How do you buy your video games? For many people (myself included) the purchase of games usually involves either a trip to the local superstore (like Best Buy or Toys ‘R’ Us) or a few key strokes on Amazon. Usually you walk or log in, make a selection, throw it in your cart and are on your way. The gamer for the most part is on their own when making their purchase. If you were to ask someone at Best Buy about the play time of Fallout 4 or maybe a Target employee about the learning curve for Splatoon you’re more than likely going to be met with a blank stare and a generic sales response.
The whole process of buying games for many (if not most) gamers is very impersonal. It was with this in mind, and also us being smack in the middle of the holiday shopping season, that I wanted to find a place where gamers weren’t just welcomed for their dollar, they were welcomed as a member of the gaming community. That place is Toyriffic in Maplewood, Minnesota.
When I first contacted the Manager of Toyriffic about doing this story I was met with enthusiasm and a ‘come on down anytime’ attitude. He suggested we stop by on a Saturday evening because they have a weekly event for 3DS owners called Street Pass Saturday. This was the first clue that Toyriffic was more than just a game shop. Walking in that night the first thing that I took notice of was how different the atmosphere was from any other shop, even when compared to a specialty shop like Gamestop. The walls were decorated with posters and magazine ads much like my bedroom was growing up. The shelves were packed with memorabilia and merchandise guaranteed to make a nerd smile. It was a visual burst of geek culture that announced the personality of Toyriffic the moment you walked through the doors.
After walking in and taking in the sights I turned my attention to the back end of the store where tables were set up for Street Pass Saturday. The seats were filled with gamers playing together, laughing and carrying on like it was Poker Night at the bar. It was obvious that this was a tradition long-established and that these customers were more than just patrons.
That’s when I introduced myself to the manager, an excited and passionate gamer named Marquis Oz. Oz has worked for Toyriffic for 12 years and you can tell by the spring in his step and the enthusiasm in his voice that this is so much more than a job to him. We talked shop for a while, the ins and outs of a small business like Toyriffic. Like other specialty shops Toyriffic not only sells the current-gen titles but also has a vast catalogue of classic and rare finds for the collector gamer. Games from each generation line the shelves and fill the cases. There are thousands and thousands of gameplay hours housed in the walls of Toyriffic. It really is a sight to behold. It’s like looking at digital history, a museum of fun.
But above and beyond just what Oz sells at Toyriffic, what struck me most was what his customers get from coming to his store. They’re not just buying cartridges and discs, they’re building a community. Oz told me stories of how often on nights like Street Pass Saturday he and his customers will spend time together after-hours just talking and playing games together. His customers are his friends. This was evident as new customers would enter the store and the casual and friendly banter would just flow naturally. These people have built a small gaming family within the walls of Toyriffic, and each visit is a visit with friends.
As I left that night I couldn’t help but think of the stark difference between one-click shopping at Amazon and spending a night with friends like they do at Toyriffic. While we, as consumers, are always looking for the cheapest buy and the easiest convenience we tend to overlook the importance of small businesses like this one. The cashier at Best Buy is never going to remember you by name, or that your 3DS is on the fritz. The guy at the electronics counter at Target isn’t going to invite you to hang out after-hours to play Monster Hunter. Places like this and people like the patrons at Toyriffic are special. They’ve gotten something greater out of their shopping experience than a Flash Sale or Gamer Club points. They’ve got a family. As for me? I scored a sweet Mega Man plushie for my son for Christmas and a great story to tell.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Shopping!
You can find more about Toyriffic in Maplewood on their Facebook page.
This week our speed painting is of the Sega mascot Sonic the Hedgehog! The next speed painting will be the last one, so who would you like to see? Last chance to chime in with your suggestions in the comment section below.