Tabletop gaming shops shift focus during COVID-19 pandemic

When the pandemic left most people stuck at home, many picked up hobbies that remained strong passions even after restrictions lessened. But what about shops solely dedicated to a hobby that requires face-to-face interaction? 

Tanner Hudson

Dan Morton, manager at Midgard gaming, standing next to a row of board game boxes.
Dan Morton, manager of Midgard Gaming in Mount Pearl, stands before a new selection of board games. Morton says some people’s interest in games has increased since the pandemic began. Tanner Hudson/Kicker

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, hobby shops such as Midgard Gaming and Noble Miniatures were worried about how they would stay in business.

A huge part of their business is tabletop gaming. Tabletop gaming is a pastime that has grown in popularity both locally and abroad as a way to socialize with friends.

COVID-19 restrictions, including the need to social distance, meant that players would not be able to sit close together. This restriction eliminated trading card games such as Pokémon and tabletop roleplaying games such as Dungeons and Dragons. Both kinds of games are core to the hobby shops, and without them there would have to be a different focus.

Midgard Gaming is a tabletop gaming store in Mount Pearl that used to focus on card games and tournaments, but it has been unable to do so since the pandemic began.

Dan Morton, manager of Midgard Gaming, has noticed a change in player interest.

“Whatever level in board games somebody was before the pandemic, they have all gone up a level,” Morton said.

Suddenly, there was a demand for board games and puzzles—things that people could do in their own bubbles. People who were once merely casual players were now getting into more complex games.

The demand sparked a change inside Midgard Gaming as well. Now, there is a whole corner with shelves stocked with dozens of different board games.

According to Morton, it will be a while before the store can go back to the events they ran before COVID-19.

However, Noble Miniatures has been able to keep running games.

The owner of Noble Miniatures, Phillip Guy, was ahead of the curve when it came to the COVID-19 pandemic. He closed his store a week before the government enacted the closure.

“I asked nurses I knew, ‘What can I do to help this?’ and they told me the best I could do was shut down, so I did.”

After six weeks, Guy opened the store for curbside pick-up and didn’t allow in-store play until after the province relaxed its COVID-19 rules.

Like Midgard Gaming, Noble Miniatures could not host traditional game events because of the COVID-19 regulations. The players would be too close together and violate the required two-metre social distance rule. Unlike Midgard Gaming, however, Noble Miniatures was able to host other kinds of games.

War-based games like Warhammer 40k can be played with great spaces between the players. Each player brings their own figures and maps from home. Of course, there are additional measures such as alternating tables as to limit interactions between groups.

Table games are important to people like Marc Dyke, who goes to Noble Miniatures for a weekly game.

Dyke plays games to keep his mind off of the world but doesn’t let the game replace the world.

“The most important thing in your life can’t be a hobby,” said Dyke. “You got to have a life outside of the game.”

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