Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What and Why: Part 2 - Manchild in Suntown

Ok. I know that I said that it'd be tomorrow when I put up the next post, but the weekend was just BUSY.  This is the first chance I've had to sit down and write.  So.. back to our saga.

The hero of our story had just recieved the ring of power and was making his way to the Elven stronghold....oh..wait.  Wrong hero and wrong story. *sigh*  His is much better than mine.

As an aside, I do promise that this will be the last 'purely vanity' post on here.  I don't want everyone to think that this going to be just about me, there WILL be a bunch of stuff about gaming, both playing and being a retailer and about stuff going on at the store.  It is difficult to talk about the store and not have a bit of 'me' creep into it, but I'll work to make sure that it's not all about me.

When I got to college, I fiddled around with some other games here and there.  I got into a short lived Dungeons and Dragons game, and then got into FASA's  Starship Tactical Combat Simulator.

 Ahhh.. the memories.

I ran into the same problem with that game that I did with my previous foray into games like Dune and Richthofen's War: no one to play with.

It wasn't until my second year of school that I met someone else that shared my passion for gaming, another student named Altan Khendup.  Altan was from the Berkley area and introduced me to Anime and to one of the RPG's that I would continue to have a love affair with for many many years.  Cyberpunk.  Cyberpunk was unlike the RPG's I had played in the past.  There weren't classes, there weren't spells, and most importantly, there was a STORY.  Altan was great at making the world come alive and about making me care about the why rather than the how.   Why were we being attacked?  Why was the crimelord wanting this person kidnapped?  Why did the things happen the way that they did?   It opened up a completely new world for me.  I saw gaming as much more than just a tactical exercise, or numbers crunching quest.  I saw it as a vehicle for telling a story, for sharing a tale, and for bringing in the players to help craft that yarn.  So much of what I am and know as a Game Master was taught to me by Altan, just though sheer example. I'll always be forever in his debt.

After one more year I met the next person who would shape me as a gamer: Jeff Smith.  Jeff was working at Hobby Bench, a general hobby retailer here in Phoenix.  He had worked at several other hobby stores in Ohio and though he also was well versed in other hobby aspects (RC and modeling) he was their go-to guy for gaming.  At that time I was living in an apartment complex behind one of their stores, and just by random chance we met.  He and I struck up a conversation and we found that we had a lot in common.  We soon became fast friends and were gaming regularly together.

Jeff used to make regular trips to Tucson to deal with some other hobby accounts, and occasionally I'd go down with him to keep him company on that long drive.   One day, after seeing some of the books on his shelf at home, I asked him a question that to this day has had lasting consequences on my life.  "So, tell me about this Warhammer 40k game."   He started telling me about the Imperium of Man at Bell Road and I-17 and didn't finish until we got to Tucson.   When we got back home he gave me some extra Space Ork figures that he happened to have laying around and we started playing.

I was hooked.


I became a 40k addict, and spent many, MANY hours painting figures, writing army lists, and getting my ass royally handed to me in battles.  During this time, I also was a bit more exposed to the gaming community.  Cons, tournaments, and other such gatherings, and I started to gain an appreciation of the importance of the gaming store, not only as a place to sell games, but as a place to gather, talk, and just make connections with others in the community.

Time passed, and I continued to split my time between RPG's and  miniatures games...oh...work too.  At this point, I was doing some freelance programming for Checker Auto, and i'd grown disillusioned with the computer field.  Jeff had been working at a local store called Waterloo Games (pretty much a valley institution at the time) in their north location.  He had decided to move on and go to work for Games Workshop, and I ended up taking over for him at Waterloo Games.   Finally I had achieved one of my dreams : I was working at a game store!

The year that I worked there was an amazing education, working at the store.   I never would have imagined the differences that being on the other side of the counter made.  Things I had taken for granted as a customer were now completely different, and I quickly realized that working at a game store was NOT all fun and games. (go ahead and groan..everyone else does when I say that).

Without going into the gory details, I rapidly came to the conclusion that I could do much better on my own.  I started to research business plans, marketing strategies and began to scope out locations for a potential store.    After leaving Waterloo having undertaken a successful negotiation with the First National Bank of Parents, I started work on opening my own store.  Imperial Outpost Games.

The original store was small (funny though that it sure didn't look small when I first moved into it.) and served me well for those first four years.   In the time that I've run the store I have met some of the greatest people that a person could hope to call friend.  The quality of people I've met through the store is something I constantly marvel at.  The friendships I've made through the store are some of the things in life I value the most.  They say that the measure of a man is the friends he keeps, and if that's the case, I'm truly blessed.

It's all because of gaming.

Gaming has brought me great friends, great times, and has managed to put food on my table for several years now.   Few things make me as happy as a good Friday night, when 6 different games are being played at the same time and the store is standing room only.

I have the opportunity to share something that I love with others, and that's a rare gift.   Gaming brings people together, gives them a good reason to laugh, and in a day when computers and the internet and taking a bigger and bigger share of folk's time, it gives them a place to come and be social with each other.

So, I hope that this rambling has given all 4 readers of this blog a bit of a better idea of where I'm coming from when I say :

I love gaming.

It's not something I say because I just make my living from it.  It's not something I say because I'm expected to.  It's something I say because I truly feel that it's made my life better.


  1. Quite the tale of coming about to the gaming world. Mine seems to be quite the same, just not quite as epic nor with me owning my own game store. Though to say the least, I love heading to Outpost every friday and Saturday. It allows me to be a kid again and is a great meeting place for like minded people.

  2. Amen, brother. Great read.

  3. Nice post Darren, it seems that most of us gamers come from the same story. When I found your shop 10 years ago now (wow has it been that long?) you welcomed me and were very kind, it was omething that I had not seen in any other shops here in the valley at the time. Thats why I play at your shop, I am always welcomed and it reminds me of the old TV show Cheers! Good job man, good job!

  4. I also enjoyed this post quite a bit. I find it interesting to learn how others find (or don't find) their passions and direct their careers in those directions. Best of luck to you in future years!