New tabletop gaming store opens in Williamstown

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The gaming industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 40 years, as has the culture that surrounds it. What began as a simple collection of neon blips and blocks on a computer screen has since led to the creation of highly detailed and expansive worlds, like that of Bethesda Games’ ever-popular Skyrim. Brimming with mystery and adventure, titles such as Skyrim give gamers a chance to immerse themselves in rich fantasy worlds.

However, the world of a video game, no matter how vast, always has boundaries. Surrounding the world of a game is, to put it simply, nothingness. What you see is what you get, and exploration beyond the immediate world is unreachable. The story being played out always comes to an end, and eventually the game grows stale.

Purple Dragon Games, a new gaming store located on 40 Spring Street in Williamstown, Mass., offers an alternative to digital gaming in the form of tabletop board games, pen and paper role-playing akin to the ever popular and highly criticized Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) and collectible trading card games, predominately Magic: The Gathering.

These games, especially those along the lines of D&D, help to promote the use of ones imagination in order to craft the world, as well as tell the stories of the players that inhabit it. Play does not occur online, nor perched in front of a TV screen, but seated at a table alongside like-minded individuals, face to face. These games allow for a level of social interaction that video games lack, despite the inclusion of online multiplayer.

Store owner Niko White, a conversant gamer, Berkshire county local and Williams graduate of Philosophy, has always been interested in gaming culture. Upon hearing that a storefront had opened up on Spring Street, in the heart of the Williams College community, he jumped at the chance to promote his passion by opening Purple Dragon Games.

“I’ve been a gamer basically forever,” White mentioned. “I played my first game of Dungeons & Dragons when I was six or so, and got my first Magic: the Gathering pack in 1994 from ‘Where’d You Get That?!’ when it was still in the Colonial Shopping Center. During my time at Williams, I was a member of WARP (the Williams Association of Role-Players) and founded the Williams Magic: the Gathering club, which is still going strong.”

Since his college days, White has involved himself in a plethora of game-related services. After graduating in 2004, he moved to Boston where he volunteered as a play tester and convention staffer for Your Move Games Inc. He later became a developer for them, as well as White Wizard Games. In 2009 he found work as a manager at Pandemonium Books and Games in Cambridge, Mass. There, he helped to coordinate multiple events and tournaments of varying sizes, from small weekly gatherings to Magic tournaments reaching over 300 contestants.

Photo by Ron Leja – Various games for sale.

White hopes that Purple Dragon Games will give those interested in learning the ins and outs of tabletop games a place to learn and explore the numerous titles currently on the market. The store prides itself on its welcoming, inclusive atmosphere and aims to serve, more-so than anything, as a community-driven space for game enthusiast to indulge in their hobby.

For those who have found themselves interested in D&D at one point or another, but were hesitant or unsure of how to get involved, White and his staff encourage new players to stop in during their weekly D&D session, every Sunday at 1 p.m. For an entry fee of $2, White and his community Dungeon Masters (DMs) will assist in introducing new players to the world of D&D, in a way that is not only enjoyable, but made simple for the sake of learning the basics. Premade characters are available, and potential players need not bring anything but their enthusiasm and will to learn.

“We’ve intentionally set it up so that each week of the game will be distinct enough for a new player to get into the story quickly,” White explained. “The DMs are prepared to work around players not always being around as well, so no one needs to feel like they’re making a commitment to keep playing if they show up and happen to not like it.”

Purple Dragon Games plans to host regularly scheduled events on a weekly basis, including but not limited too Magic: The Gathering standard constructed and booster draft, open board game nights and, of course, Dungeons and Dragons. Times for these events can be found on their website, www.purpledragongames.com. The store is open from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Photo by Ron Leja