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11:20am on Saturday, 15th May, 2010:



I normally have no money at all to spend in support of my academic life. This year, however, because I was present for two validation events, I have found myself with £1,000 to spend by the end of July. If I'd had it earlier, I'd have put it to use paying for travel to conferences, but it's too late for that now. It's not too late, however, to spend it on equipment.

So, I spent a couple of weeks finding out who gets to sign off on any purchases (I've narrowed it down to one of three people, but they're all fine with my spending it so that's my green light). As to what I decided to spend it on: well games, of course!

Last year, I had a class for my CE217 students to play board games in. I took in a bunch of my own games, and although the class went well the games themselves suffered. It seems that the youth of today is not au fait with board games and treats them as if they were disposable items. The games did not come out of it in particularly good condition. Likewise, when I gave them playing cards to mess around with, I was horrified to learn that not only had some of them never seen a riffle shuffle, they didn't even know how to hold a hand. Some of the cards got rolled up, some got bent, some had creases — it's as if they thought you treated playing cards the same way you would a small chick you were trying to keep warm in your hands, and then after 10 minutes found had died.

So, with money to spend I thought I'd go out and buy some games that they can play and I don't go through agonies when they're playing them. I had in mind to get some sucky games, too (not those ghastly trivia or drinking or word or drawing games that pass for "board games" these days, nor one of 50 different kinds of Monopoly, nor exotic chess sets, nor collectable card games: just regular games with self-contained gameplay that they may not have come across before). I therefore went to Lingard's, Colchester's Friendly Local Game Store, with the intention of spending £200 to £300 on such games.

This is what I saw:

WH-WHAT?! Lingard's is closing down? Closing? Down?

Inside, the shop was almost stockless. All they had were jigsaws, puzzles, chess sets, reskins of Monopoly, "educational" games, drinking games, dud abstract games, games you require manual dexterity to play, trivia games, and collectible card games on subjects no-one wants to collect (those Lord of the Rings ones must be almost antiques now). What they didn't have were actual board games people want to play. Speaking to the staff there, the sale has been on for two weeks and those games didn't last two days.

This is probably why the shop went under: they didn't stock enough actual games. They stocked things that people wanted to buy at Christmas, but they stocked them all year round. Casual gamers may want games that test your knowledge of the 1980s, or ones where you draw pictures of verbs, or ones that look great carved out of stained wood, but they only want them at Christmas. The rest of the year, they're not going to buy them. The rest of the year, gamers buy games. They only buy a game once, though: if you want them to buy more games, you need to bring in new stock. You don't replace old stock with the same old stock on the supposition that these games must be popular so they'll sell: you're a friendly local games shop, with a local audience, and when they've all bought the good games then they want to buy new, different good games.

The writing for Lingard's had been on the wall for some time, to be honest. I used to go into it at least once a month, and witnessed the gradual disappearance of RPG books and miniature figures, coupled with an over-expansion into CCGs. Alarm bells really rang out loud when a section of the shop at the front suddenly went over to a display of decorative glass balls that had nothing to do with games, puzzles nor fashions in home furnishing. Nevertheless, it was a big shock to see the place close. I've shopped there for decades.

As of July, Colchester will no longer have a FLGS.


Referenced by Game Stack.

Referenced by Game Over.

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Copyright © 2010 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).