Friday, September 26, 2008

Online vs FLGS

One of my favorite memories as a youth was going to the local comic book/gaming shops
and hanging out. For a kid it was similar to walking into Cheers, a place where everyone knew your name. Most of us didn’t go to school together nor did we see each other outside of the shop, but that didn’t change the fact we were all friends. Countless Saturdays were spent arguing over which comics were best, playing Dungeons and Dragons or just hanging out, this was before CCGs hit the scene.

The shop owners(s) never thought about chasing us out and often, if a game got particularly intense, we would stay long after the shop closed. The people that owned the shops I frequented were just as much fan boys and geeks as those of us that hung out there. The owners
treated us regulars a lot like extended family.

Now I’m all grown up, few of my friends play D&D anymore and I live in an area where
there is no friendly local game shop. I buy most of my gaming material at the book store in the closest mall (if you consider 40 miles away close), which has a very limited selection, and the comic shop I frequent(45 miles away) doesn’t much in the way of game material except minis and CCGs. I have on occasion found a few items on the internet and of course at conventions, but if I had my choice I would choose to shop at a FLGS over anything else.

Many gamers complain that the prices in local shops are too high compared to the deals
they can find online and I have to concede this is often true. Although if you figure in ship-
ping and handling a some of those cheaper items end up costing more than you would pay in a shop.

While on one hand I appreciate the deals online stores offer it saddens me to hear that shops are
closing all across the country on a daily basis. What upsets me even more are the gamers that pronounce they don’t care, that saving a few bucks, and never having to leave your home is the better way. If this continues future generations of gamers will never know what it’s like to hang out at their local shop. They will miss out on the friendship and social interaction with true peers that can be found at the "shop on the corner".

The local game shop is more than just a store, it is a gaming institution. The stores are generally run by people who love the hobby as much as the rest of us. They have to because they sure
don’t get rich running a hobby shop, and more than a few gamers were introduced to gaming
through these local shops. So why do we choose to eliminate something that is an integral part of a hobby we enjoy? I doubt it is completely intentional, and I know that things like the 90’s comic
boom and subsequent crash played a part in the demise of the local shops, but the opportunity to
save a few dollars on the newest gaming supplement by shopping online seems to be the biggest culprit in this day and age.

I live in a small town that stopped a Wal-mart from opening because of the effect it would
have had on local merchants. The owners of these local shops are our neighbors and friends. Their kids are in the same classes as our kids, and when you walk in they not only know your name, they are genuinely happy to see you. Granted the prices may not be the cheapest, and you may not have the convenience of one stop shopping, but you get good service and a sincere smile, something that can’t be replaced by cheaper toilet paper and dog food.

So is saving a few bucks really worth causing the demise of the brick and mortar shop? Can
those deals really replace the satisfaction of walking into a shop where they know your name? Some place where you are more than just a customer, you’re a friend.


Jeff Greiner said...

I'm a firm believer that those FLGS who provide a service that an online store can't provide will survive.

If they are poorly run and don't provide anything more to people than an online store then they'll eventually die off.

In the end I think peopel get what they pay for and this is true of this debate as well.

David said...

I have to agree with Jeff. Those brick-and-mortar stores that play to their strengths will survive. Then again, while I'm not immune to nostalgia, I fully support progress. Kids in the future won't have the same experiences we did, but we didn't get to experience many of the things that they will. They may not hang out in the local shop, but I wasn't able to get on the net and chat with people from around the world.

What I personally miss most about the local retail stores is the sense of discovery at finding new games on the shelf. Once upon a time, I used to love finding a local game store when traveling to a new city. There I'd always find things my local store didn't carry. But now, even when I visit a new store, there's nothing I'm not already familiar with from reading about it online.

Oz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Oz said...

Even when you have quality local their are people too lazy or selfish I mean frugal to support the local business over saving a couple of dollars at It's the same problem as with Wal-Mart...except that people don't realize that down the road when they want something too specialized for the uber-retailers to carry that the mom & pops will be driven out of business. Then the producers of those specialized goods will go out of business.

Soon all we'll be left with is WotC and plastic hangers.

Geek Gazette said...

While I do agree with the fact that experiences change with each generation, nostalgia does play a big part in my post. I too appreciate the ability to have access to a much larger RPG community than FLGS can offer, but I still try to find a shop any time I visit a new town. Even if there isn't anything I need or are unfamiliar with I can't help but try to search for something I don't have.
I both agree and disagree with the fact that the best shops will survive. Some of the best shops I have ever been in, the true mom & pop shops, are closed. However, the larger chain shops survive (we have one locally and while I do like them, they are like geeky Wal-mart to me). Granted this is simply survival of the fittest, but I can't help but miss the great service and sense of community provided by the mom & pop.

Geek Gazette said...

BTW in my previous comment I mentioned a local store. By that I meant in this region. It is actually 50+ miles away from me.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I feel that the FLGS should be replaced by clubs. Online is the way to go and the costs of tabletop gaming have reached the ridiculous. The majority of brick and mortar stores are run on pure love and caters to the hardcore. There are many alternatives to this, and I believe that a community type of setting is superior. Clubs are the way to go.

Anonymous said...

Also, to those who argue that the cost difference is for the store service, and friendly patrons, keep in mind that you are most likely in the minority here. Being a niche retailer, for a niche hobby, with overpriced items means that your average joe doesn't have the funds pay full price.

All those who disagree live in an idealized world where they're worried that they have to choose between this hobby product or that because they don't make enough for both. The world alot of people who aren't willing to pay the extra money lives in is hey, maybe if I skip lunch for the next week and can get this cool new book I've been wanting to get, wait a minute, for the same price I can get the book and the expansion with free shipping in two-three days? damn, I'll go with that one!

So bad grammar and rambling aside, you are all sheep.


Geek Gazette said...

I don't necessarily disagree with the idea of buying online. I completely understand the need to save money and I have admittedly done it myself. But I have seen some Mom & Pop shops that sold pretty cheap, thus probably why they are out of business.
Depending on how you look at it the internet is either the boon or bane of the gaming community. On one hand it removes the face to face interaction the brick and mortar offers as well as the service. Yet on the other hand it does give you cheaper prices, for the most part allowing the purchase of more products, and you do have access to a much larger community. The downside to that is the fact much of the community is not in your geographic community. So unless you are already familiar with all the gamers in your area you may not have anyone with whom to play those cheap games you bought.

I do like the idea of clubs and wish there were more (any) in my area. I am now thinking about starting one to see if it works. That is a good idea and would take care of the "finding gamers" problem that many face.
We have to face facts, nostalgia aside, that the hobby is changing/ has changed. Under the current system brick and mortar shops are going the way of the dodo. This is the internet age and whether we like it or not, that is how things are now. Buying on line just makes more sense for the most part, but that still doesn't mean I can't miss the way things were, at least in part.