Gaming culture finds a place to call home at Game On

Game On, located at 212 E. Green Meadows, has become a popular safe haven for avid gamers across Columbia, Mo. The new business is a mid-Missouri gaming hotspot featuring multiple monthly PC and console tournaments, prize giveaways, lock-ins and drink specials. What sets Game On apart from other gaming venues is full access to testing new games and consoles cost-free, along with a bar for thirsty customers.

The thrill of gaming has swept the globe, with six different countries declaring League of Legends a multiplayer online battle arena video game, an official sport. All ages enjoy partaking in the video gaming phenomenon, and people have always used gaming to escape from life stress. Games have evolved from being merely entertainment to opening a whole new world – a culture within cultures. Gaming hotspots have adopted an arcade feel, drawing in gamers to enjoy a social atmosphere. Game On is a strong advocate of gathering a group of friends and meeting new friends at an open gaming hotspot.

“It’s a place where people can be social and come out of the cave,” Game On Manager Zach Hare, said.

David Hutchinson, Game On and Columbia Computer Center Owner, lived in a gaming household with his younger sons and family friend Zach Hare, Game On store manager. The business began when Hutchinson opened a computer store on the south side of Columbia. Their building had storefronts on two sides, and since they were paying rent for both, they needed a second venture to fill the financial void.

Hutchinson’s family, along with Hare, have been intense gamers for the majority of their lives, as frequent customers of The REC Room in Columbia. David’s children and Hare constantly used the Hutchinson’s basement as their own private LAN (local area network) center anytime they couldn’t go to The Rec Room.

“We all just grew up playing games together and eventually David decided that he wanted a game center,” Hare said. “He said that would be a decent idea for another business.”

Hutchinson assigned Hare to make a budget and building plan for the gaming center. Opening day was a celebratory occasion where the employee’s friends came to support the new business, and of course play their fill of games. Eager gamers shared the opening day hype by taking over an entire section of customized computers. All advertisements and publicity for Game On were handled through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter because owners didn’t want to spend an excessive amount of money on radio and television advertisements. Since opening day, Game On has been extending its resources to community members in an effort to teach others about the art of gaming, while attracting more customers.

Game On’s strategy is to reach out to Columbia high schools to increase publicity. Zach Hare recently sponsored Rock Bridge’s new Tech Club by providing desktops and laptops. Members can take apart and reassemble the computers for hands-on experience. After reassembling the computers, students donate them to needy people within the community. Tech Club members come to Game On twice a month and play games together.

“Game On is an active community with tournaments and leagues, Andrew Hutchinson, son of David Hutchinson and Game on employee said. “It’s a place for gamers to kick it.”

Regulars are gradually building as Game On receives increased recognition and publicity. In the store, 20 stations offer the newest consoles, games and custom built computers to play on. Game On is hoping to double computer capacity next year. A café will open in the future providing tea, coffee and bar food.

Making a profit the first year is a challenge for any new business. This is why Game On included a bar as an incentive to draw in college student gamers living in Columbia. The main source of profit for Game On will likely come from sales of alcohol. The bar positively contributes a sense of community within the Game On facility, while providing its customers with a way to unwind.

“If someone comes in trying to find a good game to play, we can try to find something that fits them,” Hare said. “They’re always taking suggestions if anyone wants to give them a helping hand.”

Hutchinson located Game On in a low-crime area so that. parents can feel safe dropping their children off for extended periods of time. Large groups of young kids are dropped off every weekend to indulge in the newest games, learn teamwork skills and test out any game they desire, free of charge.

“I’ve known and been a part of gaming culture for a while, so it’s a nice place to be,” Andrew Hutchinson said. “It’ll hopefully bring gamers closer together and create a sort of club environment for gamers.”

Game On continues to spark computer interest in locals with a friendly competitive side, while providing a gamer social circle. Owners hope to continue to grow the business with the attitude that any gamer is able to leave their cave and build a strong community in a positive environment.

Marie Fulcher

About the Author Marie Fulcher

Marie Fulcher has called Columbia, Mo., her home for as long as she can remember. “People are always saying Columbia is so small and they want to get away, but I like it enough. It is small enough to know a lot of people,but big enough to discover new places every day,” Fulcher said. Attending MU, that was an easy choice. Her father is a professor at CAFNR, which helped to instil her tiger pride early.