Game stores and hobby shops

Navigating the social aspect of the hobby

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My first experiences in hobby shops (specifically, but not exclusively, a Warhammer store) were not great. And yet some of my best experiences in the hobby have happened in a Warhammer store. I think there's a secret to turning a geeky hobby, like building and paintng 28mm toy soldiers so you can play with them in a board game, into a non-threatening and fun experience. It's not always easy, depending on your disposition and other factors beyond your control, like the mood of the people around you. But it is possible, and it's a good skill to learn. I'm not perfect at it, but here's what I've discovered about making a social hobby fun.

Initial impressions

I'd wandered into lots of Warhammer stores over the past decade or more, both in the USA and New Zealand, and every single time I was entirely or mostly ignored. It wasn't until I went into one after I'd started painting miniatures for Pathfinder games and approached the counter and asked directly for help choosing paint (I don't think I really understood yet that Warhammer wasn't just a general hobby store) that somebody talked to me. And then the information I got was way too much. The manager told me about paints, and then told me about the factions within Age of Sigmar, and the release schedule of the latest Citadel miniatures, and on and on. Completely overwhelming.

It seems there's no way to win here, right? I'm saying Warhammer either gave me too little attention or too much. But actually I've had the exact same problem in general hobby shops, too. And there is a middle ground, here.


The middle ground has to do with normal, everyday conversation. I'm an introvert, so I'm saying this about myself as much as I am about the Warhammer store manager. If you wander into a Warhammer or any hobby shop, tell the friendly staff why you're there. That might mean you have to ask yourself why you're there first. Then present your thoughts to the staff, and let them continue the conversation by either suggesting products for you to buy, or painting or building techniques, or whatever it is you're there for. I think it's fair to argue that in an ideal world, you shouldn't have to figure this out yourself. In an ideal world, maybe, the shop owner would approach you (because you're the customer with the money) and ask you probing questions to discover the best way to force you to part with your cash. For the amount of money you're potentially going to spend, don't they owe you that service? But then again, maybe that's not what you want. Maybe there's a kind of freedom that you can walk into a Warhammer or hobby shop and just browse without being interrogated about how the staff might surprise and delight you today.

The truth is, yes I've had some of my worst experiences in hobby shops at a Warhammer store, but I've also had my best experiences in hobby shops at a Warhammer store. Since cracking the code on how to put words together into sentences, I've gone into my local (or what counts as local, anyway) Warhammer shop and had great interactions with the store manager. He's given me a bunch of painting tips. With his help, I built my first non push-fit model, and he went to great length to dig up the free model from the previous month because I really really wanted an Adeptus Arbites. I've discovered new games. He introduced me to Contrast paint. In short, every time I go into my Warhammer shop, I feel like I could comfortably spend the day there.

It just takes a little communication.

All images in this post copyright Games Workshop.

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