M.W.: Phoenix Games (2003)

Phoenix Games: The new hub for University Gamers

By Tom Brennan, Collegian Correspondent

The fliers are all over: “Girls Love Geeks”, “FREE BEER…is pretty cool” and “this space left intentionally blank.” Since the spring semester started these neon colored flyers have been everywhere from the dorms to classrooms to the Campus Center announcing the presence of Phoenix Games, a new gaming enthusiasts store located on Route 116 in Sunderland.
Started this past November by Michael Whitehouse, a recent University of Massachusetts graduate from the Economics Department, Phoenix Games was the result of a fruitless job search. Whitehouse spent months interviewing with prospective employers during his last semester at UMass, but frustrated by a thinning job market, he soon realized he’d be better off doing his own thing. So, with graduation fast approaching in May of 2002, he started to research the gaming industry and began to look for a home for what he hoped would be a new store. He had his eye on one specific location. It was a store front in the Sunderland Shopping Center, which houses 7-11, Frontier Pizza and Java Hut among others.
“I used to live in Squire Village and my friends and I would always walk by and say, ‘That would be a great place to open a gaming store,’ Whitehouse said. “The location is perfect. Three apartment complexes within walking distance, a bus stop right in front of the store, a pizza place almost right next-door and it’s away from the congestion and high rents of downtown Amherst. We couldn’t have found a better place.”
But what about the games? Phoenix has them all. From Brawl, a real time card game that can last as little as thirty seconds, to Diplomacy, a vintage strategy game that even John F. Kennedy Jr. played, which can last up to fifteen hours, Whitehouse’s store gives gamers plenty to choose from. Of course, the store gets most of its business from the fans of today’s most popular games, such as Settlers of Catan, World of Darkness, Dungeons ‘ Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. It’s these titles that take up the bulk of the store’s nine hundred square feet of space. But the shelves don’t exclude the classics. They even carry traditional games like Monopoly, Scrabble and Chess.
Phoenix Games also boasts the only year round garb and armor shop in Massachusetts. The clothing is Renaissance style and can be custom made with no difficulty. Phoenix Games offers them in purple velvet and darker colored wools like green and black. They also have kirtles, which is a woman’s medieval dress.
There is attire available for men as well including tunics, doublets and jerkins (all men’s medieval shirts), which can be purchased in a variety of fabrics and colors. Phoenix also has handcrafted leather and plate mail armor available as well.
The advantage to Phoenix Games opening in Sunderland is that it gives the local gaming community somewhere to go. Whitehouse knew that although there were similar stores in Greenfield (Griffon Games) and Northampton (The Space Crime Continuum), neither was in the immediate vicinity of Amherst. Whitehouse felt that an area including a university of 18,000 students should have a store of its own.
“A gaming store can help serve as a center for gamers in the area,” Whitehouse said. “We hope Phoenix Games will provide this.”
True to his word, Whitehouse has sectioned off part of the store for gatherings and is hosting a different event every day of the week except Wednesday. There’s Vampire: The Masquerade on Mondays and WizKids night on Tuesday while Saturday is left open to any gamer who wants to use the space.
So why, in an age when Sony PlayStation and high tech digital graphics are all the rage, would anyone want to play these role-playing games?
“I think these games have more to offer than computer games,” Whitehouse explained. “Like human interaction.”
Whitehouse thinks that computers have taken some of the social aspects out of college life. “People think, why go to the Blue Wall when you can just sit home and IM someone?”
There are other advantages as well. Gamers don’t need to wait for the latest video graphics card to produce results their imagination can create instantly. Nor do they need a $2000 computer to play these games.
A typical night at the bar for a UMass student would easily pay for a game and Whitehouse thinks it would be money better spent. In the end, he sees his games as an alternative to the usual partying that college kids are a part of.
“Usually a night of gaming,” Whitehouse said. “Doesn’t end up with someone crouched over a toilet.”

For more information about Phoenix Games visit their website at www.phoenixgamestore.com.

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