CAVE SPRING- While many come to Cosmic Castle for LEGO’s, board games, card games such as Magic, and e-gaming, the most loyal customers are fond of the store for its atmosphere.
“They provide a living room environment for hanging out and getting to know new people,” Johnny Blanding, one of Cosmic Castle’s many customers, said about the store.
Every night the store, located at Tower’s Mall, allows everyone to come in and play. While each evening is set aside for a different game, customers are allowed to play anything they want. On any given night, one can see several different games happening at once.
“Every day of the week, barring snowstorms, this place is packed,” Johnny Blanding’s brother, Bobby Blanding, said. The Blandings themselves come to the store an average of three times a week.
Customers come from all walks of life, and include school children, high school and college students, and those in the workforce. Even seniors come out to play. While some cite the games’ addicting power as the reason they come, others show up for the camaraderie existing at the store. Many customers, such as the Blandings, have made plenty of new friends at the store.
The reason such friendships can be harbored is because, unlike video games, board games such as Descent and Warhammer require communication. Video games are usually either played alone or online, with someone in another location, or even another part of the world. Board and card games, however, require interaction. Players have to compete with each other for resources, and dealing with each other in person inevitably leads to friendships. Seeing each other several times a week, and engaging in activities in which they share a common interest, does not hurt either.
“Social interaction is just through the roof,” Bobby Blanding said.
Cosmic Castle’s owner, Rod Belcher, knows all about his store’s friendly environment. In fact, when he opened the store, that was one of the things he was striving for.
“When we started the business, one of the things we wanted to do was foster a community,” Belcher said.
Many current businesses harbor a more formal tone; Belcher wanted his store to be a throwback to earlier decades, when people came in and spent time inside, chatting with employees and fellow customers.
“It’s kind of like a family,” Belcher said. “What we offer here is for people with the same kinds of interests to come out and socialize.”
Another one of the ways which Cosmic Castle encourages social interaction is through tournaments. People come from as far away as West Virginia and North Carolina to play in Cosmic Castle’s sanctioned events, which usually feature prizes. Children come for LEGO tournaments, and they are allowed an hour to build anything they want from a random bag of the toy bricks. The children are divided into age groups, and then their creations are judged.
Cosmic Castle also hosts Warhammer tournaments, which are sometimes qualifiers for larger tournaments. Warhammer is a fantasy war game played with miniature figures; kits for the game can be bought at Cosmic Castle.
The store, which has been open less than a year, is doing so well that it recently opened a second location at Happy’s Flea Market.
More information about Cosmic Castle, its events, and its game nights can be found online, at cosmiccastle.net.