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Hall of Heroes changes gamer perceptions


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By Amanda Jacobson





But one local gaming venue is aiming to change the perception of tabletop games and create a safe activity space for children and teens to enjoy.

Hall of Heroes, located on East Third Street in Bloomington, is a newly established tabletop hobby store and gaming space for all ages.

Owner Ryan Jacobs, 23, and his wife run the freshly opened gaming hall, which specializes in offering spaces for people to gather and share their love of tabletop, trading card and board games.

The hall provides three themed rooms — available for small groups — one featuring a minotaur, another a dungeon with spiders and shackles and the third designed as an elven forest.

“A friend of ours is a taxidermist and he had a bison, and he kept the skin in the freezer too long so it shrunk and he was like ‘Here, have this’,” Jacobs’ wife said. “So now it’s on the wall.”

There is also a room with a 10-by-12-foot projector screen that can be used to play Xbox games or even screen movies.

Jacobs said he decided to provide the projector room because he wanted to differentiate Hall of Heroes from other gaming halls in Bloomington.

“My problem with the other local game stores is it’s too much niche,” he said. “Yeah, Magic: The Gathering is big, but it doesn’t mean you should only supply it, and I figured, ‘same thing.’ Why be just tabletop where you could easily add a room with something someone couldn’t do at their house, and cover every type of gamer out there?”

Although the hall offers many easy alternatives to at-home gaming, Jacobs said the hardest part about opening the business was deciding whether or not to take the plunge of starting such an investment.

“I had to decide to either go all out or don’t do it at all,” Jacobs said. “So that’s why I went with the larger space — a place where we can fit 80 to 100 people gaming all at once — or where we can host a big event for the city.”

During the process of opening, Jacobs’ wife said the store had its difficulties, including informing their landlord and neighbors of what the store planned to do with the space.
At first, she said they had to explain to the neighbors what the store actually set out to do.

“They were a little uneasy,” she said. “We had to convince our landlords, ‘Look, this is for the kids.’ We’re trying to get registered as a Safe Place. Which is hard with the bar across the street, but there aren’t any places for kids under 21 to hang out in town. The arcade in the mall closed, one of the bowling alleys closed and the skate rink has weird hours, so we’re trying to offer every type of game and please every type of gamer.”

The selection of items available to gamers at Hall of Heroes includes a full-service kitchen with snacks and drinks, gaming dice for sale, starter decks for various trading card games and adventure books for popular games like Pathfinder and Dungeons and
Dragons.

Jacobs is hoping to offer events with the schools in the area, to spark interest with elementary and junior high school kids to try out gaming for themselves. But he said there are still problems with getting young children involved in gaming.

“A lot of people don’t know what to really think about gaming,” he said. “For the longest time a lot of people looked at Dungeons and Dragons as being satanic. So a lot of parents don’t want that in the schools. People are kind of wary of it.”

Jacobs said he started playing video games as a young kid, but then started going to the former Avalon Games and Hobbies in Ellettsville, Ind., to play tabletop and trading card games. Eventually, Jacobs got hooked.

He said the main reason he wants to promote Hall of Heroes as a safe place for children or a place for kids to interact socially was his personal experience with tabletop gaming as a teenager.

“People hear ‘gamer’ and they think of a nerdy guy, sitting in the basement in the dark, hoarding over his collection of things. But I was a jock through school and now I game,” Jacobs said. “I gamed all through school while being a jock. I have people who are honor roll students that like the war games. You just wouldn’t think they’d
connect.”

To start his community outreach efforts, Jacobs is currently working on making a donation of various board games to Bloomington’s Project School — a progressive learning environment that aims to eliminate racial, social and gender prejudices among young children.

The board games will be placed into an auction at the Project School’s second annual carnival and parade on June 1.

In addition to establishing a rapport with the community, Jacobs’ goals also include becoming a registered Pokémon League location and forming a more permanent schedule of weekly or monthly events.

“It’s a way that kids can meet people, be interactive, learn social skills, learn basic math, basic reading, all the academic parts," Jacobs said. “And they don’t even realize it because it’s in a game.”

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Merchandise is on display at Hall of Heroes May 11. Hall of Heroes is Bloomington's newest tabletop gaming location, located on E. Third St. Catharine Dahm Buy Photos

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