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Posted: 12:00 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013

Don’t game alone

Austin full of places to play video and tabletop games socially



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Don’t game alone photo
Customers play board games at the Mothership Books and Games on Jan. 12. The shop offers tabletop gaming as well as access to 20 high-end gaming PCs.
Don’t game alone photo
Customers gather to play video games at the Mothership Books and Games on Jan. 12. The shop offers tabletop gaming as well as access to 20 high-end gaming PCs.
Don’t game alone photo
Ralph Barrera
In this 2011 photo, gamers at Dragon’s Lair play a ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ adventure.
Don’t game alone photo
Darren Spohn started Pinballz Arcade on Research Boulevard. It contains more than 250 video games, including more than 100 pinball machines.
Don’t game alone photo
Owner of the Mothership Books and Games Derrick Crowe helps out an customer on Jan. 12. Mothership Books and Games just opened in August and is run by owners Derrick and Laurie Crowe.

By Omar L. Gallaga

American-Statesman Staff

It’s not true, and has never been true, that video gamers are antisocial.

In fact, from the glory days of early ’80s mall arcades to the current online casual social gaming and multiplayer world-building of games like “Minecraft,” gamers like to play together. They’ll play in the same room if possible. For a long time, unfortunately, there were fewer and fewer places to lay down your quarters and have a communal gaming experience that wasn’t over an Internet connection.

Luckily, today, Austin is flush with places to play together, whether it’s traditional video arcades, spaces that play host to Local Area Network (LAN) PC gaming, retail stores that host console gaming tournaments or comic book or board game stores that are helping fuel the crossover revival of so-called “tabletop” gaming. Tabletop gaming includes collectible card games such as “Magic: The Gathering” as well as role-playing titles such as “Dungeons & Dragons” and board games, which are in the middle of a renaissance because of a surge in popularity on the fundraising site Kickstarter.

Sitting at home and beating “Dead Space 3” alone or organizing your “Magic” cards in solitude is fine (he said, without judgment), but going out and meeting new people who want to share the experience with you is a whole lot better.

It’s what Derrick Crowe and his wife, Laurie, have had faith in as they’ve started new lives and a new business. In August, the couple opened Mothership Books and Games on Parmer Lane, a combination tabletop gaming store and LAN gaming center equipped with 20 new high-end gaming computers.

Derrick and Laurie lived in Washington, D.C., for more than five years working in politics and education. They went through lean years financially when they subsisted on a single Dungeons & Dragons game set and a limited diet of video games.

They moved to Austin, where Derrick worked for a nonprofit and Laurie got a teaching job. She got laid off and Derrick got depressed working on social media.

“We thought we have to do something else. It was a great change,” he said.

Mothership is doing well selling popular “Magic” game cards and hosting PC gaming tournaments. Gamers who may not be able to afford a top-of-the-line $2,000 gaming PC can spend $5 an hour to access games like “EVE Online,” “League of Legends” and “StarCraft II,” among dozens of others. “People prefer to play (PC games) in person,” Derrick said. “The social experience is key.”

On the tabletop side, Crowe says that games like “Castle Ravenloft,” “Cards Against Humanity” and anything with miniatures are popular at the store.

The mix of video and board gaming is canny. The couple went to a Major League Gaming event in 2011 and noticed that pro video gamers would take breaks from their computers by pulling up a table and battling with their “Magic” card decks.

“We thought, ‘There’s a business there,’ ” Derrick said.


Video arcade and LAN gaming spots

Mothership Books and Games. A combination tabletop gaming store and LAN gaming center equipped with 20 new high-end gaming computers. 2121 Parmer Lane, No. 119, 516-5067, mothershipatx.com

Pinballz Arcade. Perhaps the most lovingly curated and mind-blowing arcade in Austin, especially for old-school gamers, this two-level, 13,000-square-foot digital paradise has more than 250 games. More than 110 of those are a mix of new and vintage pinball machines in excellent condition. There are also ticket games such as Skee-Ball and discounts for those who sign up for an arcade membership. 8940 Research Blvd., Suite 100, 420-TILT (8458), pinballzarcade.com

Arcade UFO. Near the University of Texas campus, the arcade is undergoing a renovation that co-owner Ryan Harvey says he hopes will be complete by the middle of February. When it opens up again, it’ll have the same eclectic mix of retro, fighting games and shooters. 3101 Speedway, 380-1725, arcadeufo.com

Game Republik (formerly Tek Republik). A PC and console gaming center for those seeking a “Call of Duty” fix or a “League of Legends” tournament. You can even bring your own computer to play at a discount. 3915 Guadalupe St., 459-2244, facebook.com/gamerepublik

Blazer Tag Adventure Center. Lots of video games, yes, but you can also do laser tag and and a 20-foot-high “Sky Trail” at this long-running locale. 1701 W. Ben White Blvd., 462-0202, blazertag.com

Restaurants and bars with video gaming

Kung Fu Saloon. 510 Rio Grande St., 469-0901, kungfusaloon.com/austin/

Recess Arcade Bar. 222 E. Sixth St., 698-9852, recessarcadebar.com

Dave & Buster’s. 9333 Research Blvd., A600, 346-8015, daveandbusters.com

Main Event Entertainment. 13301 N. U.S. 183, 401-0000, mainevent.com

Chuck E. Cheese’s. 10515 N. MoPac Expressway, Suite B200, 372-9425; 502 W. Ben White Blvd, 441-9681; 401 Louis Henna Blvd., Round Rock, 385-2575, chuckecheese.com

Retail stores

These often host game tournaments and midnight-release parties:

Game Over Videogames. Multiple locations in Austin as well as Round Rock and San Marcos, gameovervideogames.com

Gamerz Videogame Exchange. Hancock Center and Lakeline Mall, gamerzaustin.com

Gamefellas. Multiple locations in North, South and Central Austin, gamefellasentertainment.com

Gamestop. Many locations in Austin and surrounding areas, gamestop.com

Tabletop / board gaming

Dragon’s Lair. 6111 Burnet Road (will be moving to West Anderson Plaza this year), 454-2399, dlair.net/austin/

Great Hall Games. 5501 N. Lamar Blvd., Suite 135, 505-0055, greathallgames.com

Wonko’s Toys & Games. 13776 U.S.183, Suite 116, 335-1000, wonkos.com

Tribe Comics & Games. 2919 Manchaca Road, Suite 102, 693-4300, tribecag.com

More resources

Gaming meetups via meetup.com: videogame.meetup.com/cities/us/tx/austin/

Austin Barcraft gaming (“StarCraft II” group): atxbarcraft.blogspot.com

The Texas eSports Assocation: tespa.org

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