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Goodbye Gamers

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By Nelson Schneider - 10/06/18 at 02:33 PM CT

I have some sad news for readers in Western Iowa and Eastern Nebraska: Gamers is gone. As reported by KETV Channel 7 this past week, every store in the Midwestern used videogames chain were seized by their bank and shut down without warning. Not only did this leave Gamers employees in the lurch, with no idea if/when they’ll receive their final paychecks, but any customers with store credit may as well have thrown their second-hand merchandise in the nearest pond, as they’re almost guaranteed to receive no compensation.

As someone who found his feet and identity as a gamer in the ‘90s, Gamers was like a home away from home. Between that place and Spellbound Books & Games (which has been closed for just over a decade already), I always felt like there was a local place to let my geek flag fly. In the ‘90s, it seemed like every Midwestern city had a second-hand videogame store and a local comic/tabletop RPG shop. Frequent family trips to Kansas saw me becoming a regular at videogame retailer Game Guy (which stopped posting on its Facebook account in 2012 and currently has a disconnected phone number, so you know what that means) as well as a tabletop/comic shop whose name I’m blanking on, but which was gone the last time I was in the city.

Manhattan, Kansas, however, in a larger city than Lincoln, Nebraska, and has a much more vibrant nerd scene than Omaha. Game Guy has recently been replaced with Gamers’ Heaven, and there are a number of other small businesses with a nerd-centric focus that have popped-up in the past few years. Without Gamers, Lincoln is screwed, leaving only Big Box retailers like Gamestop and Best Buy to (poorly) fill the niche for nerdery. Sure, there’s The Gameroom, but when I visited them in December, 2017, they didn’t even stock Switch games!

Regardless, I fear that even the new blossoms that appear to replace those that have withered and fallen are not destined to be long for this world. When erstwhile MeltedJoystick photo/videographer, Matt, moved back to Fremont, Nebraska earlier this year, I was excited about the opportunity to take him to visit a new tabletop/comic shop that had popped-up in that town… yet we never got the opportunity, as his busy schedule hasn’t allowed for much leisure, and the store itself was a dark, empty hole in the wall when I passed through town yesterday.

Even as the Internet is a great democratizer and playing-field-leveler, it’s also an inexorable force that will not be denied. All of these small, local purveyors of all things nerdist have had one thing in common: Horrible or non-existent websites. These businesses have been trying to operate themselves like it was 1999, far in to the 21st Century. Having a local bricks-and-mortar location is a great way to build a local reputation and get people in the door, but when you’re competing with the entire world thanks to the magic of e-commerce, getting a handful of regular customers just isn’t going to cut it.

Since the advent of e-commerce, I have regularly, as a regular regular of these failed small businesses, attempted to buy from them before buying elsewhere. I tried to see if Gamers had a few things I wanted in stock, and to see how much they wanted for them. Yet, sadly, Gamers’ website never advanced to the point where it had a live, searchable inventory. Indeed, Gamers itself never really made much headway in pushing its used games on the ever-increasing array of online sales platforms. They could have moved merchandise on eBay, Amazon Marketplace, or the increasing number of Amazon Marketplace knock-offs powered by the likes of Wal-Mart. Yet they insisted on moving merchandise primarily through their chain of bricks-and-mortar locations in the heart of Flyover Country. And when I couldn’t easily find out if they had what I wanted in stock, I found myself buying elsewhere.

Sadly, the last several times I visited Gamers in person, I didn’t end up buying anything. The stores were choked with copies of bad games nobody wanted, and the few copies of good games on the shelves were typically overpriced. The last thing I bought from Gamers myself was a slightly-dented “Metroid Prime Trilogy” sometime in 2010, though the last thing I own from gamers is a used copy of “Super Mario Odyssey,” which I received as a Yule gift in 2017.

Between the resurgence of primarily-digital PC gaming driving customers away from physical copies of games, the easy ubiquity of digital emulation driving down the demand for increasingly ancient and untrustworthy classic game cartridges, and the massive boom of e-commerce, I’m surprised that Gamers lasted as long as it did. Still, all Midwestern gamers should take a moment to mourn the passing of one of the last surviving touchstones of our youth, crushed out of existence between the grinding, gnashing teeth of Capitalism.

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