This Family-Friendly East Walnut Hills Shop Offers Games for Every Kind of Player

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Photograph by Lance Adkins

Maybe you’ve just discovered Settlers of Catan; maybe you’re a Magic: the Gathering ace. Whatever your placement on the Geek Culture spectrum, Woodburn Games has something for you. Because when longtime gamer Michael Hubbard planned his East Walnut Hills shop, he thought of the kind of place he would like to go. “I wanted a centralized game store in the heart of the city,” he explains, “in proximity to both campuses [UC and Xavier] and downtown.” And while location was key, the shop setup is clearly a nod to inclusivity, moving away from the more typical gaming domain of white bros—an environment that can often be toxic. “I wanted it to be family-friendly, more focused on fun, and welcoming new people to the hobby,” Hubbard says. “We’re definitely still supporting that core customer who is embedded in games and knows all the new stuff, but we’re also building community.”

Photograph by Lance Adkins

In short, Hubbard and Niamh O’Leary, his wife and the shop’s co-owner, want to catch Cincinnati’s scene up with the rest of the world, where gaming is far more diverse along racial and gender lines. How does he do it? “There are a lot of nonverbal cues going on,” says Hubbard. “The shop is well-lit. We have clean public restrooms. It’s in a high-profile area next to other popular community-friendly spaces; it’s not down in a basement somewhere.” Furthermore, the first games on display are well-known board games and party games (Codenames!); the farther back you walk, the deeper into the gaming community you go (hello, Dungeons & Dragons). There are collectible card games and role-playing games, too. “It’s collaborative storytelling,” says Hubbard. “The game is secondary to getting around a table and telling a story with people.”

Photograph by Lance Adkins

Photograph by Lance Adkins

There are also more direct messages, like prominently displayed posters outlining shop policies prohibiting offensive language and other alienating behavior. The back section of the shop is devoted to gaming table setups, and Hubbard has planned an events calendar that includes tournaments, open play, “learn-to-play” nights (where you can sit down with an expert), and eventually day camps for kids. Everything Hubbard does is designed to bring more people into gaming—more access to what, for him, has been a rewarding hobby. Says Hubbard: “There is literally a game for everybody.”

Woodburn Games, 2803 Woodburn Ave., East Walnut Hills, (513) 206-8776, woodburngames.com

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