By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
When Joe Busch was in high school, playing Dungeons and Dragons had a “Cheetos in the basement” stigma attached to it, so he and his friends used the school chess as a cover.
Now role playing games and the card game Magic are more popular and accepted.
Busch is out in the open with his love for the games as the new owner of The Stacked Deck, a gaming shop in downtown Bowling Green.
Busch said he first got into gaming in junior high. Like many others in his generation Pokémon served as the gateway game. He and his friends heard about Magic the Gathering, which was more complex with deeper back story, so they started playing that.
Busch said he loved writing and telling stories, so in high school, he started his own Dungeon and Dragons campaign, conducted under the cover of the chess club, and continued through his college years.
The New Jersey native, Busch attended Rowan University where he studied journalism. Summers he’d come home and muster his friends and resume the campaign.
That’s the appeal of role playing games in the world of fast paced video play. Video games may have good stories, he said, but those tales are created by someone else.
“Dungeons and Dragons moves with you,” he said. “It’s writing a story but with a group of five people all contributing. You can do whatever you want. You’re just having fun telling the story together.”
Whether engaged in role playing, another board game, or a Magic, the social aspect of people gathering for fun and camaraderie is part of the attraction.
From the beginning Busch knew he wanted to do more than sell games and cards, but wanted to have a place where people could play uninhibited without the questioning looks of people wondering what they were doing rolling those strange dice and talking about fireballs. “It’s not like you’re an outsider doing something like that here,” he said.
The appeal is broad. “You can have anybody play with anybody.”
Fathers bring in their kids to get their first starter deck of Magic cards. He had a man in his 70s stop by. He’d seen YouTube videos about Magic, and was thinking about taking the game up.
When Busch went to the bank to set up his business account, the banker was excited because he played Magic. He introduced him to one of his co-workers who was also a fan of the game.
This is the kind of place Busch missed when he first moved to town about four years ago to take an editing job. When the owner of that company cashed out, he took a job in the frame shop at Ben Franklin.
He liked the job, but felt he was in a rut.
Busch, 28, admired what his friends Jon and Kayla Minniear were doing with their shop Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Retro, and thought he’d like to do something similar.
Then they told him a spot was open on the alley across from their store’s back door.
Busch did some research into the gaming shops that have come and gone in town. Given the number of stores in Toledo, he was surprised none existed in Bowling Green, He discovered they didn’t close because of lack of business, but because of other extenuating circumstances. So he decided to take the plunge.
He ordered new merchandise to sell, but that wasn’t enough to fill up what was essentially a large closet.
Through Jon Minniear he heard about a guy who owned some storage sheds. One had been owned by someone who was into role playing games.
“No one else had given it a second glance,” Busch said. But he found it packed with rule books, some classics, like a 1980s Star Wars-themed game and a Judge Dredd manual. He was able to pick up the merchandise for a song.
He also met a guy who was newly married and expecting his first child. He was divesting himself of 50,000 Magic cards. Busch bought the whole collection.
He opened a few weeks ago, and already has some regulars. Others are still discovering the shop through word of mouth. The Chamber of Commerce will be holding a ribbon cutting for Stacked Deck, Tuesday, April 24, starting at 4 p.m.
He joins a resurgence of youth-oriented entertainment enterprises downtown – Rock ’Em Sock ’Em, and Cameron’s Comics, all open with the past 18 months or so.
“This kind of thing has become a lot more popular,” Busch said. In gaming there’s been “a concentrated effort to open up games to wider audience,” he said. Despite some kvetching among some diehard gamers, companies have made new editions of Magic and Dungeons and Dragons a little easier to understand and get engaged in “instead of having this high barrier of entry.”
And, Busch added, “because of the internet, people are more accepting of this geeky kind of culture.”
Stacked Deck, at 188 S. Main Street Suite 2, is open weekdays noon to 8 p.m., Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m.