A couple of weekends ago, we visited an area with a plethora of gaming stores. As usual, we spent a day of our travels tooling around and checking them out. Ultimately, the experience reminded me that we can never move away from where we live now. It’s kind of gaming heaven here, whereas the place where we were was…gaming something else. Purgatory, maybe? I mean, there were gaming stores, so it couldn’t be hell. Still, at the end of it, I was so glad for my own Friendly Local Gaming Store and my own gaming group that I couldn’t help but feel like I need to stay put at all costs.

Here were some of the stores we saw:

The Store in Death Alley: Behind three rows of abandoned warehouses, this storefront seemed like something out of a bad horror film. No cars anywhere. Roads with huge pot holes. A CLOSED sign in the window, even though I’d just talked to the guy on the phone and he’d said they were open and that, yes indeed, they were in that building. A mysterious red substance on the concrete steps that led down into the basement storefront. A warped cardboard sign on the door. No windows. This was the area’s “premiere gaming store”? I’d hate to see the second-rate ones. Sorry–no thanks. We passed.

The Friends’ Living Room: This store was in a tiny suburban neighborhood, in an old one-story house. It was a cute enough place, but the store’s entire footprint was taken up by miniatures gaming tables with people parked at every available space. (And by “every available space,” I mean about as much room as I have in my living room if I pull out all the Warhammer tables at once.) They had some minis for sale and a shelf with a handful of board games, but this was really a living room full of the proprietor’s friends posing as a shop. In fact, I suspect he and his friends make up the majority of the sales, too. Secretly, I like the business model. Perhaps I could open up a board gaming store that only orders in what my gaming group wants to play. Still, it’s not so exciting to visit unless you’re one of the crowd, and in fact, we could barely get into the shop because there wasn’t enough room for the ten or so of them to move their chairs to allow us to enter.The vibe was good, but the buying wasn’t.

The Store that Time Forgot: One store was nice enough in terms of size, footprint, and presentation, but had nothing newer than about four years old on its shelves. In fact, a FFG game that had been discontinued in 2009 was on its shelf of “New Arrivals.” When your gaming group is made up of people who endlessly scour BoardGameGeek and RPG blogs, someone generally has new stuff the minute it leaves the boat from production. If I wanted something made in 2009, I would have, you know, bought it in 2009.

All of this just made me really glad for my own FLGS, which, even though it’s a half hour away and not actually the most “L” of the stores in our area, really is a wonderful store. It’s not a huge place, but the owner has wisely put the majority of product up front and the gaming tables in back, so you don’t have to navigate a million screeching Pokemon/MtG/40K/Wings of War/etc. players to get to what you want. He carries a decent selection of RPGs, board games, miniatures, and comics, all of which are displayed sensibly and with enough space that you can see his product and pull it out without disturbing a delicate ecosystem. His “New Arrivals” section actually consists of stuff that came out this week–and it changes every week because he orders things as soon as they come out. He can and will order anything for you, and, if you visit often enough, he’ll keep on the lookout for things you might want and will save a copy for you. He follows the news in board games and RPGs, so he knows what’s coming up and happily makes suggestions if you’re receptive to that sort of thing.

I came away feeling really lucky to have a supportive and well-informed gaming community where I live. I haven’t always been that lucky, and this little reminder of what other places are like made me incredibly grateful. Even better, my local gaming community is filled with highly-educated gamers with excellent social skills–another great bonus. I’m not sure if the gaming stores nearby are great because of the great customers, or whether the great customers are shaped by having access to such wonderful gaming stores, but either way, it’s a win-win situation.

In other news, I talked about the Zombies, Run app a couple of posts ago. I will say that it’s made my existing inclination towards being a running snob even worse. While I’m at the track or the gym with others who are simply there to knock off a few pounds to get into their wedding dresses or whatever, I’m running to save a town from zombies. There are over a hundred souls in my little town now, and they depend on my treadmill run every other day. It makes me feel vastly superior to the other runners in the gym. And then I feel ridiculous for feeling vastly superior because I’m completing a running RPG on my iPhone and should really get a grip.