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8/1/2004

Get your game on

By Brandon Johansson
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Board games and card games are no fun if there’s no one to play them with.

That’s the theory behind Stonebridge Games in downtown Longmont.

The store, which opened in March, not only sells a multitude of role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons and board games like Risk; it also gives people a place to play them.

“We want to get kids out of their basements,” store owner Eugene Waara said.

That’s why the store doesn’t sell video games, Waara said. It’s not that he or his five-person staff don’t like video games — there are eight linked-up X-boxes for rent by the hour right in the store.

Stonebridge doesn’t sell video games because the staff sees games as a social event, not something to be done alone.

“We want to help kids play games together,” store manager Martin Roach said.

In addition to the X-boxes, the store has tables on which customers can play games.

“Kids want to hang out (at game stores), so why not embrace it?” Roach said.

The store also sells comic books and Manga books, but the main focus is games.

Stonebridge hosts tournaments for everything from Magic cards to Pokémon cards. Roach said they have been a huge success.

“Gamers will seek us out,” he said.

Stonebridge held a tournament for a miniatures game based on comic book characters called Hero Clicks earlier this summer, and a carload of gamers from Illinois showed up.

Waara said the draw of the tournaments isn’t just the prizes, which are often very rare and valuable.

Many people come for the high level of competition, he said.

The tournaments often feature matchups between adults and teens, and the adults don’t always win, Roach said.

The tournaments and product diversity have made Stonebridge’s first few months very successful, Roach said.

The store’s customers fall into two groups.

The first is longtime game enthusiasts who had to travel to Denver or shop online before Stonebridge opened.

The Internet offers a lot of games, Roach said, but it’s “never going to provide a gamer to play them with.”

The second group of customers are the newcomers — those who had never participated in role-playing games before Stonebridge.

Deciding what games to stock can be hit or miss, Waara said.

“Some are terrible and won’t make it,” he said.

Other games, like Pokémon, do very well at first then lose their popularity quickly, he noted.

Waara said Pokémon made more than $1 billion in its first 18 months, then crashed.

Since then, however, Nintendo got the rights back from role-playing giant Wizards of the Coast, and the game’s popularity is back on the rise.

While the front of Stonebridge is devoted to selling and playing games, the back of the store is dedicated to films.

There is a small theater where hard-to-find anime, horror and science fiction films are shown.

This fall, the store will take part in the Longmont Film Festival with a day of independent short films from local filmmakers.

Roach, who has lived in Longmont his entire life, said that when the Roll-O-Rena closed, the city’s youth were left with few options to get together. He said Stonebridge can help fill that void.

“You won’t find many stores like this,” he said.