I would always notice a certain store on a corner of Old York Road on my way to the supermarket in Jenkintown. 7th Dimension Games, it turns out, is a board game store.
I heard about card games like Magic: The Gathering and role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. I knew how intense these kinds of games and gamers were.
7th Dimension Games, which celebrated its fifth anniversary on Nov. 15, is one of the few stores in the area that helps service the growing group of board, card and tabletop gamers.
Cameron Conarroe, one of the store managers, has worked in a number of these stores for 13 years, and playing the games even longer. During his time as a gamer, he’s seen many stores like Jenkintown Hobby Center and RPG Outpost go out of business. The success of 7th Dimension is not commonplace.
“We’ve never had this type of exposure as we do now,” Conarroe said, noting the store’s prime location along with its large see-through windows.
He added that these “low-tech” games are becoming more popularized with shows like “Big Bang Theory” and Will Wheaton’s YouTube show, “TableTop” as well as the simpler games like Cards Against Humanity and Settlers of Catan.
“A lot of these games are simplistic and probably on paper, not that fun,” Conarroe said. “But they really inspire and encourage a type of interaction that makes it more fun.”
The only full-scale tabletop gaming store in the city is Redcap’s Corner, which holds weekly Magic tournaments and tabletop RPG gatherings like Pathfinder Society, among other games. Having opened a second location on Baltimore Avenue for more of the casual gamers while maintaining their first store on Drexel’s campus mainly for experienced gamers, employee Michael Motyka said he sees tabletop gaming’s potential for people willing to dedicate the time.
“You have to play enough games to want to have the drive to keep learning new ones,” Motyka said. “The only way to get better at a game is to lose a lot.”
Michael Barnett and Tom Wilson are two Redcap regulars, and their involvement with gaming in the positive environment for all kinds of audiences has made them real supporters.
“The community here, it’s actually pretty awesome,” Barnett said. “There are people here who will let you use their expensive Legacy decks to learn how to play.”
“The store owners make a point to try and be as welcoming of an environment for women as much as they are for men,” Wilson added. “They actually fight tooth-and-nail for that.”
The second Saturday Game Night, organized by Phillip Walton, is scheduled to have its next get-together Dec. 6. Walton said he believes that the social factor of these board and card games offer something that video games often can’t.
“Sometimes, you just need to get away from a screen,” Walton said.
That’s not to say that there’s a strict line separating board gamers from video gamers.
Melissa Bowers, who could be seen painting game miniatures with Frank Anderson at 7th Dimension, is ranked seventh in the world for the card game Legend of the Five Rings and is currently playing through Monolith Productions’ “Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor.”
Adam Gross, the organizer of Philly Loves Boardgames, runs social events and also created, “Here’s To Friends,” to help people feel like they are a part of a community.
“It’s good to reach out to the people who think they’re alone,” Gross said, noting how his family’s passing away made him want to continue getting together with people.
His two hours spent helping me and another new member play through the European strategy games “Splendor” and “Spyrium” showed me how willing these gamers are to welcome new friends and participants into the culture.
“My goal is for you to enjoy yourself so you come back again,” Gross said. “I get more enjoyment seeing more people come out.”
Albert Hong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org