TableFlip Gaming is our new, friendly local game store. They house a large array of board games such as Pandemic and Ticket to Ride, card games such as Smash Up and Exploding Kittens, collectible card games such as Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon, miniature games such as Warhammer and Star Wars X-Wing, just to name a few.
The two leading games of fantasy game lovers are brought to the masses by the gaming company Wizards of the Coast who recently acquired them. The original role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons, was the inspiration behind the launch of many different fantasy game media and genres and still entertains generations of players, enriching the lives of tens of millions around the globe. As another leader in the industry, Magic: The Gathering is both a collectible and digital collectible card game. Released in 1993, it was the first trading card game and their website boasts that they currently hold the attention and imagination of twenty million players! There’s even a monetary value with these cards as some of them go up to ridiculous values. One rare, and out-of-print Magic card named Black Lotus sold at auction recently for $166,100. Those old Pokémon cards from the 90’s are also valuable, with a basic Charizard card being worth about $1,300.
Popular media such as Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter keep the wizardry world alive in the minds and conversations of many. Celebrities are even stepping out of the shadows, exposing their love of immersing themselves into a land of elves and spells. These games are different every time and offer a chance for anyone to experience fantastic roles and situations very different from everyday life. Lots of the games allow the opportunity for a player to become another person, or even another being, while playing the role of a dragon, a knight, or a king.
Michael Earl and Charles Johnson began playing Dungeons and Dragons together only about three years ago. They battled through many campaigns together. It was the enjoyment derived from these epic game nights, that led Michael to ponder the future of tabletop gaming as a business venture. After attending the Sacramento Anime convention and speaking in depth to a vendor who recommended a book by Gary Ray, Friendly Local Game Store – A Five-Year Path to a Middle-Class Income, he decided to really put a plan together to launch a gaming store with his friend Charles. His ideal environment would be one that fostered connections to a community that would be a positive, guiding influence in his customers’ lives.
Michael had many personal challenges, prior to deciding to open his own business. High school was a bit of a nightmare for him. He endured bullying that was so bad, he developed a mild form of Tourette’s Syndrome as a result. “I had some serious internal battles, some I very nearly lost” Michael reflects, “Having a supportive group of friends around me, a community in which to feel safe, would have been great.”
The unease drove him to ultimately leave school and take the California proficiency exam. It was when he found out he was going to be a young father that he decided to enroll in a business school where he earned his degree in Information Technology, and became a commercial security system installer. “One aspect of these games that I love, is the ability to be whatever character, in whatever setting my friend creates. I can escape this world a little, because life sucks sometimes”, Michael shares, “In my friend Brody’s campaign, I am an analytical person much like Captain Spock, sharing my wisdom. In my campaign with Charles, I am an armored dragon, who is like a knight and helps people, shielding them from their aggressors.”
“Our slogan is ‘Games you haven’t played, with friends you haven’t met,’ the last part is the most important.”
Despite all his struggles, fate brought Michael the love of his life Tara, who he met through an online Avatar forum. She was a single parent also and turned to him for advice. Their families merged and they found out they were about to add another daughter to their brood. His work environment became a bit toxic and he ended up leaving that job. Some challenging times happened, during which the new, young family relied upon Michael’s parents to house and feed them.
They were completely supportive of them, until Michael found a job working for Comcast. Says Michael, “One of the motivating factors for me, is achieving a level of success where I can take care of my Dad. He’s worked so hard, he has sacrificed his entire life for his kids, and has always taken care of me. He should be able to do whatever he wants with his time at this point.” As far as working for Comcast still and logging in hours at the store, Michael says, “Balancing being a business owner, an employee and a father is a challenge. I get about 3-4 hours of sleep a night. But my family and the community has really stepped up and helped keep things moving. They get all the credit. We consult them about new products, and they all help us schedule gaming events.” One customer described as a true mentor is Gene Griffith. Having managed game stores before, Gene shares, ”I just want to help out my local game store, they have enthusiasm for their community. It’s a group effort. Really, I just want to go talk about nerd stuff and hang out at the nerd shop.”
“ There’s no chance for defeat thus far, as it stands the store has slayed expectations for fiscal viability. ”
When dreaming up a perfect “Third Space” as he refers to it, he wanted to create a community where a person could just go hang out, meet new people and develop bonds. He says, “Too often, we are either working, at school or at home.
Our slogan is ‘Games you haven’t played, with friends you haven’t met,’ the last part is the most important.” Most of the games in the store are what Michael describes as cooperative games. One game mentioned was Pandemic, wherein your group is working together as doctors, trying to stop an impending plague. Michael emphasizes, “You are up against the board game trying to win, not against your friends. It’s a group effort.”
The future of these cooperative games is morphing into one that includes audiences. The latest form of entertainment for enthusiasts is watching video streams and listening to pod casts of actors playing Dungeons and Dragons together. There is one web series currently gaining popularity, it is called Critical Role. Their website, www.critrole. com, declares that their show attracts over half million viewers per week!
Expansion is part of the dream for TableFlip Gaming, with multiple stores and multiple places to play being the ultimate win. There’s no chance for defeat thus far, as it stands the store has slayed expectations for fiscal viability. While most new stores lose money for the first 3-6 months, TableFlip Gaming opened and hit their eighteen month forecast in the first thirty days of business. In their opening weekend alone, they exceeded expectations they had for the first entire month in business. It is a success that they do not value nearly as much as the welcoming environment they have created for our community – young and old alike.
Michael states, “You aren’t going to love every game in here, but you will find one you like. You can even bring in your own, sit here, and play it. It’s about people coming together and spending time together.”
Engulfed in the constant rumble of the many people enjoying a good game, shouting about their victories, and having a blast, Michael says, “Depression was a fight I almost lost. Surrounded by the sounds of joy and happiness, quells the demons.”
Photos By Casey Quist