My Dad actually started it.
We were working at our little Mexican take-out on Kapiolani Boulevard in Honolulu. I think I was 16 or so. We had a restaurant in Kailua, and we were trying to make a little Drive-in style Mexican place work. I had just finished doing whatever—I worked the window and cleaned stuff—when my Dad asked me, “Did you see the game store over in the next building?”
“What kind of game store?” I asked.
“War games. Miniature soldiers. That kind of stuff. Your kind of thing. Why don’t you go check it out? It’s slow right now. Take a break for a few minutes.” So I did.
It was called The Legionnaire, and it had board war-games, and miniatures war-games, and individual miniatures of wizards, and orcs, and warriors out of fantasy…and then I same a row of racks with a bunch of games by FGU: Wizard’s Tower, Flash Gordon and the Warriors of Mongo, and Chivalry and Sorcery. The Tolkien-reading geek-boy in me started to awaken,
And then I saw them…
They were little brown books, with titles like “Greyhawk” and “Blackmoor” and “Eldritch Wizardry.” and when I looked in them, they had rules about adding thieves and assassins to the Dungeons and Dragons game. Plus new spells. Plus new creatures. And the basic rules were in a box, so I couldn’t see them, but I got the idea…create characters, and run them through adventures. And that just seemed…right!
After a while, I decided that I’d better get back. When I did, my dad asked me “What happened to you? I thought you’d be back after 15 minutes.”
“How long was I gone?
“About an hour. I was afraid I was going to have to send a search party to go get you.”
“I figured you might get interested. No problem.”
The rest of that day, that night, and for some time, I could not stop thinking about the idea…I could be Conan or someone like that. Wow!
The Legionnaire is long gone, and I am not sure Honolulu has a game store of the same type any more. Jelly’s, Gecko, and Other Realms are still around, but games are just part of their trade. I left the islands before The Armchair Adventurer opened, but I hear great things about it. But that first store is always something special. It was there that I had my Great Geek Awakening, when I, in the words of John Keats:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.