When I was a kid, I always checked out the boardgames in any store. Toy stores, of course. (Although there were plenty of other distractions there too, but we weren’t at toy stores very often to begin with.) But even, say, at Canadian Tire stores.
“More than just tires” as the saying goes. Which is only a saying for a certain clientele, to start with. A certain kind of clientele that probably called it ‘Crappy Tire’ not ‘Canadian Tire’ too. Anyhoo. (Clientele that use the word ‘anyhoo’ also.)
Especially around the holidays, there was always an aisle of games and toys at Canadian Tire. They weren’t necessarily all that desirable (but more so, certainly, than tires or air freshener, garden hoses or TV trays).
There were boxes of checkers and chess sets with plastic pieces (sometimes, too, fancier sets, but never as fancy as the sets for sale in stores like “Den for Men”). And there were some other games too, more interesting games. Maybe not a lot of them, but something to look at.
So, maybe it started there. Because now, no matter what mood I’m in, but especially when I’m not in a great mood, I love to browse games. Not on my phone, not on the computer – Okay, that’s not true, any kind of browsing for games is fun. But virtual game browsing is second-best: nothing compares to being in an actual store, picking up the game boxes and turning them over in my hands, reading the sides and backs of packaging, picturing the boxes on my shelves at home, imagining them nestled in with my well-loved favourites.
For a lot of people, I know the pleasure is inherently connected with the idea of (and the reality of) collecting. But my browsing expeditions have a special quality which I have discovered is separate from the idea of collection-building. (I do my share of that too.)
It’s partly to do with a sense of belonging. Even when I was a kid, back to browsing those Canadian Tire shelves, I felt like there was a space for me in that store. My parents or grandparents were buying car wax or fasteners, and basically the entire store was built around the things that they wanted to (or needed to) buy. But I had a section too.
Now, in a boardgame store, the entire store feels like it’s a place for me, a place where I fit. (Were I to bring an older family member here, they would probably hover in the doorway.)
But it’s not just that. It’s a sense of there being more ways to have fun than I could possibly experience. A sense of fun on every shelf in every aisle. From front-to-back, from top-to-bottom: a sense of seemingly endless possibility.
My kind of place. No more than just games.