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The power of kids and product diversity

By Tim Kidwell
Published: September 20, 2010
Chibithulhu from Steve Jackson Games
Here's the little monster!
Call me a softy, but Saturday morning, my two-year-old son suckered me into buying a stuffed animal for him that I had no intention of purchasing in the first place.

I was visiting a local hobby game store, Game Universe, in Greenfield, Wis. I was there because I needed to pick up a new game (yes, I am one of those guys who typically visits a store only when he knows he needs something).

When we arrived, there were a couple of hardcore gamers in the open gaming area getting ready to play. That wasn’t unusual. However, there was also a mom browsing the store with her sons, probably seven and eight years old. For all her calm demeanor, she was in trouble. The boys were working her for some cards or dice, and while she may have appeared indifferent to their pleas, I could see that she would give in.

Not me. This was going to be a fast trip, in and out.

I knew I was in trouble when, as I was looking at the game I was going to purchase, my son was looking at products two shelves lower and exclaimed in an awestruck voice, “Daddy, cards and dice.” I glanced down to see him wandering away deeper into the store with an armload of card decks. I corralled and unloaded him, which got me inspecting the decks as I faced them on the shelf. Hmmm, these look neat … Before I know it, my son strolls up to me while hugging a strange, orange, stuffed “animal” (called a Chibithulhu by Steve Jackson Games) from a nearby display of plush toys.

“Daddy, I love it,” he said. Okay, now the assault was on. I gently took away the cute orange monster with big blue eyes and black bat wings and put it back on the display (it was still in its protective plastic bag), only to have my son grab my hand and utter, “This way, Daddy.”

We toured the store three times, looking at everything from T-shirts emblazoned with fantastic dragons to dice scintillating like jewels in a wonderfully lighted wall display to board games with incredible art on the box tops. And at each stop, my son would exclaim, “Dice, Daddy!” or “It’s beautiful!” As if each new thing he saw was the greatest treasure in the world.

As my tour guide, my son was inadvertently showing me things that I may not have seen if it weren’t for him. I found myself looking through the shirts. I didn’t need one, but maybe there was a kids’ shirt small enough for him. My niece’s birthday is coming up. Maybe she’d like a set of purple or pink dice or a party game. I held firm though. No matter what my son showed me, I refrained from expanding my purchase, though sorely tempted.

Finally, we ended up back at the display where the small, orange plush monster was. He plucked it off the shelf and said, “I love it, Daddy.” Again, I gently untwined his arms and put it back on the shelf. My son didn’t whine. He didn’t cry. He just looked up at me, head cocked to the side, as if asking, “Why not?”

Sigh. Why not?

I blame my son for the $100-combined total I spent at the hobby store this weekend. On the other hand, on the ride home, with the newly named Dice Kitty hugged tightly to his chest (the monster looks nothing like a cat — more like a strangely adorable octopus with wings) I couldn’t help but admire the store’s savvy product selection. There was a little something for everyone: a mom with seven- and eight-year-old boys; hardcore hobbyists; a dad looking for a specific item — which turned into three; and even a two-year-old who knew there was more in the store than what his dad saw at first glance.
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