Game shops offer more than just the usual boardgames to their customers.
By CHEE YIH YANG
GAME specialty shops have started to become more visible in Malaysia in recent years.
That’s not saying that there is a glaring lack of boardgamers and card gamers in the country. Judging by key events held (mostly) in the Klang Valley, there is a decent following here.
However, one thing that many will wonder is – how do the these shops keep their respective communities and fans active? What makes them come back to the same places, again and again?
Why people hang out
There’s certainly more than one thing in common for most boardgame hangouts and establishments. Firstly, the sense of belonging is reinforced by more than just being merely retailers and sellers of interesting and varied card and boardgames.
“The big difference is that we’re not just interested in selling, but also to actually build a community and teach younger players some skills. What players find in our shop is a tight-knit community where everyone helps each other out. Our regulars make it a point to come back every week,” said David Lian, co-owner of Warp Space Games (facebook.com/warpspacegames) in Old Klang Road, Selangor.
According to Comics Mart (facebook.com/pages/Comics-Mart-Midvalley/141820782516010), which is based in Kuala Lumpur, the things that maintain the interest of their regular patrons include being a convenient meeting ground for people of common interest, as well as a rather handy “daycare centre” for kids while their parents shop!
The owners also said that they often do well during lunch, with gamers indulging in “quick fixes” before heading back to class or work.
There are also some shops that pair games with other interests such as reading. Boardgame Depot (facebook.com/BGDepot) in Bangsar, KL, does this.
“People come over to the store mainly because there’s a wide range of board games and novels here. It’s always nice to have intellectual hobbies and our visitors usually come here for that. Additionally, they also appreciate the warm and homely atmosphere décor,” said owner Lucas Tho.
He even goes as far as to say that customers indulge in boardgames in order to break away from their addictions to electronic games such as MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing games), Angry Birds and even the latest craze, Draw Something.
“The warm and homely atmosphere we have is also another plus,” said Tho.
Making it regular
Some gaming communities thrive on routine. Jeff Au’s BoardgameCafe.net (http://blog.boardgamecafe.net/) group, which regularly meets on Friday nights, has seen his group grow from strength to strength. It started as a casual boardgame group that assembled regularly in the local kopitiam, but Au is now running his very own shop in Cheras, KL.
“We still keep very much to our regular Friday evening sessions, as that’s a good time for the working gamers to drop by and play. Public holidays give us opportunities to run longer sessions and explore more specialised forms of boardgaming such as the 18xx series (railway-building game) or even more lengthy boardgames such as Twilight Imperium 3,” said Au.
The BoardgameCafe.net also holds seasonal and semi-regular events. Au and his merry band of boardgamers have done annual “boardgame retreats”, where gamers and their families are invited to play boardgames in a resort or outstation setting. He is currently exploring the possibility of holding another retreat this year.
Newbies and pros
Other shops address accessibility and making sure upstart gaming fans are given the most convenient start. As miniature gaming has taken hold in Warp Space Games, Lian and his partners are innovating new ways to make it more accessible.
“We don’t want newbies walking in and feeling out of place at all. We’ve developed several programmes to help them get started in the hobby. For example, our upcoming Manufactorum Primaris Hobby Camp will be held during the school holidays and will feature three days worth of hobby and gaming time, while letting campers take home their own armies,” he explained.
Comics Mart also does pretty much the same thing, and addresses a much wider range of games, from role-playing games, to trading card games, boardgames, miniature games and deck-building games. What’s working for them are regular events, which will be publicised via Facebook. These include tournaments, demos and league games.
At the end of the spectrum, some think a more large-scale competition will draw the people in. Imagine Games has been promoting boardgames and miniature gaming for a number of years now, and its founder Edwin Wong will once again be having a Settlers of Catan competition, the Malaysian Catan Qualifiers. The winners of this competition will earn a trip for two to the United States in September, where they will represent the country for the World Catan Championships.
This event kicked off on April 1 across 14 official stores and 10 tournament centres in five states. In a unique format, the qualifiers will take place every weekend from April to June, so Catan fans can just pop by to learn the game, observe others, or play in as many official matches as they wish.
According to official organiser Imagine Games (http://web.mac.com/imagine newszine), the decision to use this more open format aims drive a fun and friendly celebration of this classic boardgame.
“We look forward to getting an entire nation excited about discovering and playing Catan over the next three months!” remarked Wong.
* Chee Yih Yang is already thinking of season three for his own Blood Bowl: Team Manager Card Game league. More tweaks! E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have comments, questions, hot gaming news and tips, and trading lists and deck ideas, for both Magic and World of Warcraft.