Video games aren’t young anymore.
They’re more than the pixelated pictures of the past, more than two sticks and a ball and even more than a turtle-tossing plumber searching for a princess.
Despite this and a strong monopoly on the gaming market, which thrives mainly on the newest and most hyped games, one Murphysboro man will enter his second year of business with an affection for classic games and a strong desire to share them with the world.
Mike Evans, owner of the Classic Gaming Connection in Murphysboro, said he started the business after he was injured in a car accident and could no longer work as a satellite installer. He said the inspiration for his store came from all the games he had stored in his basement.
“One day I sat down and thought I should play all the games to completion,” Evans said. “I could never beat every game I own, and what’s the point of hogging all these games if I’m not going to use them? They need to be shared.”
Evans opened his store at 607 Walnut St. in Murphysboro on Oct. 15, 2011, with that goal in mind. Evans said he has accrued more than 150 store memberships in his one year of business.
However, Evans and all other independent gaming stores are competing with the popular store GameStop. The chain operates more than 4,400 locations in the United States alone, according to the company’s website, with stores in Carbondale’s University Mall in and Marion’s Illinois Centre Mall.
Charlie Adams, former independent video game store owner in McHenry, said he saw similar problems with the video retailer Blockbuster because Gamestop was not a popular retailer in his time.
Adams said his profit got cut by about a third when Blockbuster moved into his town. He said he would imagine GameStop has the same affect on Evans’ business.
Although GameStop has a strong market presence, Evans said he can offer some very valuable aspects of customer service that GameStop has never been able to.
He said one GameStop business practice he doesn’t agree with is the company’s lack of support for games and game systems that are considered classic. These are products which are no longer in production by the companies and are missing from most retail shelves.
“They will discontinue carrying an item that people still have in their house, like the Gameboy Advance in favor of getting people to buy Nintendo DS games that are sold at a high mark-up,” Evans said.
The market for older games went completely out the window after GameStop in the early 2000s bought out another retailer called FuncoLand, a company known to carry classic games, Evans said.
However, a post by video game review website IGN informed readers of a new GameStop campaign to bring older games to their customers, although the games only date back to the Playstation 2 era.
Video game stores were also known for their friendly yet genuine attitude. However, the feel is one of pure business and pushing the most popular product onto the customer instead of assistance after the advent of GameStop, which Evans said could lead the customer to a genre or game he or she could truly appreciate and enjoy.
Evans said the feel he gets from entering a video game store now compared to when he used to visit his local game store more than a decade ago is quite different.
“In the old days, you’d walk into a game store and it would feel like a candy store,” he said. “It was almost like Christmas, but GameStop now feels like walking into Wal-Mart. You’re faced with a bunch of blank faces, blank titles and price tags.”
Evans said he will try to take all of GameStop’s shortcomings and bring his store back to the ways of the old while still offering newer titles.
Sean Kelly, owner of Video Games Then and Now in Norridge, said he has been able to run his store for nine years because he is willing to carry older games GameStop won’t.
Evans said he has more than 6,000 items at the Classic Gaming Collection. He rents and sells games and systems from the original Nintendo Entertainment System to the Playstation 2 as well as everything in between.
The store also cleans scratched discs, repairs broken consoles and creates a friendly environment which caters to the gamer’s preference rather than giving customers the most recently released “Call of Duty” title.
Everyone has a story to tell, and Evans said this is just the particular way he wants to share his with the world while staying true to his gaming roots.
“It goes back to the days of the campfire,” he said. “You tell someone a story, and that story goes forward and they tell that story again. I’m trying to bring back the old stories of the classic games.”