Video Game LAN Centers’ Social Responsibility

I get tons of inquiries from prospective owners and investors each week.  This week I had a great call with Terell Lipsey who is just in the beginning stages of researching and raising funds and during the conversation I was a bit convicted after our phone call.  As I stepped through the important factors to a successful game center with Terell the first thing I always talk about is the person running the show.

One of our first CS tournaments at eBash over 6 years ago.

Usually the owner, founder, investor, manager and parent of the store is the entrepreneur themselves.   I have had the experience of trying to replicate our model in 4 different locations now and the key factor to success is always the person running the show.  The biggest mistake you can make in my opinion is to run your store as the “man behind the curtain”.

The relationships you start to build with the employees, customers, parents, spouses, neighboring stores, vendors are of course immensely important to your business success.  Talking with Terell that night really made me start thinking of what my responsibility is with those relationships to make a difference in those people’s lives.

Without this being a spiritual discussion I want to just focus on the fact that I feel all of us as human beings are responsible to make the lives of those around us better.   I don’t think that anyone would dispute that when Haiti experienced the devastating earthquake last year we all felt called to try and help them somehow.  But what am I doing for those people right around me every single day?

I am going to pick on a few individuals at my store because they are on my mind recently.  Some of these folks I have been friends with for the entire 6+ years we have been open but none of them I knew before I opened the doors of the first eBash.  I want to break down one individual in particular because many of these gamers are in the exact same scenario.


Mark is on the far right… can you find him in the picture above?

Mark Repollet
Mark came to our store for a Halo tournament I believe in our first year at 15 years old.  He was quiet and shy but probably one of the best gamers we have seen at the store.  The players immediately embraced him because of his abilities and his kind and passive demeanor.  I don’t think Mark missed a single day we were open, and almost every night I would drive Mark and his younger brother Matt home when we closed at 11 PM along with a few other younger customers.

Mark worked for us for about a year at eBash while he was in high school.  He was late a few days and eventually our manager of the store at the time had to let him go.  Mark also attended youth group meetings with us at church while my wife Janean and I were directing the program and we also took him to church camp where we were counselors in the summer.  Mark has even house/dog sat for us when we go on vacation.  Needless to say we have grown very close to him over the years.

Mark made it through high school and got started at Ivy Tech Community College but didn’t go to class and I believe didn’t make it through one semester.  In 2008 when the flooding hit the Midwest his home was one of the many that was hit and I believe that set him back quite a bit as it did to all of us.  Last year he finally got started for awhile at a call center in town and worked for about 3 months before missing too much work had them let him go.

Now Mark seems to to be standing at a crossroad.  My personality is in-your-face with many of these guys and I constantly am yelling at him to GET A JOB.  The problem seems to be that he is just sitting in this “limbo” time in his life and waiting for something to open up to give him a sign on a direction to take.  He told me this week that he has put at least 5 job applications out there… but when I asked him where he said they were all at Best Buy. 🙂

So after my conversation with Terell I am feeling convicted about Mark and many other people around me at the store who seem to be in similar positions in their lives.  I wouldn’t feel so responsible except that there seems to be 10 people just stuck in a rut for every 1 person who has their act together.

What can I do for the other folks in similar situations?  In every case Janean and I have a great relationship with these individuals but yet I feel we are failing them by not helping to influence them to move onto bigger or better things.  Not as a parent which would (or should) be telling them forcefully to go to college or get a job, but just to help them decide on ANY type of goal and then help them make decisions that move them towards their final destination.

I want to make a difference and I am going to try to help (if they will let me) move them onward in their lives.  I feel that it is my social responsibility as a game center owner to invest my time and efforts into making these guys max out their potential.

So as a call-out to some of you other gamers out there.  Let me know what your life-plan might be and help me see if I am missing something OR how I can help you guys get to the next stages of your life.  People like:  Nate Utt, Zach Rainbolt, Kyle McCormick, Matthew Repollet, Cliff Harrold, Jesse Bridges, Logan Abbinett, Danny Elkins, Ian Bohnsack, Hobie Pyle, Skylar Long, Lloyd Vermillion and Vick Boyer.

11 thoughts on “Video Game LAN Centers’ Social Responsibility

  1. Oh snap. Calling me out! This was a great article Zack. I have actually been thinking a lot of my future recently and I’ll definitely share with you what I have planned, but not in such a public manor. I appreciate your concern for me and the others that you care about. You’re a great person and an amazing friend 🙂

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  3. I appreciate your thoughts Zack and yes this was a good article. I see exactly what your saying when it comes to being in “limbo” right now and it really is true. Most of us are still wondering around trying to game it up and looking for jobs that won’t mean anything once it comes down to living on our own and actually being able to pay our own bills. I would love to talk to you about it sometime but. You know i’m always available for part time eBash things as well ; p

    • Nate – You know that I give you a hard time about making yourself better, but sometimes I think that perhaps because I am constantly reminding you of how much I expect out of you it becomes white noise in the background. Almost like a parent reminding their kid to hang up your jacket or take off your shoes. But, I think you see the goal at the end of the tunnel, it is just as if you won’t take the first step into the darkness leading toward the light.

  4. Part of it is just making the choice to grow up, I want to open a center in my community as well but I’m working several jobs in the mean time. It’s hard right now even for college graduates, maybe especially for them, since they expect more, but you have to put yourself out there and work where work is available. For some though it doesn’t compute. I have a friend who is 25 years old and is a gamer and has never worked anywhere, even when a mutual friend offered him a solid guaranteed slack job he refused.

  5. I think he would if his parents kicked him out, but its just weird to me because he has no serious social difficulty, he has good hygiene, he just can’t/wont get a job. In the end though for him and those like him I feel like they really have to make the choice, as for game centers responsibility, unless you want to cut him off from gaming at your center then what can you do?

  6. This is exactly why I didn’t move back to Terre Haute after I was separated from the military.

    I don’t know if you ever read my blog about my “journey” in the airforce…if you haven’t and you want to it’s

    The future and my ambitions have never been a problem for me, but the people you name dropped are some of my best friends. Kyle McCormick and Cliff Harrold being the biggest two. It’s always been hard for me to sit idly by, or even somewhat give them a hard time about trying to do better or achieve more. I didn’t move back to Terre Haute because I was afraid I would become commonplace with life, that I would settle. I’ve learned that when you stick with what is usual to you, stick to what you know, you slack off. This is true in college, in high-school, in work…anything. People must go out of their comfort zones and do something they aren’t good at to makes themselves better.

    Take it from my stand point. At the age of seven I chose a career path of being in the air force, and specifically being a pilot…I carried out that dream all the way to the age of 22 in which I started piloting training. 15 years of work, devotion…to only start doing what your “dream” was to figure out it wasn’t for you. It sucked, I felt like such a loser. But I realized my true ambition and that was to use more of my degree in something dealing with intelligence or criminal justice. The easy thing was for me to go home, live with my mom, work a minimum wage job and barely scrape by. But that would mean settling. These people you listed have to go outside their comfort zones, go outside of what they are familiar with…and try. The biggest thing is finish school. Even if you don’t particularly like it…so what. If that means you miss a couple nights of video games, big whoopdie do. That’s the means to an end. It’s time to grow up, and these people have to realize that. I look back on the days of going to eBash everyday and I miss them. I miss not having bills, I miss not having to do much of anything besides homework. But that’s what makes those memories so great because they are just that, memories. These people will always be my friends, but there comes a time where you have to venture outside what you know…and grow up.

    All you can do Zack, is be gandalf and try to shine the light in any direction. Don’t let them settle.

  7. I was checking the links on the TH eBash site and got caught up reading some of the old blogs.

    Interesting to read this 6 months later and see if people are still stuck or if people have done anything. Do you think all the people you called out are better off than they were 6 months ago??

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