Gamer havens after dark

Editor’s guide to nightlife


Benjamin Davidson

Mike Glick plays his third ball on the “X-Men” pinball machine at Phoenix Games in Concord. Glick is one of many people who frequent this store to play on the machines.

Benjamin Davidson, Managing editor

The act of gaming has many denominations – some of which, are unveiled after dark.

The idea of going out for nighttime gaming isn’t one that is particularly mainstream, but the many aspects of gaming leave virtually endless possibilities in terms of nightlife entertainment; and no, this is not an article about going to a friend’s house to play World of Warcraft, Call of Duty or the Sims.

Because gaming covers such a wide array of areas, these two locations that we are highlighting are just some examples of retro gaming options that one simply cannot get at home.

Stores specializing in games often serve as a meeting place to organize groups of players for various games. Prior to the emergence of the Internet, many play-by-mail games developed communities resembling those surrounding today’s online games, in a smaller and more localized fashion. At Black Diamond Games in Concord, leagues and tournaments converge to form a friendly, yet competitive environment for tabletop model-based gaming.

The store itself sells everything from Cards Against Humanity to customizable lead and hard plastic figurines for tabletop games, like that of Warhammer 40k or Dungeons and Dragons. But what sets it apart from your typical board game store is that it has an area in the back for people to sit down and game at tables with the various models that are on the shelves, all provided by other players. On a day where a Warhammer 40k tournament was taking place, the tournament officer, Chris Price, explained how the tournament was going to be carried out.

“We started at eleven and will probably end around six,” Price said of the tabletop tournament. “The best thing about this place has gotta be the community. Staff, atmosphere, community. We have a lot of nice guys, and a couple girls actually. Heck, last year I got my ass kicked in a major tournament by a girl.”

As far as rewards go — aside from the fun of gaming within a community — they ranged from cash, to “store credit prizes that are offered when league nights are happening, – I am one of the guys who runs the 40k league, this is actually my first time as a tournament officer,” Price said.

A certain appreciation for games is developed when one can experience and share their understanding with others that enjoy them as well. Even the smallest games can form communities. And fortunately, two sects of the vast array of options are available to play into the night, just a short drive away from campus.

“Honestly a lot of us here are casual players – we just come to have fun,” Price said.

Black Diamond Games is open every day from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. in Concord.

Described as an ultimate place for gamers by some, Phoenix Games has much more to offer than your average GameStop. In fact, one of the more interesting parts about the store’s aspect of nighttime gaming is that it provides several, and by several, we mean seven, pinball machines in the back of their store for quarter play. In terms of sales, Phoenix Games provides everything from the Atari 2600 and Odyssey Two’s to the Xbox One and the PS4. As if the game selection and pinball wasn’t enough, they also sell memorabilia and have two fully functional gaming chairs in front of flat panels to play on for their customers.

The East Bay Pinball League does the advertising outside of the store, but Phoenix Games acts as the meeting place. With machines like “Terminator,” “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Trek,” the machines sport a wide variety and all of them are in very clean and pristine condition.

“It [the pinball] is a league every Thursday, starts at 7:30 and can go until 11:00 or midnight,” Shawn Morgan, manager, said.

Aaron Wong, supervisor chimed in from behind the counter and explained that “some of the top 50 in the whole world come in and play, and that’s when it really gets serious.”

With an in-house technician for repairs and maintenance on the machines, Phoenix Games is one of the last local places dedicated to pinball gaming in the area.

Phoenix Games is open from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. or till close, from Monday to Saturday in Concord.

So whether you are in the mood for rolling some dice or triggering a flipper, these two local options are similar to that of an after-dark gamer’s haven, and well worth a visit if your at-home gaming is lacking in luster.