Like many great laid plans, Mangum Manor residents Angel Viator Smith and her husband launched the idea for GeekLife – their retail store and game space at 728 W 20th St – on a road trip.
“We were listening to a podcast about a game place, and said to each other ‘we really could do that’,” said Smith.
They brainstormed for a while and then started doing booths at area game and comic conventions. After five years, they were ready for a brick and mortar store, which they found at the end of September in the Heights behind Hugs & Donuts.
“We have really good neighbors,” Smith said of Insomnia and Hugs & Donuts. They’ve given us a lot of insight into the area.”
Smith left her full-time job in accounting at Rice University to focus on GeekLife. Her husband Koree helps out quite a bit when he can and there are also two other employees.
“We want to focus on communal activity,” said Smith who said that while the retail store offers other merchandise like comic books which they will special order for customers, the focus is on games.
And not games like Monopoly or Battleship, but those that are strategic and cooperative – sometimes referred to as German style or Euro-style games.
As an example take one of their newest and most popular, Mysterium, in which one player is a ghost and the others are mediums who must try to solve a murder. Another perennial favorite according to Smith is Catan, a multiplayer board game that came out in 1995. Players are settlers, who try to build and develop holdings while marshalling resources.
If you don’t know how to play a certain game, no worries. Smith knows 90 percent of them and the store offers demo nights which highlight specific games.
Smith said that good games are those which are enjoyable, even when played multiple times. The games that come out with variations, tend to spike in popularity.
GeekLife is part of the National Netrunner circuit and will have a tournament for the cyberpunk collectible card game in mid-November. They are also members of the Wizards Play Network, which brings people together to play Magic: The Gathering, a card game that Smith said took the place of Pokémon in popularity.
It’s not just young males who are finding GeekLife says Smith.
“You expect the 18-34 males, but we’re getting high school kids and 40 to 50 year olds running games,” she said. “They are outiside of your stereotypical demographic. We get a lot of women too.”
She says she loves the reaction of customers when she unites them with that one perfect item or accessory.
Since September, the store has been open Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 10 p.m. but now they are adding Tuesday evenings.
Smith notes that one Friday and Saturday, their closing time is undefined.
“If people are playing, we’ll stay open until midnight,” she said.