To say that Luke Howard has an active imagination would be an understatement.
As the owner of Gamer’s Path – one of, if not the only card-based, role playing and miniature-specific gaming businesses in the area – he wears a shirt that Robinson Crusoe would be jealous of to work every day and looks forward to when he’ll get to sit down and become any one of a number of characters.
That’s when his imagination can run wild and unchecked.
It’s something that the former Airborne Ranger picked up when taking business classes at Washington State University. It is something that has grown tremendously in the decade since he finished his studies.
And after working his way up to a supervisor at Home Depot and squirreling away enough money to fulfill his dream of opening his own business, Howard was finally able to throw the doors to the gamer haven open earlier this month.
“I like that it’s a chance to get people together and have fun,” he said of the entire gaming scene. “A lot of people think of games like Magic as just something for the geeks, but it’s something that all types of people enjoy playing.
“When I first moved here it was somewhat difficult to find others who were into the same things that I was. I saw that there was a need for a place like this, and I thought that I could do it right.
“And I’ve received a lot of encouragement from the people that come down here to play, which is always good. It’s kind of a niche but we’re planning to grow out and develop this as a large circle of friends.”
The sprawling expanse includes a multitude of tables as well as a separate room that Howard plans to make available for reservation or for groups to utilize when large-scale games or tournaments are ongoing – hoping that the unique nature of the business will draw enthusiasts from all-around.
Guides and manuals for famous role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder adorn the walls of the store, as do figures from tabletop games like Warhammer and Heroclix.
Card games like Magic: The Gathering have proven to be the most popular, but Howard believes that others like Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Game of Thrones will eventually catch up.
And with crossover appeal to those who participate in live action role-playing games like the Society for Creative Anachronism, using the store as a meeting space before events is something else he’d like to see happen in the future.
“I think that right now there are things that are definitely things that are more popular than others, but my goal is to have everything even out,” he said. “I think that people are going to come in and enjoy the friendly atmosphere and that will hopefully spread the word through the community.
“It’s open for anybody who wants to come in and play.”
But as he works to build a clientele, Howard says he’s happy to finally be able to answer only to himself after years of working for other people – to fulfill a goal that he set for himself while in college.
“It’s a lot of work. I figure that I’m probably putting in 80 hours a week right now,” he said. “And while my feet might hurt at the end of the day, I wake up every morning with a smile on my face.
“If I’m fifteen minutes late, what am I going to do, scold myself?”
Gamer’s Path is located at 234 W. Yosemite Avenue. The store is open Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is closed Sunday. For more information call (209) 239-8573 or visit www.facebook.com/gamerspath.