Reading about the Adventurer’s League has me very interested in organized play for perhaps the first time. But I think the foundation for my excitement may be different from others. From my standpoint it should be used to draw old players back into the hobby and more importantly add new players. The biggest challenge I think to the former however is the friendly local game store (FLGS). While it is apparent there will be plenty of support provided them it may go mostly unnoticed.
Many remaining brick and mortar stores are only frequented by regular customers. Worse many of these stores are not a true demographic of the modern gaming community. I have been playing games for three decades and I find myself rarely staying long at a FLGS. Unfortunately they are usually filled with stereotypes which popular culture so loves to poke fun at. Most young people or even professionals who once played RPGs would never frequent these establishments.
For example my town has a large beginning of summer event where the entire main drag is filled with music, food, games and vendors – it’s like a carnival of fun and activities. There was potentially thousands of people walking up and down the street. The FLGS is right on the main drag in the heart of the action. Curious, I poked my head in to see what was going on. There was a smattering of CCG players who cast a questionable glance at me and not a single patron to be found.
Image is everything and the stereotypes of gamers are something I have battled against for a long time. I believe the average FLGS will continue to have a very limited new audience. The caveat being those stores which are not filled with grognards who treat newcomers with suspicion. They are rare but they do exist and flourish amazingly well as both a social place and retail environment. Therefore it is my belief that in-person and online play that does not happen in a game store will have lots of appeal. I hope to potentially make this happen in my area because nothing is cooler than seeing someone roll a D20 for the first time!