While some may associate gaming with being anti-social, Shepparton’s Ben Ladson is proving that wrong with Gamer’s Resort.
Since taking over and renaming the store in Maude St, Shepparton, about a year ago, it has continued to be a mainstay for gamers in the region, providing a space for them to come together and play or buy card, board, strategy or computer games.
And it will be reopening on Monday, June 1 for up to 20 people after closing in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The community has been supportive of us during lock-down, and supportive of us reopening,” Mr Ladson said.
“People are thanking me for keeping it going and continuing gaming in the community.”
The shop has been a gaming hot spot for nearly 20 years, having gone through different owners and names in that time.
And when the last owner announced he was closing down, Mr Ladson — a teacher at Verney Road School — decided to buy it to keep Shepparton's gaming community alive.
“The store brought happiness so many people, and I didn't want Shepparton to lose that positive outlet,” he said.
It has done well in its first year, aside from the COVID-19 shutdown.
Mr Ladson said he had more than 100 regular gamers who visited the store individually or in groups.
While most are in their 20s and 30s, some gamers are as young as six or as old as in their 50s, hailing from as far as Seymour and Albury.
The games he offers are in the thousands, and range from Rocket League to Yu-Gi-Oh, to Dungeons & Dragons, Minecraft, and Super Smash Brothers.
And his favourite is a strategy card game called Magic: The Gathering.
“We’re able to host any game people want to play if there’s enough interest,” he said.
But the venue has also become a hub for a number of community groups.
Gamer’s Resort has relationships with Verney Road School, Berry Street and FamilyCare, providing a supportive space for children.
“FamilyCare do it as a respite for families and carers,” he said.
“For Berry Street, carers may use it as a reward if they have goals at school.
“And Verney Road, it’s part of a community access program where they can be a part of things happening in the community.”
Mr Ladson said international students and foreign workers had come in to get help with basic computer functions, such as downloading documents.
These instances have shown Mr Ladson his store is more than just a business, or a place for games — it’s a community service.
He's excited to reopen on Monday, and has put measures in place to ensure proper physical distancing.
Gamers will be spaced apart, markers have been stuck on the floor to encourage social distancing, and a spray screen has been installed on the desk.
While reopening will take Mr Ladson away from his wife Bec and his four-month-old son Jonathon, he's looking forward to seeing all his regular customers again.
“It’s a social, friendly, welcoming environment where people can come play games with their friends, and make some new ones,” he said.
“I just love it.”