Runnin' With the Wolf
One man takes on the used-game business model
Evoking an island of misfit toys, Game Over Videogames lingers on the north edge of Austin waiting to take in unloved video games, instill in them a feeling of self-worth, and sell them to loving families. Who is spearheading this Mother Teresa-like enterprise? One man: David Kaelin.
"As the owner/manager/
cashier/janitor/everything, it takes a big chunk of my time," Kaelin admits. Time is a nonissue though, as Game Over is an experiment in unbridled nostalgia. If you don't say "I played that" at least five times while browsing, you were born either before 1960 or after 1990. But, even for you newbies, this place could be a godsend. Knowing these games is like knowing Grandmaster Flash instead of Jay-Z: It gives you cred (not to be confused with street cred in this case). "I buy anything and everything," Kaelin says. "Ataris, Intellivisions. I've had Pong machines come through here. We get all sorts of random, old stuff that people don't have any other place to take it to."
But nostalgia doesn't pay the bills. How is Kaelin going to fend off the vultures that circle over every new local business? The overhead is low (thank you, northern location and one-employee payroll), but a store needs income, and Kaelin's claim that November was a "hell of a month" for sales seemed like warm and fuzzy math. "You know what, for the 100 dollars I was gonna spend on a couple Xbox games, I can get a Nintendo and 20 games that I love, and it'll be a lot more fun then those two games that I'm gonna finish in a week and trade in for nothing," says Kaelin, speaking from the mind of would-be clientele.
We're no ordinary clientele, however, we're Austinites, and we've got unique criteria for a successful business. Kaelin's called Austin home since second grade, taking the scenic route to a Texas State business degree in 2003. Soon after, Kaelin put his knowledge to work. "I pretty much took a regular video-game-store business plan and did the opposite," he recalls. "We have aisles and aisles of old stuff and a tiny bit of new stuff, and [corporate video-game stores] have 500 copies of Halo 2, but if you ask for a Super Nintendo game, they're gonna ask you, 'What is that?'" Keeping it weird and sticking it to the man: Perhaps Kaelin's on to something.
Game Over's location might be the only serious flaw. The corner of Anderson and Lamar is about as conducive to foot traffic as I-35. To get people in the door, Kaelin has fashioned what he calls a "Seventies Lounge," though it may be a stretch to call the fluorescent-lit couch/TV/bar combo a lounge. And, while free Atari and a crappy cushion sound mighty fine, bumping things up to a well-attended Atari tournament seals the deal. Kaelin promises it's on the horizon. Until then, being a little lone wolf in a big business keeps a man busy.
Kaelin lives at Game Over Videogames (911 W. Anderson) Monday-Saturday, 10am-7pm, and resides virtually at www.gameovervideogames.com.