When Roy Starkweather was a teenager, he hung out in a hobby shop that sold model airplanes, trains and cars. He couldn’t believe the hobby shop owners actually got to work there and get paid for it.
After a life with several career twists and turns, however, the 47-year-old is basically doing just that. Roy opened Dice Age Games in Vancouver nearly three years ago. It’s a hobby shop, but its patrons don’t build model airplanes. Instead, they paint the pocket-sized figurines and miniature battle terrain used in many role-playing games.
Enter Dice Age on an average evening and you’ll see gamers sitting around one of the store’s many tables, relying on imagination, strategy and a little bit of luck. They roll dice or deal cards to determine the fate of fictional characters.
Using the tables for free, patrons play Dungeons and Dragons, Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Warmachine, Star Trek Attack Wing, and many other table-top games. The store draws adults and children alike to its game nights.
For Roy, “gaming is an excuse to get out and hang out together,” he said. “You could go to the bar and spend your money that way, or you can come here and spend your money doing something that’s more socially engaging and intellectually stimulating.”
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The store has become even more than that to Roy and his wife, Lisa Starkweather. They’ve made friends with many of their loyal customers, and even had their wedding reception at the shop.
“We’ve built this (store) up from the ground,” Lisa, 47, said. “It’s us. It’s our life.”
Lisa and Roy went to high school together, but they didn’t start dating until after they ran into each other at their 25th high school reunion. Lisa was recently widowed. She couldn’t quite remember Roy from their high school days, but he remembered her. They married last year and live in Brush Prairie.
“I had never been involved in the gaming world,” Lisa said. Roy started her out on a board game about magicians called The Scepter of Zavandore. Lisa still games when she can, and her friends at Dice Age “still are determined to make a gamer of me yet,” she said.
As for Roy, his love of gaming goes back to his teen years. Later, as a young adult, he joined the Navy and gamed with some of his friends there. The hobby remained a constant in his life as he worked a range of jobs, including auto sales, construction, telemarketing, retail and even as a special education staff assistant.
Dice Age Games
What: The store sells a variety of strategy or "Euro" board games, military strategy games, role-playing games, collectable card games, dice, game figurines, paint and other hobby supplies. Gamers can use the store's tables for free, and a side room is available to rent by the hour for those who want more privacy.
Where: 5107 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver.
Info: 360-772-8967, <a href="mailto:Info@DiceAgeGames.com">Info@DiceAgeGames.com</a> or <a href="http://www.diceagegames.com">www.diceagegames.com</a>
Gaming Geek speak
o RPGs: Short for role-playing games, these allow gamers to play a heroic character in a fictional world. The players often work in a team and advance in the game through role playing, dice rolling and tracking their characters' stats and experience. Dungeons and Dragons is a commonly played RPG.
o CCGs: Short for collectible card games, these allow gamers to use collectible trading cards to play strategic games. Players often begin with a starter pack of cards and then buy booster packs that contain less common cards. Examples of CCGs include Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon and Magic: the Gathering.
o Euro games: Also called German-style games, these types of board games involve more strategy than luck, and they tend to keep every player in the game until it ends. They sometimes incorporate medieval, western, fantasy or other themes.
o War games: Games that focus on military strategy and simulated conflict, often with miniature figurines and terrain. The games generally take place in historic, fantasy or science fiction settings.
“When I worked at a mundane wage job, the days would drag,” he said. At Dice Age, “before I know it, it’s already 9 (p.m.)”
Roy is Dice Age’s owner. Lisa and her two sons, Chris McGee and Brandon McGee, help out where they can. Lisa also works a full-time job and is studying health informatics at Clark College.
The store fills a void left by the closing of Z Games, a similar hobby shop in east Vancouver that shuttered shortly after the economic downturn hit a few years ago, Roy said. He consulted the owners of Z Games for advice before opening Dice Age, and he’s had them run figurine-painting classes at Dice Age on occasion.
Roy’s store boasts a stack of demo games, so customers can try out a game before they buy it. You won’t find Monopoly, Scrabble or Pictionary at Dice Age. The store specializes in games for the nerd-at-heart: role-playing, strategy or Euro games that aren’t usually found at a big-box store.
The owners also collaborate with serious gamers who want to organize tournaments and other events in the store. Lisa said Dice Age owes a debt of gratitude to those loyal customers who run the games and keep others engaged in the hobby. They know that the people who play games in the store are more likely to buy something while they’re there.
“We have a lot of volunteers who make our activities happen in our store,” Lisa said. “That is probably one of the most vital things for us.”