Why would Worlds Apart dedicate a weekend to celebrating a store which went out of business? Quite simply, Phoenix Games is the ancestor of Worlds Apart Games. The revolutionary ideas that make up Worlds Apart and the Pioneer Valley Gamer Collective were developed at Phoenix Games.
I first started working on opening Phoenix Games in the spring of 2002, making a business plan and raising money. Even then, I knew that I wanted Phoenix Games to be a resource for the community rather than simply another for-profit purveyor of goods. This thought really crystallized when I was raising funds for the project.
I had assembled my family to make the pitch to them for investment. The pitch focused mainly on sales estimates, profit figures, return on investment and all the rest. I was feeling pretty good about myself. Here I was, recently graduated from college and about to open my own business. At one point, during a break, I spoke to my grandfather in the kitchen and asked him what he thought.
“Frankly, Michael,” he said, “I'm disappointed.”
I was shocked. Disappointed? I was starting my own business. I was organized, ambitious, and doing what few had the guts to do!
He went on to explain that he had hoped that I would do something important with my life; something that would improve the lives of others. He was distressed that I would want to waste my time with foolish games.
I realized that he had no idea how much gaming had given to me over my life. I explained to him that gaming was responsible for much of my education in everything from math to history to writing. I explained that it was the core of my social community and was likely to thank for much of my socialization as a kid. Gaming had given me the chance to hang out with much older people with interesting stories to tell and lesson to teach that I would never have had the chance to hear without games.
I explained to him that I wanted to pass the opportunities that I had through gaming to others. Then, he understood. I had not strayed from what he had hoped for me. I was taking a very different road from what he might have imagined, but the destination was the same. He ended up giving me half of the money that the store was started on. He did not give it as a loan or investment, but as a gift. As he explained, at his age, financial investments meant nothing to him. He was investing in me to do something good for the world.
I always remembered when running Phoenix Games that half of my investment was expecting a social dividend. Even when Phoenix closed, I wanted to continue paying that dividend, and that is where Worlds Apart came from, the desire to use our resources to do good for our community.
This November, we will celebrate six years of the dream of using games to make the world a better place, and together we can look into the future, changing the world, one die roll at a time.