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.