When I started this blog, I had two goals in mind. First, to provide insightful, well-written and (when possible) entertaining reviews and second, to help the vastly different members of this hobby make connections to better form a gaming community. To that end, I’m starting a new series of articles today titled Portrait of a Gamer, in which I will be interviewing a variety of different gamers to show the diversity in our community.
So, what better place to start off this series than in my local game store, The Game Preserve? I was lucky enough to land an interview with the manager of our local gaming boutique, one Wendi Ketchem. Wendi is the charming, community-minded manager of The Game Preserve and has been there, helping gamers in our local area since 2009. She took some time out of her busy schedule to sit down and have a conversation with me, the first half of which is below:
So how long would you say you have been a gamer?
I started playing board games with my Dad when I was six. We started with D&D; and the Dungeons and Dragons board game, then we went to The Dark Tower, Shogun, and Risk. Gaming in my family meant 12 hours. It wasn’t: “Oh, we’re going to sit down and play Monopoly.” It was more like: “We’re going to sit down and do this dungeon crawl for 12 hours.” When people come in and ask me for a game to play in 45 minutes, I’m like, “That isn’t even a game, why are you playing that?” It isn’t even worth my time to take it out of the box.
So would you say that your favorite genre of games is more towards the roleplaying and miniatures end of the spectrum?
My favorite genre is definitely either goofy and silly games or dungeon crawl games like Descent. Things like that. I’m not really into super-euro strat games or hardcore strategy games. I like to have fun when I’m gaming and be goofy and fun- like raiding a dungeon, killing a dragon- things like that.
When was the first time that you went to GenCon?
The first time I went to GenCon was 2007.
And what were your thoughts as to that first experience as a con attendee?
I wasn’t really sure why everybody thought it was super cool. I was like, “Yeah, it’s okay.” There was a lot of people and a lot of people dressed really strangely and I’m not really sure why this is so super-awesome, that everybody thinks it’s cool. My thoughts have changed since I’ve gotten back more into gaming and going to see certain companies and things like that, but my first experience was: “I’m surrounded by a bunch of weird people.”
Because I just, I had never really been around cosplay at that point. I mean, I knew what it was and I had done LARPing, but I was never around cosplay just for the fun of it. And like, seeing people walk around in cat costumes and I’m like, “This is why we get made fun of, people! You’re walking around in caution tape!”
So, since you’ve started attending, have you been to any other conventions?
I’ve been to several retailer-only conventions, that aren’t open to the public: like GAMA. I go to distributor conventions. I’ve been to Baltimore, Wisconsin, Las Vegas. I’ve also been to Origins and I actually prefer Origins to GenCon.
Oh, really? And why would you say that?
It’s a smaller convention- it’s more intimate. You can actually sit down and talk to the designer of a game because he’s got five minutes to talk to you. Instead of GenCon, where there’s 50 thousand people coming up wanting the same game and you don’t care what that person is saying as long as they’re handing you money because you don’t have time to, you know, actually discuss how this game came to be.
And Origins, it’s a much slower environment. It’s not as big of a con and so if you want to sit down and talk to Andy Looney, you can sit down and talk to Andy Looney. He’s got the time to sit down and chitchat with you about how he came up with the idea for Fluxx. And that’s actually how I became friends with Andy and Kristin Looney and we’ve been good friends for five years now, because we met at Origins and we sat there and talked for a while, like an hour. And we talked about Fluxx and how they came up with other games- it’s just a much slower environment and, you know, it’s just more intimate. You can actually talk to people and find out in detail about their game instead of them just handing it to you because they don’t have time.
Is there a particular memory that you have of a gaming experience that really sticks with you?
My favorite memory, well- board games were big in my family. Matter of fact, my grandparents, the rule was: there’s no TV. The only TV they watched was the news and murder mystery theater. And so, whenever we were at my grandparents’ house in the wintertime it was board games and puzzles and in the summertime it was table tennis and tennis. And board games if it was nighttime or rainy.
And so probably, my favorite memory is with my grandparents playing a game called Careers, which has since been put out of print. But it’s kind of like a cross between Life and Monopoly. I remember that every time I went there, I was like, “I want to play Careers, let’s play Careers.” And I remember sitting around the table and we would play Careers. This one time, I read the space upside down and backwards and my grandmother was like, “How did you do that?” and I was like, “I don’t know.” But board games are what taught me how to read. That’s how I learned how to read, by playing games. And I just remember that my grandmother was so impressed that I could do that. We’d play careers every time we went there and I actually still have their copy from when they passed away. I inherited their gaming collection. And I have their 1964 edition of Careers.
Well, that’s it for this week. Join me next week for the second half of my interview with Wendi. We’ll be discussing how business in the local market has been going, the impact of Kickstarter on the gaming industry and ways that gamers here in Bloomington can stay connected.
If you’d like to know more about The Game Preserve, you can check out their website here:
and their Facebook page here: