I can’t remember the name of the store, which was located on Manchester Road in Manchester, Missouri. I lived in the suburbs of Saint Louis in the seventies, and my brother and I liked to build and blow up or burn plastic model kits. Fortunately, that path led neither of us to careers as arsonists, although we did burn on the carpet in the bathroom once.
What it lead me to was gaming. The hobby store where my parents would take us to spend their money had a small section of games. The first game I remember buying was Avalon Hill’s Victory in the Pacific. It was a simple strategic wargame published in 1977, a follow up to War at Sea. Although it would take years before I would find someone to play wargames against, I soon began collecting a small fortune worth of AH and SPI games. I remember my parents trying to hurry me out of the store when I would linger near the cardboard boxes, enthralled by their back cover blurbs and images. They could sense the addiction in me.
At the same time, the store also began selling TSR Hobbies little boxed set of rules. They weren’t quite as flashy as those big box games. But I was first reading the Lord of the Rings around this time, and something began to click for me. It would be a couple of years before I would up with a copy and began playing. But I can truly say that plastic models led me to my lifelong addiction to gaming. Thanks Mom and Dad!
I’ve lived now in Atlanta for 15 years, and put a lot of disposable income into the local game story economy. But game stores have struggled, in part because teenagers today have a lot of options for their money and their time. In the last several years, I’ve sadly marked the passing of the Sword of the Phoenix and The Wargame Room. Like many of you, I’ve turned to online retailers for much of my gaming supplies. But I still would much rather spend an hour browsing through hard copies than browsing online.