Monday, February 13, 2006

GAME STORE CONFIDENTIAL ~ Why Johnny can't game: Spousal interference and the effects of Panty-Waist behaviour on the Board Game industry.

“That’s okay DW, I don't need the box."

"What do you mean, 'you don't need the box'?"

"Just give me the bag, I'll throw the box away here"

So I handed Bob his bag and shoved the Warhammer Fantasy Battle boxed starter set to him. Warhammer boxes are about 2 feet long and weigh 10 pounds, they're stuffed to bursting with plastic miniatures, books, rulers, dice and other goodies. I watched as he ripped it open and started putting the parts and pieces in the large bag. Bob was only a semi-regular customer and I didn't really know him well, so I decided to warm him up a bit with my legendary Game Store Charisma.

"What the hell is this all about Bob?"

He looked up, but quickly went back to his bag-stuffing chore, talking as he worked.

"It's all about my wife DW. She'd kill me if she knew I bought this, so I put the bag in my car’s trunk and then carry a little bit in every day when I get home from work."

"You mean you sneak game pieces into the house, a little at a time?"


"Like the guys in that movie, The Great Escape, tunneling away and carrying the dirt out in their pockets a little at a time." Bob glanced up at me quizzically. I explained, "It's a prison movie. They were prisoners of war escaping from their German captors."

"Yeah, well, I guess it's sort of like that."

"Right. Except you're freeing little Dwarves and Orcs from my store and smuggling them into your house... right under the watchful eye of Sergeant Schultz's sister." Bob glanced up at me quizzically. I explained, "You know, the bumbling German sergeant? He was always the butt-end victim of Hogan and his band of nefarious, but lovable, Nazi prison camp detainees."

"Oh yeah", a look of slow recognition showed on Bob's face as he jammed plastic sprues into the bag, " well, not exactly, she isn't so jowly and her hair is long now." He went back to work on his purchase.

On his way out the door he waved, smiled brightly and said, "See ya next payday!"

Now for those who think I'm making this up, you're wrong. Bob never once cracked a smile at my Sergeant Schultz jibe. And what he did - sneaking games into his own home - was something I had witnessed hundreds of times in over twenty years of selling games. I consider this irrational behaviour a bizarre and deep-rooted blight upon gaming, not to mention a serious erosive factor that is at least partially responsible for the growing divorce rate and the increasing threat of Road Rage incidents. This covert behaviour can have negative effects on a gamer’s life well beyond the range of what might be normally expected. For example:

"That's okay DW, I don't want a bag."

"Really? Why not?"

"My wife knows your bags. No other store has black bags and when she sees one, we get into a fight."

"You know Ernie, all couples fight from time to time. It's normal"

"No DW, I don't mean we fight... I mean we fight... knives, brickbats, handguns, that sort of fight."

"Ah. So that would explain why you're always limping and have so much visible scar tissue."

"Now you're getting it DW."

Or the customers, more than I can count, who would buy a miniature pack or two, open them up, throw away the packs and foam inserts and put the miniatures in their pocket. I asked a couple of them here and there what they were doing and the generic answer was, "She'd never notice another miniature, the package she'd see."

"Even if you buried it in the bottom of the garbage?"

"Hey! That'd be sneaky. Behavior like that can ruin a relationship!"

Even RPG books didn't escape from having to be smuggled into a marriage. More than one customer not only refused a bag, but since I always put every book in a plastic cover, they'd leave that on the counter as well and then toss the receipt into the garbage on their way out the door.

I've sold several thousand packs of Magic cards to customers who opened the packs, took all the rares and uncommons out and left the commons, lands, boxes and wrappers behind, casually tucking the good cards in their shirt pocket or their card folders.

Now perhaps you're asking yourself: what does all this have to do with board games? Well, think about it for a moment... board games not only come in a box, they need a box. The box is an integral part of the game itself. Cruise over to BGG and you'll find 5 page threads where Geeks are flaming, counter-flaming, insulting, defending and boycotting game publishers because of the box the game comes in. Board gamers dedicate entire rooms to their boxes of games. They buy expensive shelving to accommodate their collections. They cram their kids into bunk beds and ceiling hammocks rather than convert their game box storage back to sleeping quarters. The internet is literally sagging with digital images of game collections; color coded, arranged by size, weight, temperature and various weird and arcane cataloging criteria.

Boxes are easily as important to a surprising number of gamers as the game itself, moreso in an uncomfortable number of cases. There were several lengthy threads a year or two back about what a horrible box and insert Mayfair's Modern Art reprint had. I read each thread, all the way through and there was almost no mention of Modern Art as a game, but there were some very militant people discussing ways to punish Mayfair for how they boxed it.

Hell, boxes are so critical an issue that when I saw the problems Hasbro was creating with their unusable Heroscape boxes I quickly bought stock in Rubbermaid. And I haven’t been disappointed.

Some people though, lead empty lives, ones filled with hopeless acceptance and quiet desperation. Those like Bob, and his gaming brothers-in-arms, will never be able to buy board games. If they do, their wives have convinced them they'll call a lawyer and file for divorce that night. Think I'm joking? I had at least two lengthy conversations in the last year I was in business with good RPG and miniature customers who came in often to play board games at my store. They loved board games. They coveted board games. But they didn't own any because their wives would find out - board games are a little hard to conceal amongst the dieffenbachia.

Both of them confessed that not being able to buy and have boardgames in their own homes had drained their lives of joy and that if they didn't have a greater fear of never being able to attract another woman than they had of the woman they did attract, they'd toss her out in a heartbeat and go on a board game buying binge.

And speaking of Boardgamegeek, there are scores of threads and lists where many Geeks lament not being able to buy the games they desire because of spousal control over the family budget and their personal time.

Now do you see the threat?

You're probably thinking that I'm laying this insidious and sinister epidemic at the feet of legions of unforgiving and steely-eyed spouses. Well, I'm not, the steely-eyed spouse legions certainly create the bulk of difficulties us men have, but not this one. The real carriers of this nasty disease are Panty-Waist Game Geek Wannabes. Gamer Guys who merely pretend to be bona fide Geeks, but who can't be counted on to stay in the fox hole when it's dinner time or when the 'better half' calls on the cell phone.

Basically, the only thing keeping board gaming from achieving the same levels of cultural immersion as CCG's and RPG's are fearful and weak male gamers who have ceded all control over their time and money to some little 5'3" shrew. One who probably spends more money every month on lip gloss, water pills and panty hose than the average Game Geek spends on games in a year.

You guys, and you know who you are, are pathetic. Oh sure, she may be cute. Yeah, yeah, so you have a kid or two (seemingly, you never heard of birth control). And woe is you if you end up in divorce court. Don't you see though? Once she has control over your money, she has control over your gaming. Once she controls that, she controls everything. At that point you might as well start brewing meth in your bathtub and dating trashy women on the side. Apparently the little woman doesn't want you to have any life at all, so why not just finish the job and ruin your existence the rest of the way?

My commentary this week is all about turning your life around. It's about taking a stand for Game Geekdom. Wouldn't you rather live a life of gaming freedom than the one you currently live, skulking around and fondling other people's board games? How about a life where you buy what you want, play when you want to and feel totally confident that the cell phone won't ring and you'll hear the dreaded: "When. Exactly. Were. You. Thinking. About. Coming. Home?"

Isn't that the life you really want? If so, then you need to do something about the problem. And I'm going to help you get started. Since personality disorders and other problems, like drug addiction and obsessive chat room behaviour, seem to respond so well to programs like AA’s 12-step program, I’ve developed my own program, complete with steps. My program is carefully designed to make men out of you wimpy and whipped little boys who only buy and play when SHE allows it.

Ready? Here we go, the steps to gaming freedom are:

1. Determine which game you really, really want to own.

2. Go buy it.

This isn't a 12-step program, it’s a two step program. You do step one. Follow it with step two.

Buy the game and make something happen. Walk in the door and show it to her. You may have to brush aside her cosmetics, hair styling implements, scrapbook gadgets, movie magazines, diet sodas, empty ice cream tubs, cats, yard sale treasures, magical-purse-of-hand-cream-holding, address books, origami failures, Oprah reading selections and assorted chocolate bars from the table in order to get room for your game. Just sweep all that useless crap off the table. You'll have her undivided attention at that point, so merely show her the game. Look her right in the eye and tell her it's about time she learned to play a few games with you. Make it a togetherness sort of thing. It’ll be a classic and memorable moment of bonding.

Go ahead, don't be a pussy. Just do it man! Trust me.

Once you’ve made a stand and proved to the little witc--, er, woman, that you are still that same rugged and confident stud that angered her so much in the first place that she decided to neuter you herself, your life will never be the same from that point forward.

And I'll guarantee you this... whatever the outcome of my two-step program, you'll get all the gaming time you could ever want if you follow it to the letter.


Ava Jarvis said...


Yes, togetherness is an important thing to stress. Then you can cozy together with Hera & Zeus, and bring home the occaisonal Command & Colors: Ancients, because then it's just "indulging" yourself.

(Occaisonal, mind you. Not every freaking week. Unless, of course, she's looking forwards to helping you apply little unit stickers on blocks.)

ekted said...

I crawl into bed at 3am after having placed another huge game order.

My girlfriend wakes and says, "Hi honey."

I say, "Hi. I just ordered another 12 games. They will be here Thursday."

"That's nice.

I fall into a restful sleep with a smile on my face. When they show up, I open the box and show her each one.

In your faces, wimps! :)

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that these little shrews drink coffee. A lot of it & all of that money could have gone to support the FLGS.

(I'm not being sarcastic, I agree with you Tripp.)

gamesgrandpa said...

DW -- I wondered what career you would take up after selling the store. Now I know -- Marriage Counselor. Excellent choice! I'm sure you will do well at it.

Melissa said...


I assume this cuts both ways, too, and I should take a stand against husbandly complaints of my taking too much time playing online games ;)

(There aren't ever complaints about game buying at our place)

Fraser said...

Thanks for teaching me a new word DW.

Luckily we both already follow your two step plan.

All Werewolf Widowers should :-)

Anonymous said...

I'll take your two-step program and shrink it by one.

1. Marry a gamer.

Anonymous said...

My problem is hiding my game purchases from my husband! Yes, he's a gamer, too, but still realistic enough to fear his wife's spending habits, whatever they may be! Shoes be damned, give me games and minis!!!