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Organised Play and In-Store Gaming (January 2022)

When are you going to start in-store gaming again? Is Pokemon League starting up again soon? Are you going to be running prereleases in February? Do you have any events coming up?

If you’ve asked us a question like these recently, or have been thinking about asking, this article is for you! Hopefully this will give you the immediate information you need if you’ve been wondering about the state of in-store gaming with Proud Lion.

​Why we aren’t running game events right now

​Short answer: Covid.

Long answer: We currently have one member of staff working in store – me. If I am required to self-isolate (or worse, actually get Covid), the entire store must close for the duration of that time. That means no new comics or games for any of our customers, and no income for our family or our store. With the combined impact of Brexit and the pandemic making it more expensive than ever to own and run a comic and game store, this is something we must avoid if at all possible, particularly as there is no support available for small businesses like us if we have to close due to Covid. (And before anyone asks, no, we are not hiring – please see above comment about how expensive it is to run a comic and game store right now.)

We know there is the possibility that this might happen anyway, as no risk is ever completely mitigated. Since we re-opened after the holidays, almost every day we’ve had someone mention a positive case in their family over the last few weeks. We’ve had customers who have had Covid multiple times in the last two years, despite being fully vaccinated / boosted. It is clear that even with precautions, there is a high risk of transmission. To have multiple people in a small building with no ventilation for a long period of time dramatically increases the likelihood of this happening, and that is something we must keep in mind at all times.

​When we might start running game events again

​We’re measuring a number of things to make this assessment, but the first thing we’re considering is the number of Covid cases in the Cheltenham area. Back in October 2021, when we briefly starting running a small number of events again, the number of positive Covid cases here were around 200-250 per week. In early November, we saw a large spike in cases, and the average per week went from 250 to 750. We assessed the situation and stopped gaming events, feeling that not only was this increase not to be taken lightly, but that the time of year meant we would likely see an increase in general seasonal illnesses as well.

So where does that put us now? To put this all in perspective, here is the current number of cases in Cheltenham at the time of writing (Friday 14th January, 2022):

​We’re checking these numbers on a weekly basis, as well as monitoring information about restriction changes, vaccination impact, and more. We know numbers are starting to decrease, but they are still much higher than we feel comfortable with.

The point where we will feel comfortable with running events again will rely on a number of things, but at the minimum, we need to see case numbers drop back down to a reasonable amount. We need to know that we aren’t going to face potentially multiple rounds of self-isolation and store closures by opening our store back up to events. And most importantly, we need things to feel safe for ourselves and our customers.

​Prereleases for Magic and Pokemon in February

​Currently both Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon are having new set pre-releasing in February. Prerelease weekend for MTG is February 11th – 13th, and for Pokemon is February 12th – 20th.*

We don’t know yet if we will be running either of these as in-store events. This is a decision we will not make until the week of the event itself, as we want to be able to make such a decision with the full information we have available to us. If we were pushed to make a decision now based on the information we have today, it would be a straightforward “no”. If we give this decision more time, we will be able to assess if the situation has improved enough to run these events.

In short, keep an eye out for updates closer to the relevant dates. We promise we won’t keep it a secret if either of these prerelease events go ahead!

*Side note: At the time of writing, Pokemon has still not lifted the restriction on official organised play events, meaning any prerelease that potentially could run, would be done as a non-sanctioned event anyway. Officially Pokemon still has restrictions on events in most countries, and looks to continue with this for some time yet.

“But other stores are running gaming events…”

​We know. We see it all the time. We also see stores who have to change their opening times with short notice due to staff testing positive for Covid. We also see events getting cancelled last minute for the same reason. We see stores having to notify event participants that someone at their table tested positive for Covid, and they now have to potentially self-isolate and hope they haven’t gotten it themselves.

We also know that every store is different. We’re a particularly small store – many stores that are running events are bigger than ours, have more space to spread out participants, have more ventilation to keep air moving more freely, and/or have more staff to cover the shortfall if some are unable to work.

We don’t make our decisions based on what other stores are doing. Our decisions are based on what is best and safest for us, our family, our store, and our community as a whole.

​Hopefully if you’ve reached this point, you have a better understanding of our position, our decision, and our stance on in-store gaming. We do hope and plan to bring organised play back this year. We just ask you all to be patient and understanding of the fact that we have to prioritise safety and security, and make sure that Proud Lion is able to continue serving the Gloucestershire community as we have done for nearly 14 years.

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