What makes a good games shop?

First up, thanks all for the discussion yesterday. It’s been interesting and I know I’m thinking about my assumptions.

Second, thanks muchly to Ixobelle for cleaning up the header here.

Back to the topic, I had a really unusual experience yesterday in a games shop. Ever since I was a teenager buying comics and RPGs, I’ve felt like an outsider in games and comic shops. The token female. Even when I knew lots of other women were into this stuff, somehow they never seemed to be in the shops. Games shops themselves have always been a small corner of male-dominated geekery.

Truth is, since I started playing MMOs I don’t buy other games all that often – I have to be very sure that I’ll want to play it enough to find the time. Or else it has to be cheap in the sales, or else maybe an old, classic game that I’ve wanted to play for ages but never got around to. Or a DS game.

The DS is actually the only current gen console that we own, because it’s just perfect for train journeys, of which I make several a week.

So on this occasion I was in GAME because I wanted to pick up a couple of copies of Puzzlequest Galactrix. Puzzlequest (ie. the prequel) never sold well in the UK, but surely part of this is because it was hard to find  on the shelves in shops? I don’t know how many people buy from brick and mortar shops rather than online,  but guessing still a majority.

I don’t know what went wrong with the promotion. A good puzzle based DS game with a fantasy theme really shouldn’t be a hard sell. It’s not like GTA: Chinatown which failed to sell because the people who own DSs don’t want to play GTA.

So I was happy because not only did I find a copy, but it was also in the sale (presumably because it didn’t sell as well as expected – perhaps the total lack of promotion was a factor there too?). So I went to the counter to ask if they had another copy and the guy behind the desk asked if I was buying it for myself. I said I was, and he brightened; we had a quick chat about how great Puzzlequest was and how disappointing that it hadn’t been more popular.

Do you know how unusual it is for an employee of a games shop to treat female customers over 30ish as if they were actual gamers and not just buying for a child or partner? VERY.

Funny thing is, I had to go to the other branch of GAME in town to pick up the second copy  since I’m not buying a copy of Galactrix for myself without getting one for my husband, that would be a cause of minor household friction, and the guy behind the counter there was pretty much the same. So either

  • they’ve all had solid diversity training
  • all GAME employees like Puzzlequest (to be fair, it’s a good game)
  • or if a woman over thirty comes into the shop and buys a puzzle-based DS game, odds are it’s for herself. (ie. games shop employees have a good knowledge of gamer demographics and this was a shoe-in).

Whatever it was, I like it.

Now of course, we can buy over the internet, where no one knows you’re a dog. So we can avoid those pokey little holes stacked high with shelves of games for consoles you don’t own, where people act like you don’t belong. But if they can make me feel more as though I’m part of a community of hobbyists, I’ll be more likely to spend time there and if I spend more time there, I’ll spend more money there too.

6 thoughts on “What makes a good games shop?

  1. We don’t have GAME in this area (in fact, I don’t think I’ve seen one outside the EU), but we do have GameStop/EA Games. Personally, I’ve never had a problem there, but the accounts of corporate ass-baggery at them are legendary.

    It’s probably irony that the best service I’ve gotten in relating to a video game purchase was at Target. Though I wished the local comic/rpg/anime store sold video games, I like them.

  2. While Puzzlequest was something special on both the PC and the DS, Galactrix has… issues. I’ve read complaints about the DS port (enough of them that I’m not going to risk buying a copy), combined with my own experiences with the PC version (which I pre-ordered – more fool me) have left me wary of the developers ability to put out a completed (and bug-free) game.

    But to get back to your topic, I can relate surprisingly well. I used to do cross-stitch (until RSI brought my extended stitching sessions to a halt), and when I was visiting the local stitch supply stores my experiences parallel yours. As you may suspect, at these stores men in their mid-30s are an uncommon sight, and are usually (unwillingly) accompanying their spouses; my bearded and burly self stood out, just a little.

    Anyway, it didn’t take many visits to become a regular, but until then there was often that little pause in their speech when they realised that I was shopping for myself.

    On the subject of gaming stores, I’ve found my interest in them going down just as the amount of shelf space reserved for PC titles has diminished. I game primarily on my PC, with my DS usually kept for when I’m away from the house (although the retro goodness of Dark Spire has caught my interest) – with the growing opportunity to shop online (which is often cheaper than buying physical copies), I’m spending less and less in brick and mortar stores.

    On top of that, the increasing difficulty in getting a refund if the game is a lemon (Hellgate London springs to mind in this case), often thanks to online activation and similar annoyances, means there’s even less reason to leave the house to buy my games.

  3. 1) Availability. If I want to buy the newest shiniest thing I want to be pretty sure I won’t travel up to Oxford Street or wherever and find them sold out. Generally this means going to GAME except where specific promotions are advertised. (I went to HMV for the midnight Wotlk thing).

    2) Price. GAME seems generally cheaper than the other high street chains.

    I don’t really browse for games any more. I used to but I think at some point I realised that buying a game because the box looks nice or the title sounds familiar didn’t suit me.

    Quite often I don’t go to a shop at all. My two most recent games are Vanguard and Eve and I just downloaded them for free in order to play.

  4. Mmm… Galactrix. It’s not a perfect game, but neither was Warlords. I have the DS version, and I love it just as much as I do the original. The core gameplay, the hex puzzle, is brilliant, and while I’d make some changes to the “wrapper” game, I’m very happy with the hex game. It’s one of the few games I’ve purchased full retail, and I’m happy to have done so.

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