Every Friday night my 7-year-old Milo eats his dinner fast. We are aimed for the weekly Yu-Gi-Oh tournament at Kirwan’s Game Store, just down the hill from us on Main Street, Catskill. Start time is 6:30 sharp, and the play lasts until almost 10 p.m. most nights. Moms and Dads clutter around reading magazines, checking e-mails, as the kids play in pairings from Milo’s age, at the youngest end, up to 46-year-old Frank, with a majority of players aged 14 to 22. There’s no music; the lighting’s bright at long tables. Kids spend money on vending machines that sell drinks and snacks, as well as their allowance money on variously priced game packs in the softly lit store half at Kirwan’s. In the back are tables for those playing Magic: The Gathering, a host of board games with intricate figures.
Kirwan’s is big, and on several weekend nights each month pulls 200 or more players for large regional tournaments. Its denizens keep the downtown area’s various takeout eateries in business; the game store itself keeps a huge supply of trading cards, from today’s games to old baseball faves. My son oohs and aahs at several thousand-plus-dollar Roberto Clementes.
There are Hobbit and Master of War and other model figures, and all the stuff that one needs to paint and accessorize them, plus one of the most complete sets of board games for sale seen anywhere. They have board games that kids (or waiting parents) can play for free, and a full staff of helpful young men and women in light blue tee-shirts to help with game rules and any questions that players might have.
Owner Steve Kirwan is on hand at his store most hours of the day. He grew up in Greene County and remembers game stores from when he was a kid. Kirwan was working as a manager at Wal-Mart when the divine intervened and he found himself with the resources, via his father, really to follow his dream.
Kirwan’s Game Store occupies what used to be Van Gordon’s Stationery store, in operation for over a century, and Looking Pretty women’s fashions shop, both of whose employees he’s kept on. It hosts various events for Main Street and area kids, and Kirwan’s currently working out in-school gaming programs with the local school district. It has become one of Main Street Catskill’s biggest new businesses.
“I’m always amazed at the socialization skills games teach people,” Kirwan says, noting a shy girl at a table of young men, holding her own and smiling at her new role as a player. “With this store I feel I’ve hooked into the ultimate good…You always want to take care of your home, and kids are a start of that. This gives them something to do.”
I watch and listen in as Milo “verses” first a 21-year-old, then a 46-year-old, to use the game’s tournament lingo. He loses some, wins some, all the time working with high numbers in his head, reading complex effects in dense descriptions and both socializing like a grownup and handling his wins and losses like a little man. Kirwan smiles in his direction. And yes, he admits, he still likes a good round of Magic or board games after work with his staff.
Kirwan’s Game Store is located at 369 Main Street in Catskill, (518) 719-0091, www.kirwansgamestore.com. Here are some names of other local games stores. J & J Hobbies is located at 37 North Front Street in Kingston, (845) 338-7174, www.jnjhobbies.com. October Country Comics is located in the Cherry Hill Plaza at 246 Main Street in New Paltz, (845) 255-1115, www.octobercountrycomics.com. Alterniverse is located in the Washington Hollow Plaza on Route 44 in Salt Point, near the Taconic, (845) 677-1004, www.alterniverse.net. The Dragon’s Den is located in the Poughkeepsie Mall on Route 9 South, (845) 471-1401, www.gamersgambit.com. Zombie Planet is located at 1238 Central Avenue in Albany, (518) 438-7202, www.zombie-planet.com. Or just try www.the-master-list.com.