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Friday, December 19, 2014

Gamers gather for retro thrill

sanchezantonio24@gmail.com

A replica of a Virtual Boy handheld system, discontinued by Nintendo in 1996, and a 5-foot-tall original Game Boy greet customers. Inside, the walls are decorated with pixilated 8-bit video game paintings and a chorus of electronic blips runs incessantly in the background. This is Gamers Anonymous, a retro gaming store tucked away on Albuquerque’s West Side.

Gamers Anonymous and its Northeast Heights counterpart, Super Gamers Anonymous, are retro gaming stores that sell games for systems from the first Atari console of the ‘70s to present day Xboxes, said owner Jon Sakura. Sakura said it’s the stores’ older games that really bring in customers.

“I think my favorite part about the classic gaming element is that every single day we get someone that walks in here and sees a painting on the wall or sees classic games holding up and they go, ‘Holy crap, this is taking me back to my childhood,’” Sakura said. “I think every single time I hear that, I’m like, ‘I’m doing it right, that’s exactly what I’m looking for.’”

Sakura said one of his main priorities when designing the stores was to create enough space to host a large community of gamers.
“Community to me is the biggest element to everything we do here,” he said. “It’s having room here for people to come in here and play games, run tournaments. We do lots of active gaming events. Doing that was priority one for me.”

Sakura runs Super Gamers Anonymous alongside joint-business owner Buckley Johnson of the computer repair store MetaLogic Computers. Although Johnson fixes PCs for a living, he said he is intimately involved in the gaming community. Johnson and Sakura have worked together throughout this past year to put together PC and retro gaming events.

Although Johnson’s primary focus is PC gaming, he said he admires the consistent crowd Gamers Anonymous gets in response to “Pokémon Friday.”

“These people love Pokémon and they are not judged for it,” he said. “Growing up, I remember people being hazed for playing the Pokémon trading cards and the Pokémon games because they thought it was childish. Now at ‘Pokémon Friday,’ it’s completely accepted, no matter what your favorite Pokémon, what your favorite version — it’s just flooded with awesome people.”

“Pokémon Friday” happens every Friday at Gamers Anonymous, and gamers of all ages stop by to join local card and video gaming tournaments and play Pokémon trivia games, said the group’s organizer Eric Knox. Knox said after years of playing Pokémon, he wanted to create a place where gamers could meet and enjoy Pokémon together while following the Pokémon Company International rules and standards.

“I never had a place like this when I started playing Pokémon,” Knox said. “I still play, so I figured, why not start actually having events going on that actually fosters the community. It’s much more fun when you can look your opponent in the face and chat with them while you’re battling.”

In a market predominantly associated with young boys and men, Gamers Anonymous also supports female gamers, said employee and avid gamer Sarah Saucedo. Saucedo said she is tired of seeing female gamers as “gimmicky,” pointing out a particular image of a woman licking a PlayStation controller.

“This, I hate this — if I could get away from one female gaming stereotype, it’s that I like to lick controllers,” Saucedo said. “I think a lot of the girl gaming influence that we get is not necessarily genuine. I wish that there were more educated, good-looking girls in gaming.”

Gamers Anonymous
1504 B Wyoming
505-332-0717

Super Gamers Anonymous
10200 Corrales Rd. N.W. #B-1
505- 899-2681

Hours for both locations:
Monday through Saturday,
10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Pokémon Friday
4 to 8 p.m.
Gamers Anonymous