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Sep 03

FLGS Inclusiveness – Why It Is Important

Gaming is about bringing us all together. Not about tearing us all apart. We gather together to pit our massive armies against each other’s armies, or we rally ourselves at CDC in Atlanta to figure out how on earth to deal with four epidemics, or simply to sit, chat and socialise over our excitement about upcoming Magic set releases, as well as which cards are good and which cards are bad! Whichever part of gaming you choose to take part in, there is a very large social aspect that helps us form a community. A major lynch pin in these communities are your Friendly Local Gaming Store. They are where we choose to gather and we should support with all of our might. They provide a space, in most cases a safe space, for us to gather together and allow our geekdom to flow freely.

This is why Gaming stores, and being inclusive is such an important thing. They should welcome all regardless if they are black, white, female, male, transgendered, or whatever they identify as. As long as they are not poisonous to a community they should be welcome into the community. Gaming stores need to rise above intolerance. In some ways I feel truly sorry for gaming stores as they have, in many ways, need to raise the bar for their regulars to meet. If not from a moral objective, then purely for business acumen. Every paying customer, after all, is a paying customer. They want a welcoming atmosphere because they want people to come in, play games, have fun and frankly, spend money.

It is one of these rare cases where it is purely a win-win. People have somewhere fun and inviting to play, they get the warm fuzzy feeling of doing something right for their gaming community, and they make money. It is important though here, to differentiate between stores, business and places of gaming, from the store owners. They are two completely separate entities. Of course a gaming store owner can have opinions, political or religious or whatever. You thankfully don’t have a lobotomy when you start running a gaming store, and are still a completely unique person with opinions you are completely entitled to. The store is not, and should not even attempt to represent you.

So imagine my disappointment, my heartbreaking disappointment when I see my (arguably) Friendly Local Gaming Store has decided to do this on our Facebook profile:

littleshopwhat

Ah. A massive slogan about who they are voting for in the Scottish referendum. I wish I could say this is the first time the store has done things similar to this, but it isn’t.

Now. Let me make a massively important point here, at least important to me. I don’t mind which way you vote. You can vote yes, no, unknown, polka dots… good for you! That isn’t what this discussion should devolve to. What is important to take away from this is: if you were planning to vote no, would you feel welcome in this gaming store? If you are even an undecided voter, would you feel this store has a welcoming atmosphere to you, where gaming is the most important thing to you when you enter what is meant to be a safe space? Would you be worried that, when entering this store, you may be bothered about politics?

This isn’t how to make a welcoming atmosphere, by screaming from the top of your lungs whether you are thrilled that Margaret Thatcher died, that you are voting Yes in the upcoming referendum that has so much vitriol involved that people are scared to announce who they support in case of being abused for the pleasure of having an opinion? This doesn’t make good moral sense, or good business sense either (would a No supporter shop there now? Or if someone desires to just play games without a political atmosphere?).

Further down, they have a statement about their choices:

LSOHsadness

Of course, I hear the argument that it is their store, it is their right to express an opinion on how they will be voting. Of course it is. I really hope it works out best for them. I honestly hope the first statement within their comment is true and the atmosphere within Little Shop of Heroes is a peaceful, friendly and warm atmosphere where gaming is the main focus, that it is truly inclusive and nobody feels under threat or worried about who they support for whatever reason. But a business, regardless of how large or small it is, should never give fuel to a fire for people to feel unsafe, or give people even the slightest reason for them to dislike it. A gaming store reflects the entire community it supports (and thrives from), and it cannot afford to cause fractures in the community, especially when gaming communities can be so fragile at the best of times. The only thing this entire debacle has caused, is to create a barrier of entry to the very people they want to visit the store. How much of an impact it will have? Now there is data that would be interesting to see.

4 comments

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  1. Alby Grainger

    Liz.

    I read your statement with interest. I am Alby, the co-owner of LSOH The decision to pin our flag to the independence mast was not taken frivolously. The subject of Scottish Independence has been frequently debated in the store, as I hope it has been in every public forum across Scotland. Some of our customers are for and some are against. None have felt intimidated and none have stopped attending the store. I consulted many of them before posting today and the overwhelming view was that as I am identifiably LSOH and the entire family is pro independence they would not have any issues.

    As to your “arguably friendly” jibe I would hope you would be able to qualify the inference that we are anything but welcoming, friendly and inclusive. If not then I take as much offense as was clearly intended. Please be mindful before publicly defaming an individual or business.

    In addition I was not aware that openly stating an opinion whilst carefully qualifying your stance on equality and freedom of speech could be misconstrued as a “debacle”

    I had hoped that the post would stimulate worthwhile discussion as the most important decision of our generation looms. Instead it has elicited your ill considered statement. Not on the LSOH page but on an unaffiliated public website. Shame on you.

    Companies large and small have declared their viewpoint and one would hope that none of their customers feel excluded or intimidated.

    Any person feeling intimidated by our expression of a widely held and benign political viewpoint should contact me personally (Alby) and I will attempt to assuage there fear and reassure them that I bear them no malice, but encourage them to express themselves in an environment of acceptance and non judgement.

    We invite you to visit LSOH during the day, or on one of our regular TCG evenings where you will be welcome to express your views openly without fear of reproach, but in the spirit of robust debate. Our door is always open.

    Alby (LSOH co-owner)

    1. Liz
      Liz

      Hello Alby, and thanks for posting here. First may I apologise for any offence you felt from this post. The goal here was not to attack you personally, but rather to point out the interesting situation your store now finds itself in. As with everything, I will go through your points one by one, with my response.

      The arguably statement was not at whether you are friendly or not, but as to whether you were my local or not. As while I live near your store, I certainly don’t frequent it, and instead travel to other stores instead. Does that make you my FLGS? I would say not, as I simply don’t visit! However on that same note, by the crow flies you are indeed the closest store to me. I certainly cannot comment on whether the atmosphere in your store is friendly or not, as I am simply not there. Of course, text is never a great medium and I never even considered it could be read that way. I apologise for that.

      Whether this situation is a debacle or not, well you have reversed your stance, then been (from an outsider, who doesn’t know you or really even met you) seemingly hostile on your page. It certainly seems like one from this perspective.

      Going on my choice to post here about my opinion on the situation, I am commenting on the situation here as it raises some very interesting points in gaming communities. As seen from another comment – what should a store identify as? I am pointing out from both a business and moral perspective my opinion that a store should avoid this sort of situation, as it simply isn’t good for business. It was also an interesting topic I decided to post about. I apologise if it seems that posting here was somehow undermining. I don’t feel my statement was at any point ill considered, but then again that is where we can agree to disagree I feel!

      “Any person feeling intimidated by our expression of a widely held and benign political viewpoint should contact me personally ” – the benign political viewpoint is quite a hot topic I would say. I imagine I am not the only one to comment on this situation (although I have absolutely no opinion on whether you should be voting Yes, or No. Let me be clear on that. My interest isn’t in your political beliefs and whether they are correct or incorrect.) and considering the violence this topic has brought out in Scotland (I have links in the above article about this) I would have thought this referendum is the only thing you could consider as a widely controversial topic in Scotland.

      I would say (from my perspective) that your comment seems quite hostile overall (as do the further post on your facebook page) and I don’t wish to upset or anger you further – if you wish to discuss this further please feel free to contact me (either through the contact form, or via my email address on here).

      1. Alby Grainger

        Hi Liz.
        I bear you no malice. It would appear that you and I have vastly differing opinions on what constitutes aggression. I am affronted that someone with no experience of attending any of the LSOH events would suggest that it is not a friendly inclusive store. As I mentioned in my previous response you are always welcome to pop in and see what the store is about. An important point to mention is that LSOH is a Comic Store that runs gaming events, not vice versa. Comic stores across the world have always been political, the cut and thrust of debate across all topics is one of the fantastic things about the store and I hope it always remains thus.
        I will not be posting further on this topic and I wish you well for your future endeavours. I hope we will meet at some point and possibly share a debate and a whiskey.
        Alby
        .

  2. Andrew

    The question of whether it is the owners’ business, and thus entitled to a decided political opinion, or if it is the front line staff’s business, as they are the people the public sees, and thus perhaps ought to try to represent their [varied] political opinion, or even more useful the customer’s business, and thus entitled to try to welcome any and all customers they can, is an interesting question. By declaring, even unintentionally, “we want people from this artificially distinct tribe to feel customer identification with our store, and are willing to sacrifice that identification and store loyalty from those who fall outside that tribe” they are making an interesting business choice. “My store.” “Our store.”

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