Monday, August 08, 2005

Game Store Confidential

So, let’s see… I’m at 7 cities connected now and I buy resources and build second. So that means, with this amount of Electros, I can build to 11 cities…. That would put me in the lead, meaning… I’ll buy resources last, but I’ll bid first on that power plant I need in order to have an 18 city capability, which ought to be enough to –-

“Excuse me!”

Cripes! Another frickin’ customer...

“Yes? Can I help you?”

"Yeah, I’d like to buy these Star Wars boosters and do you have the new Yu-Gi-Oh expansion?”

Yes, I’m gaming in the store on Saturday. Playing Power grid with a former employee Heather, her brother Tommy and another hardcore gamer named Kerry. In order to play a game with me on a workday you have to be willing to wait... and wait… and sometimes wait some more. That’s because I have to sell stuff. Whether I actually want to sell stuff is beside the point. At this stage of my life and my retailing “career” I could personally give a crap who buys what and when they do it. I just want to sit back down and vanquish my three opponents who, now that I glance over there, are huddled together suspiciously.

“So that’ll be $117.50”

As I swipe the little card flopper’s Gold Card through the machine I glance at the table with the Power Grid game again. They are now carrying on animatedly and Kerry is pointing at the power plants. Are they up to something? What exactly can you be “up to” in a game like Power Grid?

40 minutes and several more sales-oriented interruptions later I’m into analyzing my end game strategy. I now have the capability to power 18 cities and I have 14 built and the money for the four needed cities. I am slightly surprised that the other three had somehow lucked out and built in such a fashion that I had no city to build to until the Phase Three card appeared. I’ve never been in that situation. It seemed awfully lucky... for them. Not to mention, they drained their own coffers to do so and each one of them had more cities than they could power. Hmmmm.

“Hey! Is Robo Rally on your sale list?”

Good grief! Another frickin’ customer?

“Yes it is. It has a $50 retail and I’m selling it for $39.99.”

Off I go to the register. While I’m there, several more lost souls wander in looking for everything from Nintendo controllers ~Yeah, right~ to Japanese Hentai Comics ~ Get outta my life you mouth-breathing sicko Perv ~ to some RPG book so obscure that only the writer, publisher and their parents bought copies of it.

Kerry, Heather and Tommy are huddled again, but they’re too far away for me to hear what they’re saying. Kerry and Tommy are pointing at the resource display and Heather starts to nod... as if in appreciation of some heretofore unearthed kernel of truth.

What is going on? Oh well, back to paying the rent...

“That’ll be $69.12”

“Is that with the discount?’

“You bet.”

“Man, I guess the kids can get by on Ramen noodles for the next week, I gotta have these new metal dice and this totally bitchin’ 130th Level Power-Wizard Handbook of Doom.”

“Yep. It’s great stuff... just... great”

So as I ring up the guy who is planning to starve his children half to death while giving the false impression of actually feeding them, I see my three opponents all lean back in unison, cross their arms in front of their chests, in unison, and then look over at me with smirky little smiles, in unison.

Call me paranoid, but I was getting the distinct impression that something definitely was up.

When I managed to get back to the game and started looking the board over I noticed that there were almost zero resources available. Two or three barrels of trash, a couple of nuclear rods and a pile of coal. That was it.

“So, is it my turn?”

To which all three replied, in unison, “Yep. It’s your turn to buy resources.”

Do I need to tell you what happened? Okay, I will. I was reduced to only powering 5 out of my 14 cities. Then, in an act of desperation, I overpaid for the big solar power plant, but it mattered little as they all bought and built before me. So when my turn came I had no resources to buy to power the needed cities for the win.

What they did was, in effect, use my time at the register to script the last 5 or 6 turns in such a fashion that I could not win. Now before you declare this unethical or cheating or not in the “spirit” of gaming, realize – I own a store. That means in almost every game I play in the store some gamers are more interested in not being beat by me than they are in actually winning the game themselves.

Isn't that what they call the “meta-game”?

I’m used to it though. My game groups of the 80’s and the 90’s and now of the 00's have all had traces of targeted game playing. And I have usually been the target. During the same week in games of El Grande and Robo Rally I noticed the same thing with different groups of players. Beating me was paramount to winning.

Kerry, Heather and Tommy all thought it was really funny and when we post-mortem’ed the game I asked if they felt they had just played Power Grid or if they had just played a new game called Beat DW At All Costs? Everybody agreed that Power Grid was just the weapon, but that they had pulled the trigger. Gleefully, I might add.

You may have the same thing going in your game group, especially if it’s a regular group and one person in particular either wins quite a bit or is somehow the focal point of the group. Being that person, I will say this, it makes me a better gamer and I lose often enough to have acquired heaps of humility many years ago. Plus, if I hadn’t been interrupted for all those 5 to 10 minute stretches, the three dullards I was playing against would never have been able to figure out how to stop me.

“Excuse me!”

Jaysus H Christo!!! Another dice-chucking 40K Goober.

“Yes, can I help you?”

“I need to know what the HQ unit for the Tyranid Army is and if you have it in stock.”

So as I hand the guy the Hive Tyrant box I look over and see Kerry, Heather and Tommy pawing through the opened game boxes on my table, they appear to have their heads closer together than normal as they examine Puerto Rico and a few other popular titles. I wonder if they’re discussing how to flay me in other games now –-


“Yep. But I normally knock 10% off and today we have a 15% off sale--“

“That is insane! Forty-Five bucks?!!! For a metal miniature???”

“I understand. You could proxy it though until you have the money. Heck, if you have the old Hive Tyrant he’s still a Hive Tyrant.”

“Nah. That’s okay, I can get those cheapie diapers at Wal-Mart and the kids will be fine for another week eating Mac & Cheese with weenie slices. Ring me up!”

I think I need a career change.

DW Tripp ~ August 2005


Melissa said...

I've not worked retail for a long time, but I remember those days well. And these days, it's my kids that interrupt my gaming like your customers do :)

Coldfoot said...

Great post, DW. And now I *know* you need a vacation in the Black Hills! :)

Joe Gola said...

"Daddy, what's scurvy? The school nurse kept saying that word today."

"That's what little girls get when they ask too many questions. Now finish putting the base coat on those wolf riders or there's going to be no birthday parties this year."


gamesgrandpa said...

Ah, DW, another great contribution. You are an excellent writer. Why not sell the store and write for a living? On second thought (as they say) don't give up your day job -- unless you can afford it.

You do have the writer's knack. I look forward to more calm rants in the future.

Yehuda Berlinger said...


Rick said...

One of these days Trippy you should sit down and start writing you tales as a retail store owner. Sort of like the "Acts of Gord" site. I'd buy that from Borders! :)

PS: They were obviously colluding against you.

Rick (Fawkes)

Phoeniix said...

Ha. I had a good laugh while reading this article. Lucky for me, my FLGS owner has "lackeys" to run the counter while he has the flexibility to go play games. Ever thought of getting one? They are easy to come by especially with all those regular gamers you see hanging round your store who seem to know your store better than you =)

GROGnads said...

I agree with 'phoenix' as I know of some folks like that! Even BETTER are when the 'owners' INVITE a customer to participate IN an 'actual' game session! It will depend upon that 'game' being played, while I try to have some going that are 'minis' based. This permits 'reinforcements' to enter PLAY, and who's gonna 'turn down' THOSE!?!
''sorry, we DON't 'need' the 'dudes'!''
yeah right!

Jason Little said...

Beat DW At All Costs sounds a lot like a game that gets played at our place regularly called It Doesn't Matter Who Wins As Long As Jay Loses. Perhaps they're both by the same designer.

Great post -- it's raised my view of curmudeony FLGS owners considerably! :)

Christopher Stogdill said...

The spend money for games and screw the rest of my responsibilities is a valid complaint.....but come on you knew Kerry was a scheming player. I have discovered that if you get him drunk, you can pretty much wax the floor with him....even if you are just as sloshed as he is.

Scrib said...

I used to get interupted playing Ace of Aces in the clothing store. Never made a difference in the game though.

I'm so glad I left retail. Uh... actually retail left me. Oh well, now my job is to interupt other people's work days.

And yeah, you string words together pretty well.

Kratrina said...

Hey now if I remember correctly, I didn't win that game either DW. And as Face said Kerry is a scheming gamer, I didn't want any part of his plan. Nice rant btw, I'll remember to use it against you the next time I'm at the store.