Versus Board Games
Today we’re traveling to Tigard, Oregon to talk to Versus Board Games owner Tate Breswick!
What was the catalyst for opening your store?
I was laid off from an engineering job in Nov. 2017 and my good friend (who attended the local board game convention with me every year) was planning to opening a Board Game Tap House. He quickly realized that he couldn’t do that and run a retail store, so he asked me if I would like to run a store in or near his tap house. I’ve been playing board games since I was 5 during the generation of Fireball Island, Hero Quest, and Omega Virus, and I’ve always been deep into following the growth of this golden age in board gaming we have now. So I agreed and we took all of 2018 trying to find a location for our vision to take root. We found that place in October of 2018 and I was able to open my doors on Black Friday with a soft open. And followed that up with a grand opening on Dec 15th. We had a lot of holiday shoppers in that first day and the weeks following.
How do you promote inclusivity and accessibility at your store?
Making my store welcoming to everyone is one of my main goals. I strive personally to treat everyone equally as soon as they walk in the door. Whether they are wearing a star wars hoodie, a suit, a dress or a kilt I try not to assume anything about them, I just ask how they are and what games they’re interested in.
Since I am a middle-aged able-bodied white cisgendered male heterosexual with average height and weight, I am the epitome of privileged and I've never had to worry about a game or a space not being accessible to me. Of course there are games out there that I don't like or have art or content that I don't like, but I think that's different than a game being offensive (knowingly or unknowingly) or inaccessible just because of who I am. Since this is my vantage point I try to work extra hard to be aware of my unconscious biases and how they affect my actions especially when it comes to how I treat people, how I setup my shop, or the expectations I create for staff and customers. One small example is that I try not to include any games with art or content that is clearly offensive to woman (or other minorities), I think the hobby gaming world is mostly male and that the art in particular can be openly objectifying and degrading to woman, so I keep an eye out for that and try not to include it on my shelf.
As I think about what do I actually do to make my store inclusive and accessible I struggle to find an answer. Not because I don't do anything, but sometimes it’s hard to find concrete examples. For me I’m just happy when someone that wouldn’t “typically” be seen as a gamer comes into my store and is excited about what they find. The other day I had two foreign exchange students from Saudi Arabia come in and they acted kind of unsure, but were very excited once I started showing them games and explaining how to play. They ended up buying Skull ( a bluffing game with little reading), one of them spoke great English but the other I could tell was still learning. In the end they had the biggest smiles and they complimented me on my shop.
We have wheelchair accessible parking and entrance and bathroom which is nice, but not really unique for being inclusive these days. I want to create something uniquely inclusive that sets a new bar for FLGSs and all spaces that promote community and human interaction (maybe a lofty goal, but I like to dream big).
Why do you think FLGSs are important?
Friendly Local Game Stores are magical places. I can clearly remember going to my FLGS when I was nine. It was in the bottom floor of a building that you had to walk down an alley to get to, and once inside it was full of D&D books, comics, cards, dice and a whole world that I couldn't wait to become a part of. Flash forward to now, and I see FLGSs as a place where people can explore their creativity through tabletop gaming; weather it’s strategy, storytelling or dexterity, and in the end a good FLGS is focused on helping the community have positive interactions with each other. There is also the argument that people can just use the internet to find games and them shipped to their houses so why do they need an FLGS. I’ve helped a woman find a game she couldn’t remember the name of but really wanted, and through a series of descriptions including hand gestures I was able to find her game.
Also, there were over 3,500 new games released last year and I think BGG got over 5,000 new entries (including expansions), so even by following blogs, checking BGG scores, or watching YouTube reviews it’s not possible to check every game. A good FLGS can help people find games they enjoy and do a lot of the complex work of figuring which games are good and why they are good and people can actually play the game in a fun environment which helps get more people into this amazing hobby.
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