My son River (four) has this thing that he does where he will sneak into our bedroom in the morning and steal my iPhone. Usually he’ll play Lego Star Wars or one of the awesome Rayman runners I keep on it- he has good taste in games. Last week, I woke up and I heard him in his room laughing and his sister, Scarlett (two) was in there giggling as well. I had no idea what was going on. So I crept down the hall to spy on them and they were both watching the phone, River tapping it furiously. Then I heard a familiar punching sound and I knew what was up.
They were playing Flappy Bird.
Like most of the world, I downloaded it out of curiosity to see what the deal was with this weirdly popular, out-of-nowhere sensation that was earning its creator $50,000 a day in ad revenue until he pulled the game from the App Store over the weekend. I thought it was goofy and kind of dumb, but not without an odd charm mostly owing to its ridiculous difficulty and notably Mario-like graphics. I meant to delete it.
But I’m glad I didn’t, because my kids were playing together and having a ball with it. I sat down and played with them. We all took turns. I’d get the phone and say “alright, this time I’m gonna do it” and then crash out on the first set of pipes. We’d laugh. Then Scarlett would take the phone and do the same thing. River would clear one, and it was like a small miracle. They loved that you get a Wreck-it-Ralph style Hero Medal (with no actual value) for setting a record. I tried to be awesome dad, getting through 11, 12, 13 and finally 14 of the pipes. They were impressed. But there’s no way to do that consistently, regardless of your skill level.
It’s a “thing” for us now. When we have a minute or two, I’ll pull out the phone and we’ll pass it around, crashing and laughing about it. Every now and then, completely at random, River will say “Daddy, that Flappy Bird is too hard!” I can just imagine that in his mind he’s trying to reason out why he actually does pretty well with Lego Star Wars but can’t work out how to get that stupid bird through a a gap between some pipes that he probably recognizes from Super Mario Bros.
What can I say? We had un and are having fun with a game that has confused, angered and mystified everyone from the mainstream media to hardcore gamers. I have more fun playing this silly, frankly crappy game with my kids than I did playing just about any multimillion dollar AAA game made in the last year. I think I’ve played it longer than I had either Killzone 4 or Assassin’s Creed 4 in my PS4. My kids do not care about the politics of it being ad supported or the maybe-maybe not appropriation of Nintendo-branded sprites. They aren’t worried if the game demonstrated some kind of “dumbing down” of video games. They do not see it as a general barometer of how terrible and shallow mobile games can be. They do not view the game as another catastrophe in the casualocalypse that is supposedly destroying video games.
And you know, ultimately, I don’t either. Because we had fun playing a video game. It did exactly what a video game is supposed to do, regardless of quality, intent or depth. It entertained us. It didn’t try to make some grandly juvenile statement about The Way Things Are In America. Flappy Bird did not have a girl pack mule to escort in an attempt to show how not sexist the game is. There’s no DLC, IAPs or DRM. I was never called a “faggot” over a voice com every time I hit a pipe. Other than the ads, Flappy Bird might just have been a return to the kind of pure no-bullshit video gaming my generation grew up on- even if by accident rather than design.
Sure, Flappy Bird is a crude, single-mechanic game with no other goal than to see if you can get further than you did last time. It is punitive and intolerant of failure with a hard fail state. But you know, those qualities are perfectly in line with a lot of classic early video games. If it were 1981 and Flappy Birdd were housed in a cabinet festooned with gaudy artwork, there might have been a Bruckner and Garcia song about it.
Flappy Bird probably won’t be (and shouldn’t be) remembered as a classic like Pac-Man or Space Invaders but like those games, it will be remembered as a fad. It’s a very different cultural time, and that fad lasted for all of about a week and a half before it apparently fizzled out. Was Dong Nguyen, the game’s apparently reclusive creator, a marketing genius that got in and cashed out before the backlash? Or was he really just some guy that made this silly game that somehow went viral and went on to millions of downloads almost overnight?
I almost don’t want to know. I want it to remain this kind of strange anomaly. I want to think that Mr. Nguyen really did pull the game because he wanted to be left alone to spend his unexpected fortune. I’m sure that some of the big IOS development houses are already either offering him jobs or trying to sort out how to duplicate the success of this short-sell, flash-in-the-pan phenomenon. Good luck with that, suits.
So Flappy Bird is gone after an 11th hour update that randomly changes Flappy Bird’s color and makes it night time over the mysterious city in the background. You can’t download the game anymore. It looks like there are already a horde of other Flappy games emerging on the App Store- and into the charts. You can already go on eBay and buy a phone from somebody for $650 with Flappy Bird installed on it. It’s obnoxious and absurd. But the whole Flappy Bird thing has been. That said, it’s made for a hell of a lot more interesting news then some corporate marketing bullshit like a “reveal” or trailer announcement masquerading as a video game news story.
Whether you hate the game, love it or are just bewildered by its success it doesn’t matter. I don’t really care about what it “means” for gaming and sensible people shouldn’t either. My kids love it, I play it with them and we laugh about it. It doesn’t really “mean” anything, don’t overthink it. That’s really all there is to understand about the Great Flappy Bird Flap of 2014.
Last night I knocked off an inch-think layer of dust from the PS4 to start playing Red Barrels’ Outlast, newly released for the can’t-say-no price of free for PS Plus members. As you may or may not know, I’m a huge fan of horror anything but my tastes run more to stuffy old Hammer horror films and smarty pants spook shows like Rosemary’s Baby than to gore, torture porn and graphic violence. That means, more or less, I’m usually screwed when it comes to getting my horror show kicks through the video games medium.
The game starts out quite promisingly- your character is going to investigate a creepy asylum called Mount Massive and you’re driving up to the front gate. You’ve got a camcorder with a night vision lens and limited battery life. You pull up, go through the front gate and look around. In a window, you see a figure walking by. Lights turn on and off. The atmosphere is thick, chilling and you get a palpable sense of “why the fuck am I going to go into this place?” but you’re compelled to explore. Some military vehicles parked out front aren’t a particularly comforting sight
Of course, the doors are locked so you’ve got to scale some scaffolding to get in through a window. The place is in disarray. Graphics are really good, if not quite up to the vaunted promises of “next gen”. You stumble around for a bit, finding some documents that tell the game’s story. You catch glimpses of someone or something walking around. Your character reveals that he is, in fact, just another horror movie idiot when he sees a busted-out ventilation shaft with a puddle of blood under it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see something like that and think “hey, I should climb up into that.”
But the creep-out is still working at that point, and it looks like Red Barrels are doing something quite interesting- a horror game about exploration and suspense rather than shotgunning zombies or solving silly puzzles. There’s a strong sense of place- it’s not as characteristic as the house from the first Resident Evil and it’s not quite as balls-to-the-wall terrifying as some of the locations from the original Silent Hill, but Mount Massive feels like it’s becoming a character- a character that doesn’t like you. You open its doors slowly, always sure that something is about to jump out at you.
And then something does, and the game totally blows it. All of the delightful dread, suspense and tension are squandered in a silly scene of over-the-top gruesomeness that is sure to tickle the fancies of kids who still think the lacivious covers to death metal records are awesome and the folks that still read Fangoria. All the promise that this game might be a sophisticated, intelligent horror experience working on psychological levels rather than visceral ones goes out the window- just like you do when a zombie mutant “variant” catches you, calling you “little pig” for reasons unknown before a defenestration.
Then there are the eye-rolling clichés- cryptic bullshit written on the wall in blood. Experiments gone wrong, despite somebody saying “hey, let’s don’t do that”. A Nemesis-like super zombie that you probably ought to just run away from. Hiding in a locker while a would-be killer looks for you. A motionless body that suddenly jumps up out of a spooky old wheelchair. I mean, come on.
In a way, the game reminds me at this point of Condemned without all of the punching. The terror (not horror) comes from the threat of realistic violence and brutality- not from encountering the supernatural or unexplainable. I’m not against a little blood and gristle when it drives the horror home. But I’m just not into excessive gore or violence as a shortcut to scare an unsophisticated player. It’s disappointing that video games far too often go for the juvenile shock rather than the high-minded scare.
I haven’t played through the whole game yet, maybe the goofball gameplay trope of having to flip two switches before I can flip a third will give way to something more compelling. Maybe the zombie mutants will reveal something more interesting or emerge as something more gasp-worthy and less cringe-worthy. Maybe there will be an explanation as to why batteries and file folders are the only things you can pick up.
At the very least, I can say that the game is probably better than The Last of Us- at least it’s honest trash and not practically breaking its own back reaching for some kind of artistic validation. And it’s free, so it’s zero risk if you have PS Plus. I’ve loaded it up more than once, which is more than I can say for just about every PS4 title I’ve played so far. But as for a “next gen” horror game, Outlast isn’t really doing much other than trying to scare me with *gasp* decapitated heads and piles of intestines. Hopefully, some developer will one day realize that modeling video game horror after carnival rides and silly haunted houses is definitely the low road.
You want a real horror game? Try Year Walk on IOS, one of the best horror video games I’ve ever played.
For reasons even I don’t understand, I recently started playing Skyrim again. That’s not entirely true. I fully understand the reasons. A friend got the legendary edition of the game, complete with all of the DLC, so there was no monetary price to pay to be able to get the rest of the achievements and obtain the same 100% I did with Oblivion. I say “monetary” cost as there’s a substantial cost still to be paid in time and self respect but when it comes to games I typically have plenty of the former and very little of the latter so back to Skyrim I go.
When you haven’t played a game for close to two years, coming back in can be a painfully disorienting experience, even more so for a game with such obtuse systems and interfaces as Skyrim. How do I equip things? Why does this button store one thing when looking at my stuff to put into a chest but takes everything when looking at what’s in the chest? How do I access favorites? Why would I want a favorite in the first place? Why am I just sitting in this chair? Where’s my wife?
That last question is of particular importance because in order to get all of the achievements, I have to become a werewolf so that I can get all of the werewolf perks. I also have to become a vampire at some point and get all of the vampire perks, Bethesda plumbing the considerable literary depths of such classics as “Underworld” and “Twilight” for one of the DLC’s plot points. While becoming Head Companion, or whatever it’s called, I cured myself of lycanthropy because I was tired of not getting a resting bonus and of being told I smelled like a wet dog as I traversed Skyrim. The only person who can cure me is Aela the Huntress, who also happens to be the person I think I married.
I say think because from what I can tell, I’m married. I have the achievement and I have a wedding ring in my inventory. I wouldn’t have married Lydia because that would have been creepy. I didn’t hang out with any other women and I certainly don’t trust anyone in the Thieves Guild or that freaky club of assassins to marry one of them. A quick search of the house doesn’t turn her up which means she must be in my other home.
Unfortunately I don’t remember where my other home is. I also don’t know why I have a full set of orcish armor in my inventory. Such are the risks of two year absences. Lydia is around, doing whatever it is Lydia does when she’s not following me and getting killed, namely pacing, but Aela is nowhere to be found.
Fine, I’ll go find her. At this point, all of the “quirks” of Skyrim start flooding back. Unlike Fallout, where DLC was accessed by getting a new radio transmission and then heading to the place mentioned in the transmission or Dragon Age where DLC was accessed by purchasing it from Bonfire Bob, Skyrim starts its DLC by having people talk to you. Many people. All at once.
As soon as I left the house, here’s a courier telling me I can now adopt kids, an idea I can only label as “catastrophic” due to my inability to keep track of my wife and my general insistence on putting myself into situations in which men and beast alike want to kill me. Fine, whatever dude, I’ll swing by and pick up a kid later. Next up is a cultist. He wants to know if I’m Dragonborn. Yeah, I’m Dragonborn but apparently I’m not the “true” Dragonborn as he starts talking shit and then tries to kill me. This would have been fine if some huge Ebony Warrior guy didn’t decide to tell me that he’s got nothing to do at the same time that a summoned demon thingy is trying to show me my insides. I tell the guy that I’ll come fight him later, try to hit the demon, miss, hit the Ebony Warrior and now he’s also trying to kill me.
This parade of quest gives goes on in a similar fashion for a couple of reloads until I got smart enough to leave my house and immediately run away to put some distance between me and the Welcoming Committee. This works well enough and soon I have a new white arrow to follow once I figure out where my wife is.
I go to the Companion Hall thinking maybe I didn’t marry Aela and she’d be there. It was nighttime so I knew she wouldn’t be off doing whatever it is she does during the day but a quick rousting of everyone from their beds doesn’t turn her up. Bummer. Then I head to Riften because I think I bought a house there. I did and in it I find a woman I don’t ever remember meeting. Apparently she’s my housecarl, whatever that is. When I talk to her she doesn’t mention any spouse-y things, so I’m assuming I didn’t marry her, a good thing as shit was about to get awkward.
Defeated, I go back home to Whiterun and who’s walking around the house but Aela. I don’t have the option of asking her where she was the last time I was here so instead I ask her to make me a werewolf again. I also ask her for my cut on her store’s earning, a whopping hundred bucks. Don’t quit your day job, Aela. Newly beastified I leave Whiterun to begin my journey of eating dead people as that’s what it takes to become a better werewolf, eating dead people.
I’m not going to bore you with more stories of what has happened since I restarted playing but friends were made, people were eaten, friends were lost, dragons were killed and my Xbox locked up completely because Skyrim. The game is just as irritating and soulless as it’s always been, a series of trips to the Great White Arrow with instances of monster killing and pointless dialog in-between. Nothing happens if you don’t talk to people, the whole world sits still waiting for you to get up out of that chair and go adopt some kids.
It’s also satisfying to torch raiders and capture souls, to shout a dragon out of the sky and hack it to bits, to see what the next silly quest is going to be, to marvel at the landscape and the interiors. It’s Skyrim. It hasn’t changed. The DLC just adds more of it. It’s also a great game to play while exercising in the morning, which is the only time I play it. As this current generation winds down, I’m starting to run out of options for the morning so if I can wring another twenty to thirty hours out of the game with no cost to me, yeah, I’m going to do it. At night I’ll play all of the games in my backlog until March comes with its bevy of next-gen riches.
Here it is- the long-delayed third part of the There Will Be Games HD remaster project. Yes, it is in fact an indicator that I was lazy this week and didn’t feel like writing anything. But there have been a couple of requests to continue on with this rerun series, so somebody out there will be happy to see it.
Close up on a drawing of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The camera pulls back slowly, revealing it to be an illustration on a dusty, shrink-wrapped copy of Steve Jackson Games’ DINO HUNT. Zoom out to show the game lying in a pile of rubble—broken pieces of wooden slat wall and the detritus swept from under shelving units now long sold away. The zoom continues back to reveal the heap of debris against a field of blue-gray industrial carpet lining the floor of an interior space. Slow dolly as we back through an empty room, out a floor-to-ceiling glass windows and into the parking lot of a small strip shopping center. Slight tilt up to a back-lit blue sign, giant letters that spell out “Games” with a hex and gear motif. It’s a cold day in Atlanta as we stand at 551 10th Street, sometime in February 2008.
It’s now 2004. The storefront, which will be empty once again four years later, is then an abandoned Laundromat and three people in front of it are talking to a realtor about leasing the space that would become Atlanta Game Factory. The rent is maybe a little too high and the entire place will have to be gutted, but it seems like the perfect location- it is on the Georgia Tech campus and has easy access from the northern suburbs and I-75, the major highway running straight through Atlanta. A three year lease is signed and construction begins.
Remembering how we put together Atlanta Game Factory is definitely a bittersweet thing for me now- on the one hand there’s the apocalyptic finale I never could have foreseen that would be the culmination of the creative energy of that time but then there’s also the memory of a really great feeling that always comes with taking the first real steps in making something- whether it’s a painting, a piece of music, a written work, or a retail store- move from concept to execution. With a large scale project like a retail store, it can be a dizzying experience, and throughout that time when we were inching closer and closer to opening the store there were so many points at which I felt like I couldn’t believe it was all really happening. But like any undertaking, there was still a lot of work between those sparking, scintillating moments of wonderments and actually walking through the door and into an operational store. And of course, there are a million variables, speed bumps, pitfalls, and unexpected challenges that crop up along the way. Things you never considered suddenly become the most important thing in the world, if only until you work them out.
We worked out a rough division of labor. Much to my wife’s constant chagrin, I’m a terrible handyman so I was thankful that the Barrister largely managed the build out- not a small task considering that industrial washers and dryers had to be taken out and disposed of, flooring had to be replaced, every wall painted and repaired, and an infinity’s worth of muck and soap scum scraped off every exposed surface. Dollar Bill’s experience in setting up retail storefronts proved to be indispensable in terms of the acquisition, planning and logistics of getting Atlanta Game Factory off the ground and his business instinct was definitely an asset in making early critical decisions. I was charged with figuring out what we were going to carry, our retail strategies, organizing events and getting a community started, and doing a lot of the customer-end things. But at this point, we didn’t even have furniture.
We all agreed that we wanted the store to look nice, clean, and approachable. But as in any situation where three individuals come together, even with a unified idea or concept, what that really meant in terms of the store’s visual style was wildly different. My initial concept was to keep everything industrial- wire shelving, metal and glass, alternative building materials, and a general aesthetic that was very stylish and thematic.
When I went to go see the fixtures and furniture the Barrister had picked out it was the first of many disappointments Atlanta Game Factory would ultimately represent. The slat walls and free-standing shelving units were a light blonde wood that looked clean and durable but at the expense of any sense of style or creativity. What was worse was that the tables and chairs they had picked out for the open gaming area were not only extremely expensive but they were unremittingly ugly- imagine asking a couple of completely average men with little or no taste to go pick out nice table and chairs out and you’ll pretty much have a good idea of what these looked like. Black lacquer, glass table tops, and an unholy and morally wrong conjunction of wood and chrome. I didn’t even want to know how much they cost. Regardless of how much of the startup budget those hideous things cost, I still have one of them in my backyard that my wife uses as a painting table.
It was clear then, early on, that the high-minded aesthetic concepts that we had talked about were going by the wayside as function began to win out over form and the realities of budget began to reduce some of our grander concepts down to more realistic things. It wasn’t necessarily a total loss- the store was, even at that early stage, looking clean, fresh, professional, and well-appointed. Of my original industrial concept, at least my logo remained and we even had a huge backlit sign made with it- an offset gear inside a hex, an image that I thought captured a fundamental metaphor for what a game is while providing us with a very graphic branding tool. It looked modern, hip, and simple- completely at odds with the various dragons, goblins, wizards, and so forth that other stores recklessly slap on their advertisements and T-shirts. That sign is still over the abandoned storefront to this day.
So with the foundations laid, an actual storefront established, and various other groundwork-level tasks completed we started to talk about some of the finer points and fortunately I had a much larger hand at this stage than I did in picking out furniture. We went about setting up accounts with distributors and lining up contacts so we could start investing in product; the Barrister continued to handle infrastructure chores including getting a PoS (point of sale) system set up, and I was going through catalogs and product lists to identify what we were going to be carrying and how much we were going to have to spend to have a decently appointed store. It’s a lot harder than you’d think to spend thousands of dollars on games.
The impulse, when you’re stocking a store, is to get one of everything. Of course, that just isn’t possible at the end of the day so you have to start weeding out what you think will sell and what will sit on the shelf. We had decided that we would specialize in board games but we would also carry a comprehensive inventory of collectible card games, role-playing games, miniatures, and accessories. Most gamers probably feel confident that they could go through and pick out a good inventory, but there is so much out there that I think anybody would be surprised. It’s easy enough to go through and pick out the SETTLERS OF CATAN titles, the entire DUNGEONS & DRAGONS line, or whatever the current MAGIC: THE GATHERING set happens to be. It’s another to be confronted with a bewildering array of second-tier RPG titles you’ve never heard of, Games Workshop’s seemingly infinite catalog of individual miniatures, or any number of CCGs that are desperately, deceptively marketed to retailers by distributors and publishers alike as “the next MAGIC”. Every dollar you spend is an investment, and if what you buy doesn’t sell, then you’ve either tied up capital in a shelf-warming product or you’ve lost it altogether when you sell a dud item for pennies on the dollar on a clearance table. I actually did a lot of research at this time, trying to sort out the wheat from the chaff. It’s tough to figure out which niche products you’re going to try to sell to a niche audience within a niche business.
With the obvious inventory choices made along with a lot of calculated risks, we three collectively started accruing what was likely the largest game collection in Atlanta, barring a couple of local super collectors. I thought I had done an exceptional job of avoiding all the third-rate crap you typically see gathering dust literally for years in many shops. But even with thousands of dollars pumped into inventory, our new shelves still looked really bare. Our first real disagreement came when I suggested to Dollar Bill that we at least double the investment we had made in product. He agreed, but the Barrister just wouldn’t have it. Not having real hobby experience, he just didn’t get that the store wasn’t really at the comprehensive, deep-inventory level we really needed. We wanted to be a “gamer’s store”- not somewhere someone came to pick up a few YUGIOH cards or a copy of SETTLERS. So Dollar Bill put up some more money and eventually The Barrister acquiesced. Looking back, I wish that he hadn’t.
The problem is that Dollar Bill and the Barrister decided to spend this cash injection at a local distributor- without my guidance. Dollar Bill knew the hobby well enough, but he was also operating under a lot of odd assumptions and prejudices- like the belief that we should have five copies of MUNCHKIN on the shelf at all times. It didn’t help that he was also really susceptible to marketing-speak. The Barrister simply bought anything the sales rep showed him.
So when they came back, we had $2000 worth of MECHWARRIOR booster boxes- purchased in such bulk to get these exclusive Dropships which would eventually wind up broken in our backroom and given away. We had everything Steve Jackson games had ever published, including the copy of DINO HUNT that is still resting on top of a pile of rubble in the abandoned storefront to this day. We had a stuffed Cthulhu in an Elvis costume. We had Monty Python bunny slippers, a giant plush D20, and booster boxes of pretty much every CCG being published at that time. Perhaps the strangest thing the Barrister picked up was thirty of these MAGIC life counters- they were pewter discs with these numbered cardboard wheels sandwiched between them. A sticker was sloppily applied to each of them with a goofy looking monster or other fantasy illustration likely scratched out by some pony-tailed “artist” who used to draw medieval warriors on their folders in school and assumed that was their calling in life. Each one of these life counters was $5 wholesale…which meant that ideally they were supposed to be sold at $10 retail. Later on, we’ll learn their fate.
I could go on literally for several columns about the bad purchasing decisions made by the Barrister, and to some extent Dollar Bill, at this early point. Looking back at it and thinking about the game stores I’ve been in, I can see that this kind of buying is a complete deathtrap- and sadly, too few people in the industry know how to say “no” to junk products and focus on saleable product. Even fewer pay enough attention to trends and interests in the hobby to make good judgment calls on where to spend their money. It’s why every game vendor you see at any convention usually has piles and piles of clearance items being sold at a loss.
It also didn’t help that the Barrister went on eBay and spent hundreds of dollars on some of those auctions for lots of old games. So we wound up with pretty much all of the bad Avalon Hill games (but not, thankfully, OUTDOOR SURVIAL) and a bunch of also-ran wargames. But we actually wound up with a really nice selection of vintage and used games, mostly because Dollar Bill decided to put his entire collection up for sale. So we also had a complete TALISMAN 2nd edition set, the DAWN OF THE DEAD board game, and some other “collectible” items that added some prestige to the piles of junk we were now going to be hawking. I was also really proud that we managed to score what I think was probably the last copy of the French edition of CIVILIZATION available in the US. It really made me feel like we were a serious game store that knew its business. I was pretty sure it would never sell, but it was admittedly a vanity item.
All things considered and despite the havoc caused by my partners buying things without my supervision, I thought that we had a really awesome selection that literally had something for every gamer and substantial depth in each product category that demonstrated our knowledge and commitment to bringing Atlanta the best of the hobby- even in our weakest areas, the RPGs and miniatures departments. Fortunately, those sectors are almost completely dominated by DUNGEONS & DRAGONS and Games Workshop respectively so that made things a little easier. I do have to say that our ill-advised “classic games” section was terrible- I was almost completely against carrying Chess, Backgammon, Go, and the like since most people interested in those games either have them, can get them at a mass-market store, or want a very specialized top-of-the-line set and that was not something that a hobby game store should do. The Barrister, however, thought that nice chess sets would sell so we had a couple of $100+ sets that indeed looked very nice sitting in the display cases until the day the doors closed on the store forever.
And then, there was Poker. This was all right after the peak of the Texas Hold ‘Em fad. So of course, the Barrister decided that we needed to have Poker supplies. Thanks to another of the Barrister’s un-chaperoned shopping sprees, we wound up with all these sets of chips (some of which were very, very expensive), decks of cards, casino dice, metal attaché cases, and so forth. I think his belief was that a mainstream, non-geek product line like that would leverage the more risky hobby products and provide a steadier profit margin. What he didn’t think about is that at that point you could buy Poker supplies at Wal-Mart or even the gas station. Aside from that, it was a fleeting fad and one that was certainly not something into which a hobby store should invest hundreds of dollars. And I also think that he never realized that college kids- our prime demographic- had no interest in buying a $100 set of clay chips. So all of that money was completely wasted. They did make handy life counters for the Magic players, however.
Regardless of what was on the shelves, we had a storefront. And it looked great, even if almost completely uncreative and without any sense of style or concept whatsoever. There were still some particulars to handle before we could move toward opening our doors to Atlanta’s gaming public. The Barrister hired a company to build a website for us, which was unfortunately tied directly to our point-of-sale system and therefore extraordinarily ugly and almost completely unusable and we put some ads in local papers to let everyone know where we were, what we were doing, and when we would be opening. Of course, the Barrister again failed to communicate with me or Dollar Bill for any creative input so the first ad was a hospital green affair with plain typesetting and no graphics- a crude line-drawn map was supposed to show customers where we were. So I complained enough about it and he had a friend design a new ad, which I’ve always referred to as the “Atlanta Death Factory” one. It showed a horrible-looking industrial landscape of environment-destroying smokestacks and machinery. The photo had to have either been taken in New Jersey or Sheffield., I’m sure. I was actually embarrassed to show my friends and family the ads.
By now, the roots of the end should be readily apparent. The Barrister, being the majority shareholder and also the person with the least vested interest or functional knowledge of the hobby, had way too much control over things. Our pricing strategy was one such point- Dollar Bill and I both fought him tooth and nail over selling everything at full retail price because he and I- being involved with the hobby- knew that the Internet deep-discounters would bury us if we didn’t price competitively. But he won out, at least temporarily, and everything was stickered at full retail price with our shiny new pricing guns. But this part of the tale isn’t about the fruit that those diseased roots would bear, it’s about building a dream and being there when that first customer walks through the door and everything you’ve been working toward is suddenly…reality.
Before the debris of nearly six months worth of construction and planning had settled, Atlanta Game Factory opened its doors for business October 20, 2004.