Pilgrimage to the game store

On Saturday, Michele had to journey to the University of Chicago, there to spend the afternoon doing research in the stygian depths of the Regenstein stacks. Walking through those stacks sure brought back the memories, so I quickly decided to abandon Michele to her research and strike out on the ultimate gamer’s pilgrimage: a trip to Games Plus, the biggest game store in Chicagoland.
Games Plus (hereafter GP) is a really cool store, and if you’ve got even a passing interest in RPGs or board games, you really ought to make a trip out there at least once in your life. They stock just about every in-print game in existence, and plenty of out-of-print games as well. The clerks are friendly and know about the games they sell. It is pretty much impossible for me to visit GP and not find something I want to spend money on, which is why it’s probably a good thing that I live in Michigan and only make it out there about once a year.
The most fun part of any GP pilgrimage, aside from tracking down and purchasing expensive game books that you don’t need, is watching the other customers. There are always several other gamers drifting through the aisles with you, scouring the shelves for bargains, and I enjoy taking note of the games over which they pore. Look–over there’s a guy scouring methodically through all the old GURPS books, perhaps hoping to fill the holes in his 3rd edition collection before the new 4th edition takes over; there’s a middle-aged gamer (perhaps escaping, for a few precious hours, the responsibilities and hectic-ness of work, family, children?) trying to decide whether to spend his hard-earned cash on Sengoku or that Tribe 8 sourcebook he’s been thinking about getting. And here’s me, standing quietly in the aisle next to them both, mentally weighing my budget and deciding whether to go for The Riddle of Steel, which feels like it should belong in any gamer’s library, or Ex Machina, which is the cyberpunk sourcebook I’ve been wanting. What are we all doing here?
And then, of course, in the middle of the store, a group of middle-aged guys is gathered, all painting miniatures and loudly discussing the State of the World. The conversation is always loud enough to be easily overheard from any point in the store, so even if you don’t want to eavesdrop, you don’t really have a choice. Among the conversational points discussed at much length and at great volume:

  • Can you believe that kids these days don’t even care about World War II? I mean, I once talked to this kid who couldn’t recognize the silhouette of a Tiger tank–I mean, is there any more recognizable tank in the history of the world? Kids these days.
  • At Gencon last year, I got really mad at this group of gamer punks, and I wanted to kick their scrawny little butts. But I didn’t. I used to be more aggressive than I am now.
  • The world sure would be a lot better without those nasty Republicans! Remember how they worked over Jimmy Carter? The world was a vibrant green paradise under Jimmy Carter’s benevolent and watchful eye, until the Republicans ruined it all.
  • Mechs in the Battletech universe are way too weak compared to other battlefield units. Battletech would’ve been way cooler if they had listened to all the advice I gave few decades ago when I was a playtester for the game.

At least, those are a few of the conversational pieces that I happened to overhear while browsing around. Strangely, the noisy conversants aren’t really annoying at all; they sort of add to the general ambience.
But after a while, it was time to head back to the U of C to pick up my beloved wife; my time at the game store was over. I made my purchasing decision (Ex Machina), exchanged witty banter with the friendly cashier, and headed out. The distinctive Gamer Conversation(TM) taking place at the miniatures-painting table faded into the background; last I heard of it, the discussion had now moved on to mocking derision of somebody’s failure to properly employ some German 88‘s in a bitterly-fought clash of arms the night before.
All in all, a very good trip. Games Plus, you rock–see you again next year.

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