Once-lers Anonymous

“It's not about what it is, it's about what it can become.” ― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

TradeWind Games rallies area gaming community (Final Draft)

on December 8, 2011

Gamers drove from Springdale and even Siloam Springs to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 at TradeWind Games, one of the only stores in the area that regularly hosts video game tournaments. They leaned against the black concrete walls of the game room, dubbed the “Bunker,” as they waited for the new business’s third tournament to begin.

The Bunker -- the video game room where tournaments are held at TradeWind Games.

Justin Kelsey, the 30-year-old co-owner of the store, joked casually with the players watching the game as they waited for their chance play.  Even those eliminated in the early rounds lingered to see who would win.

Hunter Wentz, a 19 year old from Springdale, heard about the tournament at TradeWind from friends. “I like that it’s locally owned,” he said. “I never felt that some of the [other game stores] were as personable.”

The popularity of the tournaments surprised Kelsey, because he and his brother Brian Kelsey, 24, opened their store at 2335 N. College Ave. less than a month before, on Oct. 22.

Like at many other entertainment retail stores, customers can buy used movies, video games and video game systems at TradeWind Games. However, what sets them apart from their competition doesn’t come from the products on their shelves, but the owners’ attitudes toward their customers and passion for the video gaming community.

“We have an intangible product,” Justin Kelsey said, “[the idea] of having a store that treats their customers well, provides products that people want and services that people desire.”

“Really, I just thought we could do better,” said Brian Kelsey, who worked at the Game X Change on Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard for two years. Other stores seem to have the outlook that they don’t have to try and please customers because they sell products people want, he said. At TradeWind, they put out a special effort to make customers feel welcome in the store and give them a place to interact at the tournaments.

A representative from GameStop could not be reached for comment.

In the Bunker, each player has his or her own console and TV, and an equal chance to win prizes such as store credit or brand new games, Brian Kelsey said. Players keep the noise level low, and their language family friendly, a sharp contrast to the foul language heard in many X Box Live games. “First and foremost we want players to have fun,” he said.

From Atari to Xbox 360 games, customers have their choice of used titles at TradeWind. Brand new copies of recent releases enshrined in the glass counter tempt customers as they nostalgically browse old game cartrides, and the Kelsey brothers know what they are talking about when they make recommendations.

Justin and Brian Kelsey grew up playing video games in the small town of Mena, more than 100 miles south of Fayetteville.

At four-years-old, Brian Kelsey helped Jumpman rescue Lady from Donkey Kong on Atari. By 10, he was fighting zombies with members of the Alpha team on Resident Evil.

“I remember when we first got [Resident Evil for PlayStation 1], we played it all night long,” said Brian Kelsey. “It’s one of those games where if you played it in the dark it kept you on edge. …It was probably the first game I played where I was legitimately frightened by the game.”

Justin Kelsey spent sixth grade staying up all night at his friends’ homes, playing any of the Mario games and the Simpsons.

“For me, gaming is a very social kind of thing,” he said. “It compounds the amount of fun you have by the number of people there.”

Even in high school, Brian Kelsey would finish his typing work as quickly as possible to beat the DOS version of Prince of Persia in one class period, but he never thought he would end up owning a gaming business. “Not in a million years,” he said. “We talked about it for several months before we decided, we can do this.”

Justin Kelsey has always been interested in being a business man – he owns rental properties in the area and is pursuing his bachelor’s in business administration – but  he hadn’t considered opening a store location until they began planning TradeWind Games.

Business is going even better than expected, although they have only been open for a little more than a month, Justin Kelsey said. “It’s easy to get your hopes up.”

Seven out of ten new employer businesses survive at least two years, said Patrick Morris, media manager for the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy. Only half make it to the five-year mark, and a mere 25 percent endure for more than 15 years.

“It’s intimidating,” Brian Kelsey said, “but at the same time, we wouldn’t have even started a business if we didn’t think we had something to offer. …We really want people to have fun being here compared to a typical game store.”

Because of the nature of their business, they aren’t worried about the economy, and plan to eventually open more stores in the Northwest Arkansas region.

“The entertainment industry in general thrives, even in harsh economic times,” Brian Kelsey said. Twelve to fifteen customers come through the store on a given day, which meets their expectations for such a young business, he said.

Once the tournaments steadily attract 50 players each, they would like to set up series tournaments. These tournaments would have entry fees as well as a points system rewarding players for participating and placing. They would take place over the course of several months, he said.

In the future, they plan to develop a monthly membership program, similar to a gym membership. Members would be able to utilize the Bunker to play any game in the store, allowing them to preview games before buying them.

The Bunker will also be enhanced to include more video game systems and additional larger TVs, Brian Kelsey said. Groups will be able to rent the Bunker for private events, and some student groups from the University of Arkansas have already held events at TradeWind.

The level of positive interactions with customers through the TradeWind Games Facebook page surprised Justin Kelsey in the beginning. Players and customers ask questions about upcoming tournaments or different products and are answered quickly, sometimes in as little as ten minutes. Deals are announced at a moment’s notice, buy one and get one free on certain products, or a challenge to come play one of the owners. Customers can also get involved in polls to choose the games for future tournaments.

Chris Upton, 15, was excited when he found out that TradeWind Games was opening next to his dad’s store, C & E Lock & Safe, Inc.

“The prices are good. I like their tournaments,” he said. Upton has been playing video games since he was five, because games allow you to do things you couldn’t, or shouldn’t, do in real life. A competitive player, the tournaments give him the chance to interact with other gamers and see their reactions as they play.

Gaming tournaments have been gaining popularity around the country for years, leading to the formation of Major League Gaming in 2002, but little was available that was specific to Northwest Arkansas.

Wentz has played in online MLG tournaments with higher stakes than the free tournaments at TradeWind. However, before the Bunker, he couldn’t experience events like the Call of Duty tournament in person, he said. He plans to come back to TradeWind for other tournaments, and to buy games in the future.

“Oh, that was a good kill!” Wentz praised his opponent. The final round of the tournament pitted Wentz against a much younger boy. His friends laughed as he became increasingly nervous. “This kid is scaring me. …I feel like the volume got turned up. My heart is pounding,” he said.

The crowd remained tense until the final kill replayed: Wentz had won. He and the boy smiled and shook hands, complimenting each other on the game.

“The way I feel about it, anyone, regardless of skill, can win in gaming,” Brian Kelsey said. “It’s whoever is having fun.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All photos provided courtesy of TradeWind Games.

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One response to “TradeWind Games rallies area gaming community (Final Draft)

  1. bretschulte says:

    new lede is working much better. Nicely done. It sharpens the angle right away.

    punctuation, run-on sentence:
    –“We have an intangible product,” Justin Kelsey said, “[the idea] of having a store that treats their customers well, provides products that people want and services that people desire.”

    Try:
    –Kelsey argues that he and his brother put out a special effort to make customers feel welcome in the store and give them a place to interact at the tournaments.

    Rather than:
    –At TradeWind, they put out a special effort to make customers feel welcome in the store and give them a place to interact at the tournaments.

    The difference is you’re not representing his argument as if it’s your own.

    not sure many people will catch what DOS means. you may have to re-phrase.
    –DOS version of Prince of Persia

    This is weird. You have him talking about Game X Change, but then you say Game Stop was unavailable to comment. If you’re mentioning Game XChange, then that’s who you should be following up with.
    –“Really, I just thought we could do better,” said Brian Kelsey, who worked at the Game X Change on Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard for two years. Other stores seem to have the outlook that they don’t have to try and please customers because they sell products people want, he said. At TradeWind, they put out a special effort to make customers feel welcome in the store and give them a place to interact at the tournaments.

    A representative from GameStop could not be reached for comment.

    no hyphens here. but i like how you’re doing this. very creative. good:
    –At four-years-old, Brian Kelsey helped Jumpman rescue Lady from Donkey Kong on Atari. By 10, he was fighting zombies with members of the Alpha team on Resident Evil.

    comma splice:
    –before we decided, we can do this.”

    YOU GOT IT! NICE WORK!
    –Seven out of ten new employer businesses survive at least two years, said Patrick Morris, media manager for the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy. Only half make it to the five-year mark, and a mere 25 percent endure for more than 15 years.

    interesting. good details:
    –Once the tournaments steadily attract 50 players each, they would like to set up series tournaments. These tournaments would have entry fees as well as a points system rewarding players for participating and placing. They would take place over the course of several months, he said.

    In the future, they plan to develop a monthly membership program, similar to a gym membership. Members would be able to utilize the Bunker to play any game in the store, allowing them to preview games before buying them.

    The Bunker will also be enhanced to include more video game systems and additional larger TVs, Brian Kelsey said. Groups will be able to rent the Bunker for private events, and some student groups from the University of Arkansas have already held events at TradeWind.

    this is weird. should have ‘he said’ at end:
    –Upton has been playing video games since he was five, because games allow you to do things you couldn’t, or shouldn’t, do in real life.

    Hailey, this is a terrific re-write. I’m very impressed. good reporting and nice work overhauling the story structure.

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