With 6,000 new games released every year and limited shelf space in their shop, the ladies at Mainstreet Fun and Games have to carefully curate the selection they bring to the Valley.
Last month Dee Connell and Deanna Berrington travelled to Reno for a massive Game Manufacturers Association trade show, where they attended workshops and events by day and played brand-new games long into the night. They were so busy they said they didn’t go outside for five days.
“We found some amazing gems,” Ms. Connell said. “We played hundreds of games while we were there… It’s so hard because we want all of them.”
While they weren’t able to cram the thousands of games they saw into their suitcases, they returned with around 30 games and have more on order.
“We came back with so many new ideas” she said. Those ideas include painting contests, swords and sorcery camps, and live-action play – like spy games or Capture The Flag – that could include dramatic staged deaths.
In addition to checking out the games of the future and meeting designers and distributers, Ms. Berrington said they got to connect with other game-store owners who understand “the frustrations and the joys and the excitement.”
What possible frustrations could there be inside a game store? Dusting, she said. “So much dusting” to be precise.
One of their highlights was playing a storytelling game called Wing It with the “lovely little sweetheart who designed the game,” Ms. Connell said. “Just the opportunity to play a game with someone who made it, that’s super cool… Creating the stories and her enjoying our pleasure of the game was a thrill.”
They also got to meet with the Canadian contingent and network with other women in the traditionally male-dominated gaming industry.
“We are an anomaly” as a female-owned and operated shop, Ms. Berrington said, but they are set to benefit from the fastest-growing demographic in gaming: women. While female customers make up 10 to 15 per cent of the customer base in some shops, half of the shoppers at Mainstreet Fun and Games are females. Moms in search of family games are some of their keenest customers.
“It’s an exciting time to be women in a game store,” says Ms. Connell. “Our Valley particularly in the summer is a very specific market. They are families wanting to connect. The thing we always go back to is: ‘Will this work for our families? Will it work for the people who are trying to have a family experience while they’re here away from the screens?’”
Ms. Connell and Ms. Berrington have seen so many customers go from hating board games to enjoying them that they can’t pick out a specific example.
“We see it all the time,” Ms. Connell says. “We have so many moms or dads that will come in with their arms crossed and go ‘I hate board games.’”
Her response is to pull out a game and say: “You think you hate board games, but let’s try this.”
The customer reactions typically run along these lines: “They go ‘oh, I didn’t hate it and that was actually kind of fun and it only took 20 minutes and I didn’t want to gouge my eyes out,’” Ms. Connell said. “It’s amazing to watch somebody go from ‘I hate board games’ to playing Azul, which is a spectacularly beautiful and interesting and intricate game that they never thought they would play.”
While Ms. Connell and Ms. Berrington went to the Reno trade show as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, they were so inspired that they are already daydreaming of going back.