Sunday, August 29, 2010

What is wrong with gaming today? Part III

So, it's about two months since my last post, and the topic for this one has been weighing on my mind since 22 July.

Rejects and elitists are ruining the hobby!
Let me expand. I had the opportunity to go into both Travelling Man and Fan Boy 3 in Manchester last month, and was unhappy with both stores for very different reasons.

Travelling Man is clean, bright, open and attracts the 'cool' geek crowd - the ones that like the painfully cool Japanese animation and horror movies, that read the indie comic press and listen to imported hip-hop and alternative rock. It is a store staffed and frequented by the elite. It's the comic book/RPG store version of the shop in High Fidelity.
As a (now) casual browser who does not have his finger on the pulse of gaming, I felt quite intimidated. I clearly wasn't cool enough to spend my money there, and wondered how somebody new to the hobby would feel walking in the door.
The interior of Travelling Man

Next I went into Fan Boy 3, which has found a niche as a gaming house, with tables set up in every spare inch of floor space, and incredibly smelly (literally offensively smelling) teenage metallers playing D&D at them. It's small, dark and the smell of body odour hits you the second you walk in. It's horrible.
I know my wife mocks this store, and I know why. The patrons are the lowest common denominator of social outcast. They're girlfriendless weirdoes recently escaped from the dark place their parents mercifully kept them locked in most of their lives.
Again, what would somebody new to the hobby think when they walk in that door?
A passing 'normal' persons
reaction to Fanboy 3
EDIT: I did an image search on google so I could ad an image of both shops, and the first image on the list was this one. It pretty much mirrors my wife's reaction to the store as well.

I probably sound like i'm being overly harsh, but I really can't stress how disappointed I was with the public faces of my hobby.

To illustrate, I recently bought a 1/4 size guitar for my son, who's three. I went into a professional music store first, which was incredibly spacious, with beautiful displays of instruments and all the latest equipment. It was air conditioned and staffed by serious musicians who no doubt sat in with some dead guy when he recorded that seminal album you don't own but is painfully influential.
God, I hated it. I had no place asking about a cheap hobby item for a toddler. No, I was directed to a small corner full of beautiful things I didn't want, and by God I was thankful of the sparse attention I did receive. Once I'd finished looking (but not touching) I backed out carefully, ensuring I didn't sully any of the priceless items within reach.
Instead, I nipped into a local family run music shop, less than a quarter of the size, with a mixed stock of instruments ranging from cheap & cheerful to mid range pricey. The other customers were teenagers getting their prized first electric guitar repaired, parents looking for a present for their teenagers, local musicians hanging out and chatting and casual browsers.
The staff took the time out to talk to my son (who had been roundly ignored by the staff of the first shop) and fuss over him. They determined my level of knowledge and exactly what we were looking for, and then sold it to me.
It was great. I'll go back again.

So, my overall point is, why are there no welcoming, friendly, inoffensive gaming shops? Why do we have to either be elitists or scum? Why can't we just be normal people who like gaming and who take the time to talk to everybody at the level they need?