Gaming stores create virtual connection during coronavirus outbreak

The employees of The Adventure Begins Comics, Games & More gather their characters together in "Animal Crossing: New Horizons." (Kate Looney/The Adventure Begins Comics, Games & More)
The employees of The Adventure Begins Comics, Games & More gather their characters together in "Animal Crossing: New Horizons." (Kate Looney/The Adventure Begins Comics, Games & More)

The employees of The Adventure Begins Comics, Games & More gather their characters together in "Animal Crossing: New Horizons." (Kate Looney/The Adventure Begins Comics, Games & More)

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Allen McKnight and his Dungeons & Dragons group have started using Zoom to host sessions. (Courtesy Allen McKnight)

As Montgomery County continues to operate under a stay-at-home order due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, game stores have found new ways to remain connected to their customers.

Kate Looney, the event coordinator for The Adventure Begins Comics, Games & More, said that although the physical store is shut down, employees have been using social media sites, such as Facebook and Discord, to remain connected to their customers.

“They’re family. It’s more of a community than it is a job a lot of the times,” Looney said.

Brian McMeans, co-owner of Space Cadet Gaming Gaming, said his store projected losing sales during the outbreak, but has actually seen a slight uptick in purchases as customers have shown their support.

“We [attribute this] to customers wanting to help insulate us in the event of a full closure,” McMeans said. “Even when the full stay-at-home order came down, our customers came in on that Thursday and Friday and indicated they were spending some extra money to make sure we’d still be around when the order was lifted.”

Looney said The Adventure Begins is hosting tournaments and games online as much it can. She said many game publishers—such as Wizards of the Coast, the publisher behind "Dungeons & Dragons"—are partnering with local game stores to help support them during the outbreak, and some publishers are offering profit-sharing for stores as well.

Through Facebook Live auctions and other streams, McMeans said the store is still finding ways to connect with its customers. For people who may have more free time on their hands now but may not be familiar with "Dungeons & Dragons" or "Magic: The Gathering," McMeans said the store is organizing tutorial livestreams as well. He said he has also recommended Zoom, a video conferencing app, as a way for groups to still play games together.

Allen McKnight, a customer at Space Cadet Gaming Store, said using Zoom has helped him connect and meet virtually with his Dungeons & Dragons group, which normally meets in person.

“It has been good to stay connected, check in on each other and still get to leave this world for our fantasy worlds,” McKnight said. “It’s different, of course, but it’s a blessing to have something remain at least seminormal.”

Looney said employees at The Adventure Begins have also gotten connected through "Animal Crossing: New Horizons," a new social simulation game that allows players to visit other players' islands. She said the store even shared an in-game design of its shirt for guests and employees to wear.

“We’ve actually been meeting and hanging out with our guests on 'Animal Crossing,'” Looney said. “It’s great [because] I’m seeing people reaching out through the community to play games together.”

Although it is still early in the outbreak, McMeans said it will be important to remain connected to each other. As people can no longer gather in person, he said virtual meetings have provided the connection people have been looking for.

“I think you could definitely feel spirits [being] lifted as we get to hear each other’s voices and see faces,” McMeans said.

By Andy Li
Originally from Boone, North Carolina, Andy Li is a graduate of East Carolina University with degrees in Communication with a concentration in Journalism and Political Science. While in school, he worked as a performing arts reporter, news, arts and copy editor and a columnist at the campus newspaper, The East Carolinian. He also had the privilege to work with NPR’s Next Generation Radio, a project for student journalists exploring radio news. Moving to Houston in May 2019, he now works as the reporter for the Conroe/Montgomery edition of Community Impact Newspaper.


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