by Chason Gordon
– The Capitol Hill Times –
It’s been a busy month for gaming. November saw the release of Halo 4 on Xbox, the 343 Industries production in which players fight off hordes of alien invaders. The following week Activision released Call of Duty: Black Ops II, a ground warfare game that features intersecting plotlines in different time periods. With such high-tech games dominating the news, one might easily overlook National Game and Puzzle Week. Most people have.
The week (AKA National Games Week) runs from Nov. 19th to 24th and celebrates non-electronic social gaming, like card and board games. It was started by Mark Simmons of Games Quarterly, a magazine that ended publication years ago. The games week seems to be following this same path, as not a single person I talked to was aware of the annual event.
“Frankly, it’s the first I’d ever heard of it,” said Eric Logan, the owner of Gamma Ray Games and the Raygun Lounge on Pine. The gaming week may not be well known, but gaming is alive and well on the Hill. Logan’s introduction began with his father.
“Unlike a lot of people who had parents who dissuaded them from pop culture,” Logan said, “my dad got me into comic books and Dungeons and Dragons. It’s something that I just kept doing as a lifestyle while I did other stuff.”
That other stuff included shooting movies, working as a DJ, and getting his master’s degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Logan had been trading and collecting games as a hobby, but after profiling a passionate racecar driver for a documentary, he began thinking it might be nice to build an existence around one’s interests. This idea further cemented itself while visiting several “funky” gaming shops.
“If these incompetent, angry, bitter people can run these loved, successful businesses,” Logan said, “what would happen if I stopped wasting my time hustling in the corporate world…and took the skills I developed and brought them to a simple, simple business?”
Gamma Ray Games has been running strong since 2009. It’s not the dingy, stacked to the ceiling shop one might imagine, but has a spacious, relaxed atmosphere that seems to reflect its owner’s desire to welcome people into gaming. I committed a slight faux pas when I ignorantly asked Logan if his shop carried roleplaying games “as well as regular games.” Amiably brushing it aside, he went on to explain that the shop has various genres of tabletop games, including classic, family, Euro, collectible card games, miniatures, roleplaying, ancient, Ameritrash (AKA “beer and pretzel”), war, and of course, Magic the Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons.
“And then we also carry puzzles,” added Logan, “because I like puzzles.”
Many of the games are played at the even more spacious Raygun Lounge, the recently opened offshoot of Gamma Ray that provides a space for the local gaming community, as well as offering weekly events like “Warmachine” and “Magic the Gathering Booster Drafting.” The room is filled with large sleek tables that have ample space for games and the provisions needed to complete them. In addition to snacks, Raygun serves beer and wine, and plans to have a full bar in about six months. Alcohol tends to cause the players to get more into character, as it does in every avenue of life.
The game characters vary. In Pandemic you play as disease-fighting specialists trying to stop several plagues. In Cosmic Encounters you represent aliens looking to spread into foreign worlds, and in Warmachine you control a warcaster, who battles for dominance in the Iron Kingdoms. All are played with ease and gaiety at Raygun.
Both of Logan’s ventures have received a positive response from the community, though he mentioned that he was once called a “hipster douchebag for profit” on a gaming forum. I jokingly threatened to make it the title of the article.
Tabletop gaming is far more common in Seattle than you would think. In addition to Logan’s enterprises, we have Card Kingdom in Ballard, Blue Highway in Queen Anne, Gary’s Games and Hobbies in Greenwood, Green Lake Games on Aurora, and various Meetup groups who regularly play in and around the Hill. The gamers, according to Logan, are everywhere.
“Almost every single band has a Magic player…they’re all my customers,” said Logan. “Every doorman in the city of Seattle is a Magic player. Every line cook in every bar and club in Seattle is a Magic player. Magic is massive on Capitol Hill behind the counter.”
Logan sees it every day. “I literally cannot walk the Hill without running into my people. I’m constantly getting progress reports, constantly getting updates,” he said. “It’s kind of like that Fight Club moment: ‘We are everywhere. We are the guy who does your yard.’”
Gaming has become a supplemental way to spend time with people, and as Logan describes it, is a great avenue for those who want to go out drinking, but don’t feel comfortable at a nightclub. They’re also perfect for Thanksgiving with the family as a way “to avoid political conversations.”
Things are definitely looking up in Seattle if you’re a tabletop gamer. Logan simply hopes they’ll get a little better.
“In Capitol Hill there’s a struggle for geek legitimacy,” he said. “I’m here to let the hipster gamers, the gay gamers, and the various marginalized gamers know that hey, we’re going to make gaming acceptable to your significant other.”
“Don’t worry,” he added, “I got this.”
To learn more about upcoming events at Gamma Ray Games, go to www.gammaraygamestore.com.
Follow Mr. Gordon on Twitter @chasongordon