Ten Years of Gaming at Atomic Empire

As part of the #GenCant crowd this year, we have a bit of the gaming blues here in La Casa Bryant. Luckily for us, our favorite local game store, Atomic Empire of Durham, NC, held their ten year anniversary party this weekend.

decadeoftheempire

The owners began with an online store (Sci-Fi Genre) in 2003, opened a brick and mortar store in 2006, and moved to a giant 12,000 square foot space in 2012. The Bryant family has been their customers during that entire span and we’ve been happy to have such a diversified gaming resource practically in our backyard. We’ve especially enjoyed the store since the location upgrade, which allows the store to provide better space to game in as well as retail sales space, and definitely made it easier to park your car. They host a variety of gaming events throughout the year and have a passionate and knowledgeable staff that can help you indulge all your game-related needs.

That's no sculpture--there's a cosplayer in there!
That’s no sculpture–there’s a cosplayer in there!

This ten-year anniversary celebration offered retro gaming opportunities including a Dreamblade “sealed” event and a Return to Ravnica draft pods event. Medieval Martial Arts were demonstrated by a local ARMA group and cosplayers wandered the store. A special beer was offered at the snack bar and commemorative t-shirts and glasses were available. You could buy swag boxes of random products (we scored some great comics and a HeroClix starter kit in ours). And, of course, there was cake.

Dreamblade was my gateway drug to the greater gaming world. I played in a tournament at my very first GenCon (the honeymoon trip) in 2006 but hadn’t played in years. I always loved the detailed and imaginative figures, the combination of dice luck and strategy placement, and the challenge of constructing an army with the best interplay of powers. Playing it today and helping introduce it to a new player was like finding an old friend. I have a feeling we’ll be pulling out our old figures for some more playtime here soon.

My minions attack!
My minions attack!

Asked about the highlights of the past ten years in the game store business, owner JJ Bedell said, “The best thing is getting to participate in things that other people are so enthusiastic about, giving people a space where they can express their fandoms.”

The business has certainly grown and expanded during the decade we’ve shopped at Atomic Empire. The store may have started as a home for a marginalized interest group, but a lot of these interests have become much more mainstream, thanks to the popularity of things like Pokemon, Settlers of Catan, and superhero movies. JJ said, “Watching mainstream American come to the geeks has been a really rewarding experience.”

The ARMA demonstration of Medieval martial arts
The ARMA demonstration of Medieval martial arts

Celebrating with the staff of Atomic Empire was definitely a good way to get over my case of #GenCant disappointment. About holding the party, JJ said, “We are grateful to our fans for having supported us for ten years. We know things are cheaper online and we know that there are other places you can go to get stuff, and the fact that people have doggedly supported our store for a decade even in light of those other factors is just wonderful.”

Here’s to the next ten years.

Samantha Bryant is a middle school Spanish teacher by day, and a novelist by night. Her Menopausal Superheroes series is available from Curiosity Quills Press. You can find her on Twitter @mirymom1