Parallel universes are an eerie concept. That universes exactly like our own might exist and run alongside us is weird enough, but that within these universes the ‘facts’ of human history as we know it are being played out, but with a different outcome – whoa! – that is downright spooky. This surreal concept is the brainchild of a young American PhD student, Hugh Everett III, who came up with the idea in 1954 and which has been enthusiastically taken up by science fiction and fantasy aficionados ever since.
I stumbled into my own parallel universe last week in the form of dedicated gaming store Good Games, which sells a wide range of board, card and tabletop games for adults and children, miniature models and figurines, dice and counters. The shop was packed with role-playing enthusiasts all playing games with other real people in the real world; it felt like a moment of balanced humanity in the other world of online gaming. With epic battles and intricate characters the games themselves appear complex, but the essence of them is traditional. Playing boards or cards are used, dice are thrown to make a move and hand-painted miniature models take pride of place in many games.
Some of the most popular landscapes are sci-fi worlds where goblins, elves, dwarfs and their ilk fight it out in games such as ‘Warhammer’, structured to create dramatic tension and employ strategy to resolve conflicts. Regular tournaments are held at the store, with Friday nights and Sundays in particular finding Good Games packed with intense groups sitting at long tables lost in their own particular parallel universe. And extraordinarily Dungeons and Dragons, the game which defined the modern role playing genre, is still being played 40 years after it was created.
For children a great introduction to card games and characters is ‘Pokemon’ and ‘My Little Pony’, both of which have a fervent following while ‘Vanguard’ and ‘Yugioh’ prove popular with their parents. Playing multifaceted, multi-identity games can stretch on for hours, meaning lots of energy and concentration is needed, so it’s not surprising the shop’s food and drink supplies reflect that: Pepsi Max, Monster Energy drinks, ice creams and Wagon Wheels.
Opening two years ago Good Games has created a home for gamers and fostered the development of a vibrant gaming culture and all its specialised sub-cultures. The manager, Martin Sullivan, believes his success is down to the business’s authenticity; they don’t just sell gaming products, the staff are all gamers as well. “If it is not on the shelf and you want it just ask. We will do what we can to chase it down for you.The key here is to have fun, relax and get lost in the fantasy of role-playing. We understand your world because we are part of it.”
In my visits to the shop the warmth and affection gamers had for the staff and the space is palpable, it clearly has created the sense of community many retail businesses can only dream about. Staff member Kelly sees this as the best part of her job “We don’t just serve people here, we know them. For people who find it hard to socalise, or tend to be loners, gaming is a great way to meet like-minded individuals. I’ve seen many examples of people finding real world friends through gaming and building friendship groups which now meet outside the store.”
The camaraderie, connection and sense of community at Good Games recently reached its zenith when two players who met at the shop announced they were getting married. I like to think the shop’s slogan ‘May all your games be good games’ weaved some otherworldly magic and resulted in a loving relationship here on earth.
Good Games, 768 Hunter Street, Newcastle West. Phone: 4023 8664 email@example.com, Facebook: Good Games Newcastle. Monday: closed, Tuesday to Friday: midday-10.00pm, Saturday and Sunday: 10:00am – 5:00pm.
Have you chosen the West End as your home, or as the perfect place to run your business? Do you have a West End tale which deserves a wider audience? What inspires and infuriates you about the West End? If you have a story to tell I would love to talk to you! Here is how to find me: firstname.lastname@example.org; 0413 250 155.