Support your FLGS
It’s that time again. Saturday, June 15th is Free RPG Day. Many game stores of the friendly local variety will be hosting events—and incidentally, giving away free RPGs. Why not take the opportunity to do a little shopping?
This year’s offerings include adventures for Pathfinder, as well as several Old School RPG darlings, like Tunnels and Trolls, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Also included the booty are quick start rules for Fantasy Flight Games’ Edge of the Empire Star Wars RPG (eh), and Catalyst Games’ Shadowrun 5th edition (woohoo!). Many stores will also be running sales and events to drive more traffic. Really, if you only visit your FLGS one day a year, this should be it.
FLGS have come a long way in recent years. Maybe it was the recession, or perhaps it’s an artifact of place (living in the Bay Area means businesses generally have to be… good… or they fail), but in my estimation, the game stores that have hung in there are of an exceptional quality. With videogames becoming mainstream, and other influencers like The Big Bang Theory making general geekery somewhat more accessible, why, even the cool kids are having board game nights these days—and they aren’t playing Monopoly. As a result, the dark, cavernous, sweat-tinged nerd fortress, formerly the province of the Comic Book Guy, has become a well-lit, friendly establishment, serving products that cater to a wide variety of tastes.
Now, I’ve made no bones about it—I’ve largely (but not completely) transitioned my gaming content to digital formats. I remember the backaches that went with toting around D&D books back in the day, and it only reinforces my love of tablets and e-readers. No more gaming induced injuries! Hallelujah! I’m also an unabashed fan of Amazon—I buy everything from shampoo to frying pans online. But I always go out of my way to support my FLGS. While I almost never buy books there anymore, I make it a point to buy all of my board games in-store. I go in at least once a month just to browse, and I always leave with something, even if it’s just the latest Munchkin expansion or the like. Not because I need it, but because I want to support the institution.
Now, I’m sure the proprietors of my FLGS would be the first to tell you that they run a business, not a charity, and I certainly don’t think of my reflexive monthly purchases as strictly for the benefit of the store. I get plenty of mileage out of the games I buy. But that small (sometimes large) purchase is my way of saying, “I appreciate that you’re here.” Not because I can’t find the same games elsewhere—I know for a fact I could find them cheaper online. Rather, because I value the services my FLGS provides. It’s the hub of a thriving community of gamers of all stripes—card gamers, board gamers, miniature gamers, and role-players. They host events, provide play spaces, and an active online forum for finding gaming groups inside and outside of the store.
My cynical side thinks this exercise in community building is just good business—after all, if you rely on a niche market, it’s in your interest to cultivate that niche. However, the net positives of having an active community seriously overshadow my cynicism. Just knowing that the pool of tabletop gamers (of all stripes) is, if anything, growing in the face of video gaming, does my heart heaps of good. So this Saturday, go to your nearest FLGS and pick up some free RPG’s, but don’t stop there. Take a few minutes to look around, and use your visit as an opportunity to pick up that board game expansion you’ve had your eye on, another mini (you’ll have good intentions of painting… eventually), or the new sourcebook for your favorite game. You deserve the treat, and you’ll be supporting a small business.
There’s a game store within walking distance of my house, and yet I drive 30 miles to a different FLGS that’s much better stocked, and actually practices the “F” in FLGS.
That said, I buy a lot of my stuff from Miniature Market online. They have an actual, physical store in St. Louis, and yet they still manage to beat even Amazon’s prices online. The concept of the FLGS isn’t incompatible with the online world.
I absolutely agree with the sentiment, Brian. I will go out of my way to frequent stores that double-down on the “F” even if it drops the “L” out of the equation. That said, I am blessed that the Bay Area has so many kick-ass gaming stores. I used to frequent Games of Berkeley, but now that I’m in the South Bay, it’s all about Game Kastle (probably the best game store I’ve ever been to, and the one on my mind while I was writing this post).
I also agree with you re: digital retail. I make it a point to shop from small businesses to support my gaming habit, so DriveThruRPG and Noble Knight Games are frequent destinations…