Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois.  This week Thorne picks his Event of the Year for 2010.

Unless something happens in the next week or so, I think it’s safe to proclaim the Event of the Year in the gaming industry.  While there are several that could legitimately claim the crown (the growth of social media, the success of the NECA/WizKids relaunch of in-house created HeroClix expansions rather than using those created before the collapse of the original WizKids, the relaunch of the World of Warcraft TCG by Cryptozoic or the kerfluffle between Konami and Upper Deck resulting in Konami reclaiming the Yu-Gi-Oh! property come to mind), the one that has the potential to effect the most change in the game industry as it currently stands was the founding of the Professional Game Store Association this fall.

The Game Manufactures Association has had the Game Retail Division as part of the organization since the 90s, with the GRD’s main function set as organizing the retail track of seminars at the annual GAMA Trade Show.  There have always been retailers, however, who felt the GRD’s position as a component of GAMA’s overall structure precluded it from taking as strong a position at it could on issues facing retailers, especially as those issues related to manufacturers, and there has been talk, off and on for the past decade, about creating a game retailer’s organization independent of GAMA that could work on other issues besides GTS seminars (and yes, I am aware that GRD members could have brought up issues to the board for it to act upon but the last time someone actively pursued other issues, i.e. publishing white papers offering the GRD’s official view on game industry topics, one or two papers were written but never formally presented or circulated and the effort sputtered to a halt after about three months).

The PGSA (and full disclosure, Castle Perilous Games and Books is a charter member of the organization) grew out of Internet discussions on the Game Industry Network and Game Pro Symposium forums, saw steps towards organization taken at this year’s GenCon Trade Day and was voted into existence at this fall’s Alliance Open House, with a board of directors, consisting mainly of those who had worked most actively to create the organization, elected soon after.

This was probably not the best time of year to go about creating a new retail organization, when you consider that 40% of an average retailer’s business generates during October, November and December.  However, besides organizing itself and electing officers, the PGSA has undertaken two initiatives that, if others in the same vein develop, bode well for the organization’s future.

The first is the store locator.  Diamond has its Comic Shop Locator and there are other store locators, such as The Master List, but with GAMA’s locator currently offline, the PGSA’s locator is the only one that I know of devoted solely to game stores.  Granted, there are not many up there at the moment, with only a little over a dozen stores having taken the time to submit their information and the PGSA website is certainly not frequented enough by net users to drive many customers to the listed stores but it’s certainly a start.

The second was the Deck Our Halls promotion.  Manufacturers were asked to submit a plan-o-gram for a 3’ shelf space.  Members would vote on the competing plans and the winner would their display set up in participating PGSA stores. Several manufacturers responded showing interest in next year’s promotion but only Looney Labs actually offered a complete shelf layout and, as of this writing, three stores had posted photos of their shelf layouts on the PGSA’s Facebook page.  Certainly not a great response but the organization offered the opportunity for a manufacturer and retailers to work more closely together.  Looney Labs responded and so did some of the better game stores in the country.  Hopefully, we’ll see more opportunities like this.

By my count, there are a few over 120 PGSA members.  Estimates I’ve see put the number of game focused stores in the country at about 1500.  If the PGSA can increase its membership to 25-40% of those stores, it has a strong shot at creating an authoritative voice for independent game stores, much like ComicsPRO does for the comic retailer.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely  those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of