Friday Night Magic · LGS · Social Dynamics

Libraries Vs. Local Game Stores

It’s Friday night and I’ve completed my brand new Queen Marchesa deck hours before our arrival at Local Game Store. Tom and I are currently in a showdown between Jack (the store owner), and Kyle (one of the other regulars). No, these are not their real names.

Our game has been going for two hours already when the store abruptly loses power due to a wind storm. It’s pitch black for several moments and every dude in there does the “OooOooOo” sound that everyone has done since grade school for this monumental occasion. I miss the memo and instead yell, “Quick! Draw extra cards!”

Before long, two plastic camping lanterns are brought out and distributed to each table. The store was prepared for this exact event. Our game continues for another hour due to Jack’s pillow fort shenanigans, Marchesa’s politics, Necrons’ reanimatey-ness, and whatever the hell Kyle is doing. (It nearly wins him the game in the end before Jack steals the victory for himself.)

Most of the town is out of power for the next three to five days. However, commercial areas such as the one that our LGS is located in are prioritized and quickly get power back before the residential areas do. Thankfully, Jack allows us to soak up the heat and light from Local Game Store like the lizards we all are. He even directs us to where we can charge our phones.

While completing my Master’s degree in Library and Information Studies, it was continually driven home that libraries are one of the last existing community hubs that exist. They are safe havens that connect people of all ages to resources, information, and other human beings. More than that, they’re toted as the last remaining space where one can go to engage with their community completely free of charge.

Seeing the way that our LGS functioned during a power outage made me realize that game stores function in much the same way.

Of course, they are still businesses that hope for some of our hard earned dollars to go into purchasing new cards, snacks, sleeves, and event fees. However, unlike other retail outlets, most LGSes welcome in community members to simply sit and exist and play a game of Commander even when they don’t have a single penny to spend. They offer a warm and dry place for their patrons to come when disaster hits and, if you’re as lucky as Tom and I are, they foster a safe environment where nerds like us are free to be ourselves and connect with other like-minded people.

Contrary to what my professors and employers would have me believe, libraries are not the last places in every town and city that people can simply exist. In an article for World Literature Today, Linda Stack-Nelson decries that “in a library, no one is asked to pay anything simply to sit. For those with few resources besides time, this is a godsend. Libraries are unofficial playgrounds for low-income families on rainy days, homeless shelters in cold months, reprieves from broken homes for grade-school-age children. They are the last bastions of quiet and calm where nothing is asked of one but to exist.”

It’s true that libraries are all of these things.

However, I think it’s worth acknowledging that local game stores like my own are valid counterparts in offering up a sense of sanctuary for diverse groups of people to relax, unwind, learn, and feel free to be themselves.

That being said, one of the key differences between these two locations is that at one of them, you have a significantly lesser chance of being shushed.

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