Monday, January 02, 2006

GAME STORE CONFIDENTIAL ~ Dumb Gamers

For the first time in over 23 years I don’t have my game store weighing on my mind. It’s been a constant background noise in my addled brain since November of 1982. And now it’s gone. Done. Finito. No mas.

Just the final boxes of product and eBay fodder to box up and store, move the extra displays into a storage unit, clean up a few odds and ends and it will wink out of existence… remaining just as a fading memory in the gray matter of several thousand gamers.


A very small portion of what I'll be unloading on eBay over the next several months

A number of people on BGG have asked me to relate some of the more humorous occurrences that have occurred in my years of game store ownership. The thinking is, I suppose, that Game Geeks are somehow more prone to doing dumb stuff than normals are. I’m not sure that’s true. Human nature is such that dumb stuff - which I suppose means funny stuff – is a common trait for gamers and non-gamers alike. In addition to which, most of what I consider “dumb” is shake-your-head-in-amazement stuff and not always funny in the slapstick comedy sense.

For example; I had this guy working for me back in the 90’s. Nice guy. Young and mixed up with your typical Psycho-Bitch from Hell D&D Geekette. She was as batty and as wicked as they come. She popped two kids out from him, over the course of several years and two or three break-ups and restarts of the relationship. During the 18 months or so he worked for me I noticed he was always broke, always wanting an advance and very sensitive to his money situation. Almost as much as he was continually upset that she kept sleeping with different people from the various D&D groups they played in.

You don’t want to get me started on D&D and Satan… or D&D as a corrosive element in modern youth… or D&D as an addictive force that generates slack-jawed losers who, as they age, become increasingly inept at social activities that don’t focus on hit points, class, alignment or leveling up.

Back when I used to sell street bikes for a living, during the very early days of my game store, I was asked by a friend who hated motorcycles if I had any ethical considerations about selling 100 horsepower bikes to 19 year old kids suffering from adrenaline overload. All I could say was, “Hey! I own a game store. I sell D&D. If I’m burning in hell someday it isn’t going to be because of a biker kid who overcooks it into a corner and gets introduced to a logging truck. It’ll be because despite what TSR and industry PR-Schmoes say, D&D really is a force of evil on the planet.”

Anyway, back to the psycho-bitch and the guy with money issues. Anyone who has run a business that involves a till probably understands that by keeping this guy on at the store I was ignoring several seriously red flags. Money problems? Energy and life-sucking female problems? Two kids? Her cheating heart? The smart move would have been to part company with him. Send him down the road.

But instead I counseled him. He’d buy a sandwich almost every day from the deli at the corner. Five or six bucks a pop. So one day I said, “Did it ever occur to you that you’re spending close to $150 per month on lunch? You could go to the grocery store, pack three sandwiches a day for lunch and still come out $100 ahead at the end of the month.” He’d always reply that he didn’t have time, the car was broke, the kids were sick, the psycho-bitch was gone all night, or some other reason. No matter how I tried to help, he gave me similar responses.

Along comes January and I’m doing the final numbers for the year that just ended. Something didn’t add up. I got with my dad and pointed out that we really ought to have several thousand more in the bank than was there. So my dad and me, we start going back through sales records for the year, tallying the daily totals with the product record sheets we kept. Starting in the previous spring, this guy’s daily numbers were almost always less than the product sheets revealed were sold. Yet every other person who worked the counter had product sheets that correctly reconciled with the sales receipt packets.

When I had all the incriminating data, I sat him down, told him I figured he had nipped me for somewhere around $6,000 or so and asked what he wanted to do about it. He denied it… of course. I also pointed out several items that he had specifically asked me to order for him that were on invoices yet the products themselves were absent from the store. And there was no record of him having bought them at his discount, or at all. He denied it. Even after I showed him the math, of his own sales records and sheets, he denied it. So I asked him on what basis he was denying it? He said, “I’m really bad at math.”

I couldn’t bring myself to call the cops. I didn’t want the hassle, which was one reason. The other was the guy had two kids. Maybe this would be a wake-up call. It’s not like having him locked up would ever really put the $6,000 back in my pocket where it belonged. My reasoning was the kids would be better off with a dad who was a thief buying diapers than with no dad around at all.

And off he went.

About 6 months later I get a call at home. It’s the thief. I was a bit dumbfounded and so I asked him why the hell he was calling me. “Well, I’m applying for a job at Toys R Us and I need a recent work reference.”

“You’re asking me to give you a reference for a job?”

“Yes.”

“Even after I fired you for stealing my money?”

“Errr… well, I thought we’d taken care of that.”

“You mean the part about you being bad at math?”

“Yes.”

All I could do at that point was laugh, a real belly laugh too, not some weak chuckle. It just struck me as so nuts, steal a guy’s money, deny it, and then ask for a work reference. After wiping the tears of hilarity from my face I suggested that he never, ever, under any circumstance, call me, visit with me or even be in the same general location as me.

What got me thinking about this guy was the fact that we’ve been playing a lot of Bang! lately. And every time I pull my copy of Bang! and Dodge City out it reminds me that the only documented case I have of actual board game theft from my store was that about 18 months ago somebody stole my copies of both games. Well-worn copies I might add. Not that two $10 games being nicked is major, but my copy of the hard-to-find High Noon subset was in the box as well. That pisses me off.



If you happen to see a worn and dirty copy of this along with the two expansions, it's mine!

Okay, I do recall one more board game theft. This slimy weasel that used to come in, Jake is his name, most certainly lifted a couple of expansions for Supremacy from me some years back. He denies it, of course. But it is a well-known fact in this part of Idaho that the only person who ever actively tried to get a Supremacy night going was Jake. He was also perpetually broke or in jail for everything ranging from passing bad checks to soliciting internet sex from minors.

Would it matter if I mentioned Jake’s real first love is D&D?

Nah, it means nothing… well, except to me perhaps.

One evening, a couple of years ago, we assembled our usual Thursday night board game session at the store and it was decided that we’d play Runebound. One of the people there is a long time buddy of mine who is not so much a gamer as he is a world-class miniature painter. And I mean that sincerely. Mike is one of the best painters ever. He is also a sergeant in the Sheriff’s Department… in charge of the County Jail, home to over a thousand people like Jake. In fact, a frequent stopover for Jake. Who, I might add, came rushing into the store as we were pulling Runebound out and preparing to play. He demanded to be let into the game so I said okay.

Eventually Jake looked closely at the other 5 players and his eyes got really, really round and buggy when he saw Mike. I guess he didn’t recognize him at first, which isn’t surprising when the only previous time you met someone they were hand-cuffing you, patting you down or standing there with their arms crossed while some FNG at the jail snaps on the surgical gloves and preps you for a cavity check.

Once he realized that Mike wasn’t going to acknowledge their “real life connection”, Jake started getting cocky. In that jailhouse sense. Talking smack, chattering about being in the lead, having all the cool stuff, being the Runebound King and just in general making an ass out of himself. He was so assured of his victory – as he had the teleporting mirror – that he even began to carefully taunt Mike, who smiled benignly and ignored the verbal jabs.

Finally, Jake declared that nobody else could possibly beat him as he had the right henchmen and equipment to take on the Big Bad Guy. When it was Mike’s next turn, he flipped his encounter card, got the Big Bad Guy and trounced him completely in two combat rounds. Game over.

I haven’t seen Jake since then. He never came back in the store. Mike mentioned to me a couple of times that Jake still visits him frequently though.

An astounding number of local D&D Geeks reside with these fine people

_________________________________________________________________


The sheer amount of games I’ve played in the last two weeks probably exceeds any three month total in my entire life. Everything from the aforementioned Bang! to For Sale to Oasis to Liar’s Dice to Knizia’s Formula Motor Racing. And tonight, thanks to Shannon Appelcline and his totally superb articles on this blog, I taught three of my frequent gamer buds how to play Eurorails. Shannon’s articles are among the best on the internet and every time he delves into a game system it makes me hunger to play it… well, not every time, but every time he covers something I already know I like.



This is the shiny new version of Mayfair's excellent game. Mine looks like something from the 1950's, a longish box with corporate gray and faded pastels.

One thing about the crayon railroad games, set aside an extra hour when you teach it and only play to $150 million. Otherwise you’ll run the risk of losing the newbie forever. My new players tonight loved it. So much so that they asked me if I had any of the other sets. Gotcha!!!!

Another landmark event occurred in my gaming life on New Year’s Eve. I was visiting BGG for a while before going out to the local dive bar for a beer and I got drawn in again to the reviews of Friedrich. Mike Siggins even likes this game and from what I can tell, the old Sumo doesn’t particularly like games to begin with. So that’s a pretty high recommendation. With that in my mind, I went to Bowen Simmons’s website and bought the damned thing.

What is this world coming to? I buy my very first game ever online, and I pay full retail for the damned thing?

Happy New Year!!!!!

10 comments:

gamesgrandpa said...

What?! DW buys a game ONLINE!!!??? Uh oh -- sell everything - buy supplies - head for the hills and hunker down! Armageddon must be just around the corner. -- And I haven't even had a chance to play all the games I received for Christmas, even once.....

Wow, DW, your lifestyle is definitely in flux (not Fluxx, mind you).

Jason said...

Your game store will be missed, but from what I can tell from the few months I've been living here, it will leave a legacy of gamers for generations to come. Here's to hoping you don't become a crazy hermit so you can keep introducing me to games that I can't believe I've missed my whole life (as short as it has been thus far).

Oh, and I'll keep an eye open for your somewhat-mobile copy of Bang! and related paraphenalia.

huzonfirst said...

Wow! Sorry you've encountered so many negatives from the roleplaying scene, DW. Although every activity has its down side, I honestly feel that a really good roleplaying session is pretty much the best gaming experience there is. And when properly supervised (as just about every children's activity should be) roleplaying has tremendous benefits for youngsters, including sparking their imaginations and encouraging creativity, cooperative behavior, teamwork, and public speaking. I don't deny that the possibility for addictive behavior exists, but I seem to recall that addiction to alcohol is a possibility as well--that still shouldn't stop people from having a glass of wine a day. Anyway, I don't expect to change your obviously strong views on the subject, but I thought an alternative view from someone who I hope is a non-D&D loser might be appropriate.

Rick said...

Great stories DW. Good reading. Thanks for taking the time to share it.

DWTripp said...

Wow! Sorry you've encountered so many negatives from the roleplaying scene, DW.

I'm just being a cranky gamer Huzon. I played D&D from 1979 through 1983, then again for a while when 2nd Edition was released.

What I do suffer from is D&D overload. Being the impact point for several thousand D&D Geek's outpourings for so many years has made the whole genre a little unappealing to me.

But, here's my main beef: Power gaming is the way D&D is played now. Level up, get the XP, kill the Wabbit, multi-class and on and on. I've observed and listened closely and I'm guessing 95% of all campaigns are played at a power-hungry and aggressive XP questing level that I don't like.

Would I ever role-play again? Perhaps. If the group was compatible, if the DM ran a role-playing campaign that really included role-playing, if the DM outlawed any source books at the table, if there was no alignment allowed, etc., etc., etc.

See what I mean? I'm a hard man to please now.

But, you are right. Role-playing in moderation and with some degree of intelligence is fantastic for developing a sense of imagination and yes, even good social skills.

Yehuda said...

Exactly why I got disgusted with D&D once it hit 3e. Instead of the natural "role-playing" system of having the DM say what you can or can't do, it tried to make it into a "roll-playing" and "rule-playing" system; only 4 pages of the Player's guide was devoted to role-playing.

If I ever RPG'd again, it would be with something like Children of Fire.

Yehuda

huzonfirst said...

You're right about power roleplayers, DW. I've played with a few of them from time to time and they tend to suck the fun out of the game. Worst of all is the kind of ennui they often exhibit, a "been there, done that" attitude that takes all the sense of wonder out of the game. It's as if admitting that an adventure has any novelty value is showing a weakness. Come to think of it, any player who tries to accomplish anything with their character other than roleplaying it well and just having fun can be a real drain on the experience. I've been fortunate enough to avoid most of that in my games.

Shannon Appelcline said...

Thanks for the kind words, DW.

rogdog13 said...

Your blogs are the best I've read when it comes to the world of boardgames...and there are quite a few I feel are worth reading.

Keep up the great work. These things should be made into a memoir and published.

Phyrry said...

Power gaming is the way D&D is played now. Level up, get the XP, kill the Wabbit, multi-class and on and on.

The WotC boards are full of people discussing character builds, what to play for best combat effectiveness, how to min/max a level 10 kobold into an all-powerful god-killing monster... if I wanted to game that way, I'd just sit my ass down in front of my computer and massacre things in Diablo II.

These days I run Nobilis, which ignores power gamers (You're a god? So's everybody else, buddy!) and is all about the characters, the world, and the story we build together. I'd love to play D&D sometime, but with just the core books, maybe in 2E-style Planescape... my whole group has fond memories of that setting.

Thank you for Dark Horse, Wolf.