Part 2: The Looney Lounge
Many might assume that making games is what satisfies me, and that I'd be content just doing that forever. But this isn't the case at all. I have much bigger dreams for the future, and I'm impatient for Fluxx to sell a few million copies so that we can use that fortune to begin building even bigger things. Like many big dreamers before me, I have a plan for my own personal vision of Xanadu.
I like to think of myself as being like Walt Disney in the 1940s. He'd made a bunch of successful movies and he had his own studio... and I'm sure people expected he'd be happy enough with that, and would just keep on making more movies. But of course, he had this other idea, for an amusement park...
I have been dreaming of creating my own game-oriented social establishment ever since 1986, when I described an imaginary place called the Saturn Cafe in that very same short story whose 5 paragraph description of a non-existent game called Icehouse gave birth to everything that is Looney Labs.
My ideas for the club I'd create if and when I get the chance have expanded and evolved over the years, just like the Icehouse game set itself.
My vision took a major turn in 1997 when I visited Amsterdam and experienced the reality of a cannabis coffeeshop firsthand. However, while I have dreams of eventually being able to create a Dutch-style coffeeshop on this continent, that's really a whole separate topic.
The first and foremost goal of the Looney Lounge is to create a new kind of establishment, where the playing of parlor games is not merely allowed, but actively encouraged. As such it will be a coffeeshop combined with a game store, with elements of a community center and a casino mixed in.
Today's most successful game stores include an area for open gaming. These stores are becoming de facto community centers, where various groups feel free to gather, to play games together, compete in tournaments, and even just socialize. And yet, these establishments often leave much to be desired from the standpoint of comfort, what with the industrial-strength tables, wobbly chairs, and fluorescent lighting one usually finds in a typical game store's gaming area. Usually you have to bring your own snacks, and when refreshments are available, they usually consist only of candy, chips, and sodas, and are often dispensed by vending machines.
Instead of a game shop with a small area in the back for gaming, imagine now a coffeeshop with a small game store attached. Imagine a groovy lounge with a refreshment counter at one end and a game counter on the other end. At the game counter, you'd be able to buy any of the games featured in the Lounge's large lending library of opened copies of games (which of course would feature, but not be limited to, those published by Looney Labs.)
The idea is to create a comfortable and appealing space that folks will be inclined to hang out at for hours, playing games and partaking of fancy, over-priced beverages, pastries, and snacks. The menu will have a yin-yang theme, featuring a selection of sinful appetizers and desserts alongside a menu of good-for-you alternatives, seeking to satisfy the palates of both the healthy and the hedonistic.
For as long as we've been developing our skills at making cool games, we've also been learning how to create cool gaming spaces. In creating the Looney Lounge, we will be seeking to build a permanent, commercial version of several venues we've been practicing with for years. The Looney Lounge will be like a combination of 1.) the WTS, our weekly gaming group, 2.) the Big Experiment, our annual convention-within-a-convention at Origins, and 3.) The Pop Tart Cafe, a hospitality suite we've run many times at smaller cons (kind of like a Big Experiment but with Pop-Tarts).
I want to create a place where a community can form and gather for the purpose of playing parlor games. Just as I design games to be the sorts of games I myself want to play, my ultimate dream is to design a gaming clubhouse that I myself would wish to patronize. As I look around at the social venues open to the public in cities everywhere from Las Vegas to Amsterdam, I find exactly none that are exactly what I crave in a local hangout spot. (There are many that come close in various ways, but none are perfect in my eyes.) It's like the old saying: If you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself.
America has plenty of places for people to drink beer and watch sports on TV, but not enough places where you can just play cards and talk. From our earliest Icehouse days to the emails we still get now, there's one comment we get that always drives me towards fulfilling this dream: "I love the games, but I have trouble finding people to play 'em with me!" That's one of the joys of our whole Mad Lab Rabbit program... it provides a way for people who like our games to find each other. But we need more. We need places for our Rabbits to gather, and that's what the Looney Lounge will be.
Imagine a gaming parlor with a comfortable back room which can be reserved for use by the neighborhood's gaming groups! Wouldn't it be nice to have a cool club in your town to go to for your weekly D&D session? Wouldn't that be better than Joe's smelly basement? Imagine a bulletin board announcing groups with openings and games with available slots.
At first, the Looney Lounge will be just a very modest game room, open only to our employees and friends, attached to the new offices of Looney Labs. But as we choose the location for our ultimate corporate headquarters, it will be with a storefront for the Looney Lounge kept firmly in mind.