Around Orlando is a new feature here at Late to the Theater, wherein Achariya and I detail local Orlando flavor. So whether you’re thinking about visiting, moving here soon, or just want to explore from the comfort of the internet, have a seat and take a gander at what The City Beautiful has to offer!
[Disclaimer: I received no compensation or special favors for writing this article – it is entirely to Gamer’s, Inc.’s credit that they inspire a dedicated following.]
Nestled in the suburban franchise paradise that is Waterford Lakes, Orlando, you will find an independently owned gaming shop. Upon first glance, you’ll notice orderly rows of cases – everything from Atari titles to used Xbox One and PS4s – and freestanding demo stations where you can sample Halo on a first-gen Xbox, or Duck Hunt on NES, complete with orange gun. As well as the clean floors and meticulously alphabetized game boxes, you’ll see gaming manuals, figurines, and locked cases with rare or collectible cartridges and discs inside. Reconditioned systems wait behind the glassed counter. Spend a few minutes roaming the aisles and you’ll hear at least one, maybe two excited customers exclaiming over some long-forgotten childhood treasure. You might see parents buying something to share with their kids.
And then the staff greets you.
That’s how you know you’re in Gamer’s, Inc.
They’re warm, they’re friendly, they’re knowledgeable. They can converse easily on a range of titles on any number of systems dating from the last 35 years. Best of all, they listen to you. Maybe things have gotten better in gamerspaces in recent years and I’m just out of touch, but in an age of Gamergate and doxing, it seems borderline miraculous to find an environment where customers aren’t dismissed as filthy casuals. Naturally, a positive environment such as the one found at Gamer’s, Inc. engenders a loyal following. Check out their Yelp review or their Facebook community if you don’t believe it.
And if you don’t believe it, believe them. They were kind enough to take time from their busy days to answer some questions for this feature.
Q&A With the Staff (Connor, Robert, Hiro, Chase, and Jake)
Jen: What is the store’s history?
Gamer’s, Inc.: “Our location opened previously in 2007 as a Play N Trade location. However, they closed in 2010 due to over-stocking new release titles without a means to move them quickly. We have since remained in the same location for eight years now as Gamer’s, Inc.”
J: Does the store do any promotional events with other Orlando-area businesses?
GI: “We have done a variety of promotions, ranging from hosting local events, donation drives, and in-store advertisements for businesses and entities such as Chillers Downtown, Social House Waterford Lakes, Bikkuri Sushi, Castaways Sports Bar Waterford Lakes, Timber Creek High School, University High School, and the University of Central Florida (UCF).”
J: Yes, the Fortnite tournament was a big hit. Even folks who’d never played before were ready to try it out, since the focus was on fun. What are your demographics? Who are you seeing daily, weekly, monthly?
GI: “Our primary customer demographic is males between their early 20s to late 30s. However, this only makes up about 60% of our entire customer base. Video games have always had the ability to create excitement and participation with all walks of race, cultures, and age groups. There will always be specific targeted marketing for particular groups on a game-by-game basis, but there is enough diversity within the community and products that there isn’t a need to cater to an individual group.”
J: Does the store perform online sales?
GI: “Our participation with online auction sites are limited to products that are either very obscure or slow to move. These products only pertain to a small portion of our consumer base. We project anywhere from 10-20% depending on the month. These sales function as an addition to our profit margin, not as a means to make our baseline.”
J: What kind of console repair does the store perform?
GI: “We offer repair and diagnostic services for just about any console, with only a few exceptions. We have experienced personnel that have worked with consoles, computers, and various electronics from the 70’s until today.”
J: What was the process used for fixing my Fatal Frame disc? (NOTE: I got my Xbox working again in order to replay the classic Japanese horror title Fatal Frame. Alas, the disc itself was too damaged to fix, but store manager Robert truly put in an heroic effort).
GI: “We use an automatic resurfacing machine that can both sand and polish any DVD formatted disc. This device will remove and fill scratches/damages to the surface. This process has a high success rate depending on whether the disc has been previously resurfaced.”
J: How did the store get involved in helping to save Charles Miles’s eyesight?
GI: “Charles was a previous employee and friend of the store for many years. All of our staff collaborated to do the raffle and donate items from our store and own homes to help his Gofundme page.”
J: What’s the dream scenario, going forward?
GI: “Our dream scenario for Gamer’s, Inc. would be growth to multiple stores, enhanced stock and services. But ultimately, innovating what we can provide as a retro company is our main goal. We refuse to believe that what we are doing right now is by any means the box in which we must remain. Although retro is defined as “imitative of a style, fashion, or design from the recent past”, we firmly believe that anything we present currently should not just reflect that of the past, but exceed it.”
J: Thank y’all so much for your time!
The Magic Door
Over the last twenty years, I’ve been in countless gaming stores (looking at you, Gamestop) where one practically had to start a fire to get the staff’s attention. And once finally attended, you (especially women) received the gift of snide condescension, or a backhanded insult. Any game I’ve bought in the last six years has come from Target – until this year.
Things have changed a lot. Gaming’s cognitive benefits, as well as its value as a teaching tool, are becoming understood and accepted by the medical, educational, and psychiatric communities. ‘Gameification’ is a buzzword in the instructional design industry. Some female friends of mine run gaming culture vlogs and not all their commenters are condescending sexists. Gaming and geek culture-themed pubs and restaurants are filling a niche previously dominated by sports bars — as mentioned, Gamers, Inc. had a successful Fortnite tournament at a local bar, where many first-time players had a great time despite not knowing the first thing about the title. E-sports is its own fast-growing industry. People can make livings — maybe not at the rockstar level of the controversial Pewdiepie, but respectable livings — streaming liveplay through Twitch or creating reviews on Youtube.
But at the end of the day, games provide something just as valuable: escape.
They open magic doors into worlds where rules are clear and objectives attainable. Assuming you’re fortunate enough to have a system (be it console, PC, or phone app), games can get you through a lot. Through bouts of severe depression, while you’re waiting for the darkness to pass. Spend hours leveling up while waiting to hear about a job offer. Take the time to subconsciously process all manner of stressors: unemployment, bankruptcy, job stress, the failure of a relationship, the illness of a family member, or even death, as you work your way through storylines and quests. With maturity comes increased challenges, and taking a few hours a week to game can be a necessary act of mental self-care.
And of course, gaming offers good times: times with friends talking you through battle royales, or laughing when you fall off a cliff chasing butterflies in Skyrim (it happened to me!). Online friendships can last years, can become IRL friendships or even romantic relationships. Game fandoms at their best are tight-knit communities where all are welcome, where “outsiders” can flourish together through shared interests. And now, people are passing their childhood joys on to their children.
On a Personal Note
At the beginning of August, I walked into Gamers, Inc. with nothing more than a vague notion I should check out the store, based on some friends’ recommendations. I had come almost directly from the doctor’s office after some troubling test results, and was in a bit of a daze. I bought a used PS2 and started replaying Okami, a classic that brought me joy over a decade ago. It was just as lovely as I remembered, and provided a thoroughly enthralling distraction while I waited for more test results – it turns out I’m fine, but spending a month wondering if you have a serious health issue is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
So I would encourage you — wherever you are! — to check out Gamers, Inc. The store and its staff is – and I’m going to end on a completely corny note here, but I also don’t care because it’s entirely true – one of the secret treasures of Orlando.