Gamescape – that game store at 333 Divisadero marked by the distinctive San Francisco signage – bills itself as “a direct descendant of the first game store established in San Francisco.” And true to form, the shop’s storied atmosphere is palpable.
Strikingly-titled board games of odd shape and size crowd shelves like wands at Ollivanders, and with the sometimes foreign-sounding bits of dialogue projecting from the tables of game players in back, it’s easy to pretend you’re someplace a little less Lower Haight-y and a little more… well, magical:
“This territory is already mine, man. C’mon!”
“I’ve got a masquerade, which gives me plus two cards.”
“Even a computer hasn’t been able to parse through every possible permutation.”
This last bit of overheard wisdom refers to Go, an abstract strategy board game that originated in China more than 2,000 years ago. The object is to use your stones to claim more board space, or territory, than your opponent. And though the competition can get downright intense, the players are about as welcoming and friendly as a gaming newbie could hope for.
Every time we’d been in Gamescape prior to checking it out for Haighteration, our gaming knowledge was confined to the closer-to-the-front-door realms of Chess, Bananagrams, and Settlers of Catan.
We’d mosey, sheepish, as close to the back as moseying would allow without full-on staring at the card stacking games, fantasy role-playing games, and classic board and logic games that looked super fun, if also super intimidating.
As it turns out, we were wrong about the latter.
Fellow Haighterators, if you’re interested in exploring the hundreds of fantasy worlds that sit boxed and waiting at Gamescape, the gamers in back are just the guides to show you the way.
On the Monday evening we visited for Board Game Night, about two dozen enthusiastic players of all ages – and both sexes – showed up to hang out, roll dice, and lay down some cards. And no one was fazed by our not knowing how to play anything.
According to another Gamescape newcomer, the best way to check out the scene is to just show up. Alone or with a friend, experienced or clueless, you won’t wait long after pulling up a chair until someone asks if you want a go at a game. Watching and learning is fine, too.
In truth, the welcoming company is what has us interested in returning. For many of the regulars, gaming is a passion, and their sense of delight at hanging out in a cool game store, playing around and talking shop with like-minded enthusiasts, is contagious. We should be so knowledgeable.
Gamescape hosts multiple themed game nights throughout the week. For all the details, check out the events page on their website.