Situated within a one-block radius of the UC Berkeley campus are two hubs for board-game lovers — Victory Point Cafe and Games of Berkeley. All those looking for a spot to congregate with friends, or even strangers, to share their love of all things board games need not look further.
Games of Berkeley sits south of campus on Durant Avenue. The retail store opened in 1980 and until recently existed as a family-owned local business, according to majority owner — affectionately called “evil overlord” — Erik Bigglestone. The retail store doubles as a game place center, selling tabletop games, outdoor activities and novelty items, and a space for regularly scheduled events where patrons can come to trade Pokemon cards, engage in role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons and more.
To co-owner Sean Gore, Games of Berkeley is not only a retail store but a family and community experience. “It’s a place where you make memories with friends and family and your chosen community,” Gore said. “It’s centered around fun, trust, safety, engagement and inclusion.”
Gore noted the importance of board gaming for younger generations, teaching them baseline skills and developing language and communication, decision making and consequence learning. For older children and adults, games present a fun escape and way of experiencing a fantasy and expansion of the imagination.
“Gaming is seen as a purely luxury item, not a necessity of life” Bigglestone said. “Modern board gaming is like community building. You’re able to meet other people in your community and expand social circles.”
Being situated in a heavily populated area with heavy foot traffic comes with challenges, but to Bigglestone, having the students nearby is wonderful for different reasons. Bigglestone remarked that not only are there a fresh set of eyes every four years, but the store is able to fill a niche interest and give students a place to gather and feel included.
“Games of Berkeley is a continuation of the acceptance and diversity that Berkeley likes to champion,” Gore added. “We try to be inclusive and open to all walks of life, attitudes and behaviors. Humans and gamers are very diverse groups.”
In Northwest Berkeley along Shattuck Avenue sits Victory Point Cafe,or VPC,a cafe that reinforces the importance of offline games in community building.
Victory Point Cafe is a board game cafe offering a selection of more than 800 board games and special events for visitors. With a selection of retail games and accessories, pizza, sandwiches, beer, an espresso bar and more, customers can stay for an afternoon of studying or a night of competitive board gaming with friends.
Co-owner Derek Desantis described Victory Point Cafe as being a safe and welcoming spot for different groups of people to come together to share their passions for offline games.
“VPC opened to create an analog space for people to get together to play games while enjoy good coffee, good beer and good food,” Desantis said in an email.
With lots of games, table space and a full breakfast-lunch-dinner menu, Desantis noted that Victory Point caters to the student crowd and gamers of all types. Appealing to visitors of different interests and backgrounds, Desantis added that board games offer an analog, interactive experience face-to-face. To him, board games offer the chance to get off their screens and enjoy an evening with family and friends.
Board game lovers in search of a retail spot or gaming space do not need to look any further than these two friendly locations. Whether it’s a trading card event at Games of Berkeley or a game of Pictionary over pizza at Victory Point Cafe, both locations will leave you content as you walk out the door.