With International Tabletop Day around the corner, we’re counting down the days to the big celebration by highlighting friendly local gaming stores, their owners, and their awesome stories. Be sure to find an ITTD event near you so you can enjoy the festivities in your community.
Dungeon Games in Estero Florida is a welcoming and comfortable shopping experience. The best word to describe them and the experience they offer is thoughtful. As an example, when deciding on the layout of the store, the first thing they wanted to tackle was the customer experience for a first-time customer. According to Josh Petrik, the owner, “We laid the store out in a way that, when someone walks in they’re greeted by the product and by staff and that’s it. We did this by setting up a divider wall with product that has a walkway that leads to the back, but we put the tables in such a way that there’s no line of sight from the game tables to the front door. We also made sure that the store has a fun atmosphere by painting the walls to look like a dungeon and decorating with things like skeletons, spiders, and such.”
The thoughtfulness that Josh puts into his store goes beyond simple store layout, “We hand made our tables to give it a more ‘comfy’ look, and we make sure that the restrooms are always clean and stocked with more than just paper towels and toilet paper.” For them, that meant being thoughtful of women, stocking necessities like feminine hygiene products, as well as products for people who may have Crohn’s disease or other instinal tract issues that may otherwise hamper their ability to spend time playing games in the store. They even go so far as to have air ionizers, “so that people don’t have to worry about the gamer funk”.
Beyond the physical layout of the store, this thoughtfulness permeates the culture of the store in a myriad of other ways, “We also try to do events for people specifically targeting groups that are traditionally marginalized. For example, my wife runs an all women’s D&D game for women who want to play, but never felt comfortable playing with mixed gender groups. We’re currently looking for a female Magic [the Gathering] player who can help us champion our Lady Planeswalker Society chapter, but we want to be sure that it’s someone who can independently represent us and the LPS properly.”
Inclusivity is part of the culture of the store. “We outlaw common words/phrases that you tend to hear that people use without realizing that they could be hurtful.” Josh and the Dungeon Games staff are making a stand for people to feel comfortable and included, and part of creating that culture includes the banning of derogatory terms (the likes of which I’m uncomfortable listing and sadly have heard countless times in gaming cons and events.) “We’re not saints, and we still have the normal level of inappropriate jokes and humor because that’s just a part of the community. But we try to keep the line between acceptable and unacceptable very clear.” It’s a laudable sentiment. You can have a sense of humour and still be a champion for inclusivity.
To get to the heart of why this attitude and exists and why it is important, you have to get to know Josh. “I grew up in the early 90’s. I didn’t have many friends, was socially awkward, and played lots of video games; you know, a nerd. I grew up playing games like Dragon Warrior and Zelda and I fell in love with the whole ‘medieval/fantasy thing’. So naturally when a friend introduced me to Magic: the Gathering I was hooked from Day 1. Over the course of ’95 my friends Kohl and I played Magic almost to the exclusion of all of our other games. We played at a local shop called Comic Warehouse ( later renamed Big Kats) and from there we moved into D&D once we realized that we could still have a ton of fun without having to spend every cent on booster packs. I found an identity there, I found friends, and I found family. Being a gamer was something I was proud of. I used to sit in the shop and think “Man, this is what I want to do one day.””
“Realistically I knew I wouldn’t ever be able to do it, but it was always fun to dream. I spent my late teens and 20’s working different retail jobs, Toys R Us, Target, Best Buy, etc. and I was in school for Network Administration. But every project and mock up scenario I did, I always used a game store as my subject. It was a pipe dream to actually open a shop, but it was fun to dream. I was working for Target Pharmacy for a few years when my wife and I heard the bad news that Bob, the owner of my old game store passed away and the store was closing. In the same week, the other local shop also announced they were closing. My wife and I sat down and realized we had the chance to do what we had always talked about but never expected to have the opportunity. So we drained my 401k and pension from Target, took the money we had saved to buy a house, and said “it’s now or never”. I quit my job and went to work full time trying to build our dream store. Now we’re 2.5 years in and doing very well. I’m finally able to help others find their place. To find the community that I found years ago.”
What are things you can do to make gaming more inclusive? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credits: Dungeon Games