local library, but it came and went quickly. Last year I walked in looking for card sleeves and they were helpful. This year I walked in with a card from Academy Games 1775 – Rebellion and asked for help finding the right size card sleeve. The store owner asked what game it was for and I told him. He acknowledged he didn’t know the game but after looking at (not examining) the card in my hand he declared, “We don’t have sleeves for that card.” I asked if he could measure the card (I know they have a sizing mat) and maybe find something close. He got up from behind the counter (out of his comfort zone?), walked to one display, roughly compared the card to a few packages and declared, “We don’t have any sleeves for those really old games.” I looked behind the counter at his more premium line of card sleeves but he totally missed my hint. Probably for the better as he obviously didn’t want to sell me any sleeves and I now felt like I was sullying his place with a non-MTG card. I left. I have not been back since.
FLGS #3, Huzzah Hobbies, is a real FLGS. Huzzah is the most balanced store in the area. It does have a focus on MTG and Flames of War, but also has a nice stock of new tabletop games and a few RPGs. This store actually spawned FLGS #4, Huzzah Junior, which is the “kids” version. We are patrons at both and the staff is very helpful and friendly. They usually have at least one new-ish game open and ready to demo. Huzzah sponsors many game nights (even at a local brewery) and contests. The problem is – as friendly as they are – the prices online are just so much better than they can offer. So we use these two stores mostly for game accessories, plastic models, and an occasional game purchase.
FLGS # 5, now closed, was the old veteran that had been around over 25 years. It had a fair selection of wargames and RPGs. Problem was their new item section was very small and their shelves were full of old backstock…in some cases very old. I had a love-hate relationship with the place. At first I went on weekends but came to despise the staff that always seemed to look down on my boys and I because we were not there to play MTG. I eventually figured out that the owners covered weekdays and they were much friendlier. I even made a package-deal with the owner to relieve them of several items that had been on the shelf for years (literally). The store closed because the owners wanted to be closer to their grandkids, though one candidly told me that online sales had taken a big bite out of their business.
For a good example of another real FLGS, I point you to Petrie’s Family Games in Colorado Springs. Petrie’s is a real family game shop. When we lived there it had a very small selection of wargames and RPGs but was blessed with the friendliest owners. Petrie’s also had an awesome game library and they were often willing to break open a game, even a newly released one, to look and play with it. The owners are just good people and they made this the only game store my wife ever willingly entered.
You may be offended by Tom Vasel’s tone, but you have to listen to the message. FLGS are not automatically “friendly;” it is an honor they must earn. A major part of earning the “F” in FLGS is by creating a welcoming, inviting atmosphere. If my little corner of the world is any indication, two out of five understand that, one struggled with it but is now gone, and two others are missing the opportunity. That’s a 50% failure rate amongst the existing shops. That leaves two stores doing their best to support the hobby. It’s an uphill battle against online retailers and Kickstarter, but by being Friendly they get me through the door.
This is what Tom was really trying to say. The FLGS problem I see starts when a store feels that the “F” in FLGS is their entitlement and they stop earning it. Get me through the door and they are more likely to make some sort of sale. Without the “F” it is far less likely I will enter the store. If I don’t enter, I can’t buy.
13 thoughts on “The FLGS has got to earn the F”
Sounds like you are in Northern VA. If I were to venture a guess, FLGS #1 is The Compleat Strategist. FLGS #2 is Victory Comics. Huzzah Hobbies is a wonderful store. Stock is a little small. Game Parlor, back in the day, was very well stocked. But, as you say, they did not get new products in. Cash problems really. When they closed up, it was time. Most shops these days carry main stream products. MtG, Pokemon and other games are the bread and butter of these shops. There are not any historical miniatures stores around. You can get plastic kits from Hobby Works. They also have a wide selection of paints and supplies. There are two other hobby store I know of…one just recently. Comics and Gaming of Fairfax are mainly card based games these days. There is another shop off of Rte 28 in Chantilly. Island Games. My friends just told me about that one. Mainly board and card games again. Some miniatures.
FLGS #2 is Island Games. Have heard but not tried Victory Comics for real but only a seasonal store in Potomac Mill Outlets a few holidays back. Was not impressed.
We are lucky in the Seattle area to have a good number of game store/cafes that have good staffs and lots of new game selections. They generally don’t have many wargames, but the stores don’t seem to mind when we set one up (or even pull out some miniatures). Plus being able to meander around the store and then sit down at a table to enjoy a beer while gaming is pretty nice.
Here are the websites for a couple:
The way it should be!
The Newark one by me (pretty much the only one around ) is pretty good, but, its cluttered, trying to cater to the whole hobby, not the niche markets. Sad – they have quite a bit of nice games, but VERY limited stock.
Plus, being a college town, they are always busy with the coeds, and have no time for us casual visitors. Sad, too.
There is a newer one, just up the road, but burred in one of the strip malls. Went in when it opened, but have not been back since – guy running it was like your rkfm comment…
Gone is the good old days of playing games, socializing, and the friendships you could make. Online seems like the only recourse.
You have found Tom Vasel’s message…if the FLGS forgets about the F then the customer is going to look elsewhere. Like I said, I’m half-in (game accessories) and half-out (online game purchases).
The stores up here in Vancouver aren’t bad, but I don’t really frequent them much. I’m friends with the guy who runs one of them in a local mall, and it’s not bad, but he’s way overworked and the owner of the place doesn’t really seem to care much.
The owner of another one doesn’t seem to really be that into it either, or at least he wasn’t when I used to go there.
I may have to do some scouting to see if the “F” applies up here.
I understand that gaming is a very niche market. Some stores try to be “geek” havens with comics and cards and games. They either end up doing one much better than the other or none well. There seems to be no in-between.
What are some of the ‘negative tropes’ your wife encounters?
Dirty, smelly, unclean, cursing, leering…need I continue?
I haven’t been to our local game stores for a long time. They are focused on MtG and that is about it.
Yeah. Big segment of the market. I am lucky to have a few stores like I write about but admittedly do most shopping online due to pricing.