I escaped my mental cage on Thursday evening. At least I thought I did…I finished up everything I had to do for my coming trip and went home relatively satisfied about what had happened. I had some feelings of regret with making some decisions that may or may not yeald positive results in my shop, but I still am very sure that it was the correct course of action. It’s impossible to please everyone and nobody should even think about trying. Today I’ll write about some major changes that hit me and my decisions for the future. Maybe you’ll think I’m like the wind and change my mind non-stop, but maybe that happens because there are external factors influencing me from each possible side. As such let’s dig into what has happened and what may or may not come to pass.

I started my adventure this weekend running back and forth from my apartment as I forgot my backup pair of glasses. (Glasses wearing people will get what I mean). But in the end after all the galloping I did, I still didn’t find my glasses and was completely out of breath. I resolved to say “fuck it” and to find a solution in case I will manage to break my glasses on this trip. I am fairly sure that I will be extra careful, but you never know. I am pretty much blind as a bat without my glasses, so it would be quite unfortunate for me if anything would actually happen. But it’s all about moving forward regardless of what obstacles come our way right? We all want to get past our issues. The bus to the airport had a 20-25 minutes delay. I was very anxious about not catching my flight. I had about 14 minutes to get from the bus stop, through luggage check-in and finally at the gate. I made it to the luggage check-in by speeding and dodging everything and everyone in my path. Luck was on my side and there was only one person in front of me. I quickly got through and immediately got back on my imaginary horse. Once at the gate, I was notified that it had changed and my flight was 10 gates away. I ran through lines of boarding passengers that were on their own way to their flights. Special mention to the grandfather with his nephews who made way for me to run through to catch my flight. I thanked them with half a breath and used the other half to get to my first destination. “Boarding for Helsinki will now commence”. I had made it. I let out a sigh of relief and cracked a smile while wiping off the sweat from my face. My short holiday would now start and I’d leave my burdens behind, even if just for a little while.

I am currently writing all of this from a cool 3°C with grey skies outside laying on the couch of the creator of the Arena Logo by the way 🙂 Feels like Germany, but it’s definitely Finland. The snowy spots here and there between trees and the cool nights definitely give out a taste of the northern life. Helsinki is far from the Arctic area, but one could easily get a glimpse of what it would be like going even more upwards on the map. I needed to detach myself from the evergrowing negativity that surrounds me at my shop. I thought this trip would help and I wasn’t wrong. I still think of some people from my store and feel a certain…uneasiness. But their opinion of me truly doesn’t matter. I usually think about the Sun when I think about people’s opinions about me. The Sun is so incredibly gigantic that it’s very difficult for the human mind to grasp such astronomical dimensions. In the grand scheme of things, the Sun will continue existing for millions of years to come. The opinions of other people about me are so incredibly small and useless to think about in comparison. It won’t change much if I give them more importance, because in the end I am still my own person and I will stand by what I believe even in the face of being dead wrong. It’s human nature to defend our beliefs. Even more so when it’s about social interaction. If changes will occur, they will definitely happen with me believing that I am in charge of the situation and that the changes will benefit me in the future. For the record, I did change. Slowly but surely my role in my store shifted to the one I was always destined and studied hard for: a manager. That person that takes care of the operational part of the store with a bird’s-eye view over everything else as well. Things are going better and better at the store. Because of this growth that has registered in the past year, I dare to believe that I can do even more.

Toxicity

I sent Sebastian a week ago to a conference for Wizards of the Coast Play Network members held in Frankfurt. I mistakenly thought that the conference would be in German and that I wouldn’t understand enough if I’d go. It was in English, but the point for me was that Sebastian needed to be there regardless. If he is to grow into having a bigger role at the store, he would need to learn from likeminded people who have perhaps decades of experience behind them. It’s not like I am not trying to help him become better at his job, but my experience pales in comparison to some people who have had to deal with waves and hordes of customers either pleasant or toxic for over 10+ years. This brings me to the main point of this article: toxicity. At the WotC conference, Sebastian learned a lot about what it means to be toxic and how difficult it can be to identify the elements that are causing multiple problems. Most store owners faced or are still facing the same issue that keeps a community from growing. Players of all types come into stores, but most definitely the ones that are plaguing communities left and right are, for example, the ones who start pinpointing each and every purchase a new customer makes along these lines and not only:
– “Wait. You don’t really want to buy that from the store. Standard sucks, it rotates, your cards will lose value. You wanna play Modern/Legacy/whatever. Here is what you need” *opens a folder and shows the new customers cards of personal collection effectively taking them away from the shop but within the shop(!)*.
– “Why are you buying that booster box? You can get single cards online for a lot less. Don’t buy that here!
– “Why are you playing that deck/card? It sucks. Your deck sucks. Stop playing that. Here. You should play this and this”
– players who only play to win in non-competitive formats
– players who demand more for less all the time using various excuses to further drive prices down
– players who don’t respect the staff of the shop, the events they participate in and other players around them
– players who are smelly, loud, bullies, cheap
I might have hit a chord with the cheap thing. I’ll expand on this one specifically since the others should be self-explanatory. I fully understand that there are certain people who can’t afford to buy on a constant basis, however, our shop works like every other shop: it needs to earn money to pay rent and salaries. To that end, it is required that each player does buy something each visit. It’s all about priorities. If a player decides that he/she wants to spend their money somewhere else, they are free to do so. But at our store, if you don’t participate financially, then it is what it is and you have to leave or not come at all. It’s not personal. You don’t go to a restaurant if you know you won’t buy any food or drinks there. And the excuse of “but I bought something yesterday” is a poor one and not at all productive. Do you say that when you go in a bar that you bought something last week? 😀 The same concept applies here. Nobody is asking young players to cough up 90€ for a booster box each visit, that’s just absurd. But you should have 2€ for a drink so you can sit down and play. Having the staff constantly ask “Would you like to drink something?” is not a great use of both our time. If you don’t get this basic concept, then it could be that you’re part of the problem and you should review your perception of the store as a social club, which in a way or another is, in fact, a place of gathering for likeminded people. If you treat the Arena like any other place where you can just play, you’re wrong. This is an official store representing Magic the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Keyforge, etc. So if you’d like to treat it as such, you are more than welcome inside. If not, feel free to play on park benches, in youth halls or wherever you want really. I won’t stop anyone from doing that and certainly nobody is forced to come to the Arena to participate in tournaments or just hang out. We’re all free to choose.

The Trigger

So what happened? Markus, Sebastian and I decided that it would be better for the Yu-Gi-Oh! community if certain players would stop coming to the store. They influence others by telling them to buy online and not from the shop, which is definitely a problem. These people took the Arena for granted for years. There were many evenings where I just had enough of empty Döner boxes and gums stuck on the tables. Luckily those things won’t happen anymore. I won’t even mention the toilet…I will just say that for some of the customers that came or maybe are still coming to my store, their parents have failed them. You know those hobos that sometimes sleep in the ZOB bathroom? They don’t make a mess like the one I find in my store’s toilet after a Yu-Gi-Oh tournament. KONAMI even released a new tournament rule that a player must shower before a tournament. Can you believe that? An actual rule to play the game states that you need to be…clean. Was it even necessary? Yes. Full yes. Oh my God type of Yeeeesssss! The deodorant spray in the bathroom who I am kind enough to provide for free, has still not been fully used after months of it being there. Yet the smells persist…Ridiculous. Anyway my dudes. Let’s move on with this, since people might take offense. It’s 2019 though. Everything is taken as an offense nowadays…*ahem*

The banning of some players resulted in a ripple effect, taking some other people with them. Not many bothered asking or actually considering what had happened for this to take place in the first place. The ones who did ask and paused for a minute to actually think about it decided to stay with the store group and continue being patrons to my business. These are the people who I respect and who I know also respect me. That’s how it goes, but again, not a lot of people learned that in their youth. It’s not too late, but most don’t get it and won’t get it. I am not their father to teach them how to behave in society and especially in my store. There are some rules, behavior etiquette if you will, that people should follow with basic knowledge of them. For the longest period of time, I tried to not be definitive about my decisions, especially the difficult ones. I avoided banning people unless it was the last possible option. But I see now how I should have done this much sooner. I won’t give more attention to the players who left. Wherever they are now, I only hope they stay there, away from my shop never to be seen at an Arena tournament again. Good riddance. “But Adrian, fewer customers means less money“. Yes and no. New customers will come because people start and stop playing all the time. It’s a hobby and like any other time-consuming activity, you put it down now and pick it up later. It’s normal. Life happens and you need to put your attention elsewhere. As for the lack of money that would come in because some players will no longer come? Think about it…they weren’t buying much in the first place. The evergreen lohnt’s sich?” ability of some players infected more people along the way. But when you have to ask that question for even buying a drink and actively participating in helping the store continue its business? Well…”Es lohnt sich für uns nicht mehr, dass du hier kommst. Viel Spaß irgenwo anders. Und tschüss!“. Was this the right choice for my store? I will find out soon enough. It may seem harsh, but it couldn’t be prevented anymore. The toxic levels hit an all time high and we decided that we want nothing to do with such people, all the while supporting the ones who support us. Thank you guys who did and still do. You know it means a lot to us that you have been at our side for the longest of time. Cheers!

Re:Vitalize

The past is in the past and our present defines our future. We all need to move forward whether we want to or not. I want to specifically mention that I feel much more energetic about my store than I have felt in years perhaps. Does that mean that I won’t leave? It’s a yes-no situation again. But not for a while, no. I plan on sticking around to fix current issues, prepare for the future and establish a strong base for the Arena. I am certain that it will evolve nicely once some smaller pieces fall into place. It’s a matter of time and dedication. With the addition of Sebastian to the team and soon Markus as well, I feel like I can push the Arena to the point it was meant to be from the very start. I want to grow in many other ways and not revolve strictly around card games. It seems like there are enough people in and around Ingolstadt that would like to participate in all sorts of events and I want to be able to offer that. Every time I try to go into a specific one-dimensional direction, I end of coming back full-circle to my original concept: it’s supposed to be a gaming hub. The Arena is supposed to be a gaming center for any and all gaming enthusiasts. I need to push through with this and it will finally materialize, I am sure. It’s going to be a lot of work to make this happen. I have been working hard for 5 years to keep this boat floating and even if some passengers have jumped ship there are others who are more than happy to be able to come on board and perhaps even help steer the ship to calmer and bluer waters. A community also consists of the people trying to assemble it and keep things going when everything seems to fall apart. Sometimes people forget that. I have said this multiple times by now, but one more time won’t make it less valuable or worn out: I will NOT step on my dignity and now my employees’ dignities so I can make a euro more. We will gladly prefer to have you with us growing the ranks of the Gladiators of the Arena. The more, the merrier. Let’s get this going again, together.

See you in the Arena!