Melyssa “Lys” Childs-Wiley and Shannon “Shado” Wiley spent close to 20 years dreaming of opening their own comic book and gaming store.

“We’re both geeky,” Lys said. “We love role-playing games. We love board games. He’s always been a comic person.”

The couple’s vision came to life in May 2018 with the opening of Carpe Diem Comics. The shop sits in downtown McKinney, where the couple spends about 70-80 hours each week with their dog, Pancake, who helps them greet customers and find tabletop games, manga, “Magic: The Gathering” cards, gaming supplies and their favorite comics. They also host gaming tournaments and in-store events that attract a variety of customers.

These games and stories have seen a surge in popularity in recent years, Lys said. The interest stems from pop culture influences, such as the Netflix show, “Stranger Things.”

“The demogorgon in [‘Dungeons and Dragons’] is why they named the creature in the TV show the demogorgon,” Shado said.

In “Dungeons and Dragons,” the game master acts as a narrator, and players adopt characters to flesh out story plots. Celebrities who enjoy the game, such as Felicia Day and Vin Diesel, among others, have also spurred growing enthusiasm, according to Shado. In addition, parents who grew up playing the game are now sharing these experiences with their children.

Part of the attraction is the opportunity to stretch the imagination, Shado said, and that is the same reason people have been reading science fiction for years.

“It is an escape from reality, and when done right, it is a way to examine what it’s like to be human.”

Not only is “Dungeons and Dragons” a shared experience, but it can also invite introspection, Lys said.

“We can always explore our potential in these sorts of things: our potential for good and our potential for evil,” she said. “It gives us a really good place to shine a flashlight into those little, dark corners of humanity in a safe way.”