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Monday Morning ‘MUG’ing: Promoting a social experience (6 photos)

This week’s Monday Morning ‘MUG’ing visits the Gameshelf, celebrating its 10th anniversary on Aug. 19.

THUNDER BAY -- Jackie Laderoute bought The Gameshelf from the previous owner, who opened the store but struggled to keep it open. She believed there was still a good future in off-line gaming.

“We stayed away from connected games, video games and the internet,” she explains. “Analogue games, where people actually have to meet and play with each other and interact face to face is what we’ve done. And we turned it into a place where people can come. Every night we’re open until 10, so every night there are people playing board games, card games and miniature games. It just fills a niche that computer games doesn’t fill.”

The store has a large open area with tables that can accommodate up to 70 players and a corner full of demo-games that people can try for free.

The Gameshelf advertises tournaments and events for various games on their Facebook page, and some games have regular days of the week when players gather. Players of Yu-Gi-Oh!, a popular card game, come every Saturday. “They’re here at noon, and sometimes we’re pushing them out the door at 10 p.m.,” Laderoute laughs.

The Gameshelf, the biggest store of its kind in this region, stocks thousands of games, ranging from classics such as Scrabble and chess to the latest board games by new startups such as local game design company Inside Up Games, founded by Conor McGoey, a long-time customer of the Gameshelf.

Despite, or perhaps because of the internet, the board game industry has really exploded in recent years, Laderoute says. “It’s purely social; playing someone face to face in a world where the internet brings us together but also separates us. It’s easy to be an awful person when you’re not face to face with your opponent. So when people come here to play, the other person is real, their feelings are real, their opinions are real and there’s an actual skill to interacting with them, separate from the game itself. So it’s a very social encounter in a world that’s increasingly isolated.”

Recent trends have shifted away from traditional mass-market games such as Monopoly to more “Euro-style” games. (Euro-games are centred on resource management, worker placement and developing an economic engine, while American games (such as Risk) is more direct and has more conflict between the players.) Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride are bestsellers at the store.

Board games can be very beneficial, especially for children. “There’s all sorts of lessons in board games outside of the mechanics of the games itself. Playing involves learning to read for comprehension and requires numeracy, but it also means learning to win graciously and lose with dignity. And affording that to the other player,” Laderoute says. “I think it’s an important part of their emotional development that they don’t necessarily get online.”

For their 10th anniversary, The Gameshelf is planning special events on the weekends in August. Check out their Facebook page for news and updates.