This post will serve as a discussion/reflection on the locals for our area. This subject has been on several players' minds for several weeks now, with most discussion happening after the previous regional. Danny gave a great speech at last Tuesday's Gamer's Haven tourney, and I wanted to expand on it and talk about it from my perspective. After thinking about locals in general, there are so many different aspects of it to touch on, but I will do my best to talk about each. While I am personally thinking about our local area in writing this, I'm sure certain aspects may be applicable to all players of all areas.
I'd like to first start by talking about the significance of locals to players. Naturally locals can mean different things to different people, and each stance is equally valid when you think about it. For example, to one person, a local may just be another place where they make money by buying/selling/trading cards. To them, a local is a dime a dozen; as long as they can make money they are happy. If that local shop closed down, who cares, there are a bunch more. And conversely, a local may be as significant as being a "second home" to someone. Maybe they come from an abusive household where all they have to come home to is a drunk parent, and going to the local card shop after school instead is their safe haven to be themselves and do what they enjoy doing. For these people, their world would "crumble" if that shop closed down and have a great sense of loyalty to that local. For a lot of people though, in general, locals are simply where they go to hang out with their friends and partake in some friendly card game competition.
For me personally, I don't have a particular "allegiance" to any one single local. I've promoted every single local in the area at one point in time or another and tried to get people to come play in general, to all our locals. I've put countless miles on my car traveling all over the Spokane area. I always found it very interesting when certain people will be like "I'll only play at this place, screw the other place." I think these people seem to think that if they play at a different local they're doing some kind of "disservice" to their favorite local, which I just can't comprehend at all, especially if tournaments are held on completely different dates. Ever since Danny and I started up the first box tourney at Gamer's Haven, our area tends to do box tournaments quite frequently now. So when there's a particular date where let's say "the other" local has a box tourney and "yours" has a regular tourney, is it considered "abandoning" your local to go to the box tourney at the other place? In a sense, sure, it is. But in the grand scheme of things, what does it matter? Is your local going to go out of business because for that particular date you decided to go elsewhere for a bigger tourney, instead of the regular tourney and paying your $5 for a Turbo pack and 75 cents for a pop/soda? I highly doubt it. I would think that showing support in the community as a whole would be an act of greater purpose, but that's just me.
While locals can mean different things to players, we can easily talk about the different things that players mean to locals and their staff. To some staff and managers, they know that players are the life blood of their store and serve in any way they can for them and their game, even if they take in less profit in doing so. They're willing to put in 95-100% of entrance fee toward prizing, order what ever product you're in need of, make you feel welcome, etc. To others though, profit is the name of the game and through your wallet is how they play it. Stores like these tend to give out 50-70% of entrance fees toward prizing, significant mark-up of prices on packs, do last-minute changes for entrance fees, or pull shenanigans in general. Staff tends to not give a shit and play computer games in the back while you're standing up front waiting to buy something. I've even heard a story where one manager outright told a customer "if you're not buying anything, please leave." And yet players show up to these locals that have that mindset week in and week out, with fervid loyalty. Why- because it's 10 minutes closer than the other? Your local doesn't give a shit about you and just want you for your money, but you go anyway. OK THAT MAKES SENSE!
I'd like to mention the past box tourney held at Uncle's - entrance fee was $15 as always, and I believe attendance was 16, for a total of $240 worth of entrance fees. Prize support was all Battle Pack, and I believe it was a box for 1st and three-quarters for 2nd, while Shiggs and I ended up splitting 26 packs for 3rd and 4th. 5th got like 5, and 6th ended up getting some but I don't know the exact number of packs. So in terms of pack count, it went 36-24-16-10-5-and maybe 3? So we have 94 packs, or 2.6 boxes of Battle Pack. I personally could've ordered boxes of Battle Pack for $45, I'm sure the store less, but we'll say $45. Multiply 45 by 2.6 and you get 117. That comes out to about 48% of entrance fee going toward prizing. At full retail price at $2 a pack, that'd come out to 72 x 2.6 to equal 187.2, about 78% of the entrance fee total. Either way you look at it, talk about holding a tourney for profit. On top of this, Uncle's was supposed to hold a Sealed tourney on Thursday but ended up just doing a regular tourney because no one wanted to shell out $20 to play in that. When the idea of having a box tourney with a $10 entry was suggested, the best they could do with a 10-player attendance was to have 1st get a box and offer no other prizing. Now I know a box of GAOV don't cost no $100, more like $60 - get the fuck outta here.
What players in our area need to realize is for true growth to occur, both from a skill-level point of view and player attendance, there has to be unification. Let's say Timmy goes to Northtown, which is, I'm sorry, very notorious for being full of bad players. How much will he improve by playing the same fellow bad players week after week? Probably not very much. Likewise if he just gets stomped by that one "good" person that is only out for himself, where giving advice is against all of his best interests. That "good" player is also going to have a heightened sense of "being good" since he's won his locals for 2 months in a row. He's the top dog, so why shouldn't he? Well, what happens when that guy goes to a regional? Probably drop after the 3rd or 4th round and says "screw going to regionals" and never goes again. All he's done is play bad players and thus doesn't actually improve his game. No growth in terms of skill occurs in this situation among all parties. Having the majority of the playerbase play in one location, where you have a good representation of good players willing to help, and bad players just starting out or not really understanding the underlying fundamentals of gameplay, is important. It would bring a much-needed sense of community to this game for our area.
While I did say I don't have an allegiance to any one single shop, and hey I just went to Uncle's on Monday just to turn around and go back to Haven due to lack of people, I truly believe that players in the area should put in their best effort to make it to tourneys at Gamer's Haven for these reasons:
- First and foremost, Bob is a fantastic manager that truly cares for the "community" and always does what he can to provide us with what we need. Since day 1 of walking into the shop I always felt welcome there. He's always tried to make YGO work, unfortunately with our small playerbase and sheer number of places to play and different days of the week, it hasn't always been easy and still isn't.
- Second, is convenience of parking and nearby food. Let's compare this with the Downtown Uncle's tourney, where parking is very limited and the parking meter ninjas are always looking to snipe you down with a ticket. It seems like I have to spend like $5 or 6 just in parking, and if I ever mess up by not running out there after a round to feed the meter since they're only an hour and a half, I risk getting a $15-20 ticket. That ain't worth it. If you take the bus or get dropped off, well lucky for you. There's also nowhere to get food nearby that I know of, so you're SOL besides soda/pop. Gamer's Haven has a Subway basically next door and a 7-11 just a short walk away, and ample free parking so that it's basically not an issue at all.
- I don't know about you, but space (and the lack thereof) has always driven me crazy with cardshops. Downtown Uncle's is so crammed that having a 10+ man tourney just feels difficult. Everyone that's been to Gamer's Haven before knows it's basically a castle with the CCG room and the large Warhammer room downstairs (when we're lucky enough to be able to play in it).
- Not trying to sound incredibly lazy, but how inconvenient is it that you have a 5 minute walk just to use the bathroom at a Valley Uncle's or Northtown tournament? To me, a lot! Haven has 2 bathrooms which I have very rarely had to stand in line for. If worse comes to worst you could always run to Subway or 7-11 which are both closer than walking to the bathroom at the mall tourneys lol.
- Prize support is always fair and basically maxxed out. No one expects a store to go minus due to prize support (which is what happened to T&M), but going 50-75% like Uncle's is ridiculous. Bob has always said that entrance fee is never intended to be part of profits and it has shown in every tourney I have played in there. It's unfortunate that YGO players generally don't "buy product", but like I've mentioned before, it's just that the product is just too bad.
- The hope of a Spokane regionals. Being the only place in the area that could hold the potential number of people for a regional, this one is my personal biggest reason. Unfortunately I think 70% of the playerbase in the area actually doesn't give a shit about having a regional here or not. Sure, one could just say "why don't you just run it anyway? People will come" but there's no guarantee of that and the last thing I'd want is a bloated amount of product ordered for the event and compensation for judge staff, just for there to be only 50 people to show up because the local support/interest isn't there. Simply playing in a regional has made me a better player each time I've played, regardless of how well or bad I did and I know that's how it is for everyone else that makes it to one too. Players around here just don't get that, and sit and wonder how to get better or why they're always losing. It's the lack of experience in high-level play. How convenient would it be to be able to have access to this in your own neighborhood as opposed to having to travel all the way to the other side of the state, which most players don't have the means of doing so in the first place? Our goal as duelists should be to always get better and never settle for "oh well, whatever." I watched a match at Uncle's once where one guy made huge misplays like 2 or 3 turns in a row to cost him the match, and when he got called out on it he was just like "oh well, nothing I could've done, whateverrr, it's just a game" and just shrugs it off but you can tell he's embarrased. This is exactly what people should NOT be doing, and instead be able to realize their mistake, take it in, and make sure you don't just repeat it in the next match.
For those in the area, I'd like it if you took a moment to reflect on what your locals means to you, what you think you mean to it, and what you want out of the game/what you hope to accomplish. Don't ever feel that you "owe" it to your locals to vehemently and loyally show up to theirs and only their tournaments. Don't feel that you need to buy their entire inventory if they're closing down, especially if you can't afford it. If they're going to throw out statements like "if you go to that tourney you're banned from here" or "if you don't like it, you can just leave and play somewhere else" bullshit, well that should be painfully obvious how much you really mean to them and how much they respect you. Don't settle for "good enough", because having that attitude toward the game and life in general will only get you so far. Make small realistic goals for yourself and do what you can to achieve them. There is a ton of support from all of the players at Gamer's Haven to help you do this, moreso than any other local in the area. Take these things into mind when you think to yourself "I wonder which store I should go to today?"