'We want to position ourselves as community builders': Dublin's newest gaming hotspot

lifestyle
'We Want To Position Ourselves As Community Builders': Dublin's Newest Gaming Hotspot 'We Want To Position Ourselves As Community Builders': Dublin's Newest Gaming Hotspot
For co-owners Michael Wendell and Nathan Sandison, they wanted to create a space where people can play their favourite table-top games as well as help build a lasting community.
Share this article
Kenneth Fox

Ghouls, goblins and orcs are on the menu at Underworld Gaming on a bleak Saturday afternoon.

People from all walks of life and all over the country come to the store to enjoy their favourite pastime. While some revel in the creative aspect of board games, others are drawn solely to the competitive side of things.

Each corner of the store is a visual treat, as there is a Warhammer: 40,000 tournament, Magic: The Gathering, Star Wars: Legion and Yu Gi Oh on display. Each game has distinct characters and environments which make them instantly recognisable.

For co-owners Michael Wendell and Nathan Sandison, they wanted to create a space where people can play games together and help build a lasting community.

“We first met in a place called Games Workshop in Dublin City Centre, that's where we started playing together.....and against each other," Michael says.

Advertisement

They used to play at the War Room in Wicklow, but due to Covid it had to close down. So with no space to play in, they came up with the idea of creating one themselves.

Underworld Gaming store in Tallaght

Ease of access was an important element when it came to a location, so the City Centre was never really an option. “Our bread and butter are people from Dublin, but we also get people from Kildare and Wicklow.

“One of the reasons we chose Tallaght was that it was an easy place for people to travel who are living west of Dublin," Michael says.

While the front of the store is a traditional retail space, there are tons of tables for tournaments and events, or for those who just want to play board games with friends.

Gaming hub

Since opening back in September, it has become a real hub for the gaming community in Dublin and the surrounding area. There is a focus on a different game every night, so they try to encapsulate every part of community,

Just glancing around the room you see the harsh terrain of Jakku from Star Wars, the high fantasy setting of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar and the dark, haunting world of Dungeons and Dragons.

Advertisement

No matter what game you are into to their aim is to be a place for every flavour of gamer.

Michael says “normally you see people in their late 20s or 30s, but the other day a mother and her two children came in and started playing games. Her kids could not have been older than 10 or 12. It was really nice to see."

What we want to do is have a space that is open to all ages and backgrounds. We really want to position ourselves as community builders.

“What I always find is that people (who play games) are very accepting, and all they want is the community to grow," Michael says.

The sense of community is even extended to setting up the store itself. Both Michael and Nathan have full-time jobs, so they got help from fellow gamers to get the store up and running.

Whether it was smashing down walls or installing cabinets, those who helped were investing in the future of their community.

They also let people follow their journey with videos on TikTok, which in turn was a good way of promoting the store when it eventually opened.

Gamers playing Warhammer and Star Wars: Legion at the Underworld Gaming store in Tallaght

Underworld Gaming also want to foster a community through partnerships with Irish creators. They have collaborated with dice makers Dakota Irish who make custom dice bags that you can buy in store.

Advertisement

They are also the only store to stock a new board game called ActiVacation, created by Ursula Kane Cafferty from Westmeath. That relationship with the best of Irish is something they hope to grow over the next few years.

Joining the club

In terms of membership fees, you can pay €20 a month or €200 a year for as much gaming as you want. While at the moment it is cheaper than paying a €5 every time you show up, they do have plans to expand the benefits.

Nathan says "The idea is that further down the line we will have lockers where people can store their figurines. There are already plenty of pieces that are free to use, and other gamers are happy to make them available."

We have no notions of getting rich here, myself and Mick both work full-time. The ultimate goal is for it to be self-sustaining.

As business owners they understand the potential for growth, but their approach at the moment is to let the community lead them.

Underworld Gaming shelf with Warhammer: 40,000 on display

“If we can take enough out of it to keep the lights on, we’re happy with that," Nathan says.

They currently employ four people (two full-time and the two part-time) and a fifth member is joining the team shortly.

Advertisement

The main thing they look for is people who not only have great knowledge about the games but also have great people skills.

“Our staff are going to be community champions. They need to be able to point people in the right direction but also answer any questions they have," Nathan says.

Like any hobby, there is always going to be a learning curve and if you are overwhelmed at the start you are more likely to drop off.

This was something both Michael and Nathan were very aware of when setting up Underworld Gaming. As Michael says: “We want to have games on display, so we can show people how to play them and demystify things.

"We encourage people to come back, and we show them how to play, how to paint and bring them along every step of the way.”

Hidden hobby

Warhammer: Age of Sigmar board game

One of the more interesting elements about playing board games is how people tend to conceal the fact that they do.

There are some celebrities who are proud gaming nerds like Superman actor Henry Cavill who is an avid Warhammer fan, while the likes of Vin Diesel and Helen Mirren are big Dungeon and Dragons gamers.

As Michael and Nathan can vouch for, it really is a great way to meet new people and detach yourself from the world for an afternoon.

"There is a huge element of escapism and with two years of people staring at screens, it is great to have in-person gaming back," Nathan says.

Another benefit is that people who are more reserved in their private life, really come out of their shell when they start role-playing as a character.

Despite only being open for a few months, Underworld Gaming is already a core part of the gaming community. While they don't have plans for expansion currently, they have considered opening up another store on the Northside, but only when the time is right.

At the moment though, they are happy with how things are "to be honest we still have a lot of room to grow here. Our main ethos has always been about community building, so if good stuff follows from it, that’s great," Michael says.

Read More

Want us to email you top stories each lunch time?

Download our Apps
© BreakingNews.ie 2022, developed by Square1 and powered by PublisherPlus.com