The Best Little Game Store in Champaign, Illinois
Trevor | February 26, 2020
Welcome to Live Action Games
Since 2012, Downtown Champaign has had a gaming store at its heart. Originally located right next to the Illini Terminal, Live Action Games caught my attention with its window decals of Link and Pac-Man. Open the door, and the voice of Scorpion from Mortal Kombat booms, “get over here!” Thankfully, no spear-tipped chain pops out of some hole in the wall and drags you further in, but you’ll feel compelled to stay all the same.
Rock remixes of gaming soundtracks play on a loop while you browse. Monitors behind the counter show speedruns from AGDQ or Overwatch League matches.
At the center of it all is Adrian Astoria. When he’s not browsing reddit, he can often be found unpacking boxes, or sorting through new acquisitions. Most days LAG can be found in an orderly condition, but others it's evident some customer has dumped the contents of their basement into Adrian’s lap. Stacks of games sit on the counter, waiting to be priced and inventoried.
For those who don’t know him, the following interview may seem surprisingly earnest, but the truth is Adrian is always equally earnest with his customers. He’ll happily discuss the details of his business with any who will ask, often sharing stories about recent rare gets, or the excessive amount of 360 and PS2 games clogging up his overstock.
At any Gamestop, you can often count on attempted upsells and aggressive sales pitches; it’s part of company policy, after all. Adrian, however, has no problem calling a spade a spade. On one occasion, I found a copy of 24: The Game. When I threw it down on the counter to purchase, Adrian laughed and said, “now this looks like trash.”
And boy, was it.
A number of T@P’s reviews of odd, eclectic games are brought to you by LAG. Siren, Devil Kings, and Nier were all found during afternoon stops over the last seven years. Late last year, LAG moved from its original location, but didn’t travel far. At first distraught to see the empty storefront and FOR RENT sign, I soon found LAG’s new location just up the street. The waning trend in retro hadn’t claimed this one yet.
With brick and mortar stores like Adrian’s closing shop all over the place, I thought it would be enlightening to get his perspective on what it’s like to run a business like LAG, and find out what’s kept him going. I sat down with him one afternoon to get his story on coming to America from Australia, the annual spring cleaning rush, and recent action on the convention scene.
T: So I thought the first thing I’d be interested to know about is your own personal journey of coming to America. How the heck did you end up in Champaign, Illinois?
A: Oh man, I like to joke around I’m here because of punishment. But pretty much, my dad got a job at the University and he just like... [deep voice], "family, we’re going!" you know? Illinois is not the first place I went to but... have you ever heard of a town, Wilmington, Delaware?
A: It’s like the armpit of America. I did six months there — it’s, it’s like a prison sentence, you know? I did a six month stint there, and then we moved to Illinois. Which, It’s an upgrade, but not much of an upgrade, you know?
T: Sure, yeah. Does your Dad still work at the university?
A: Nope. Nope, nope. He floats around. I think he does... he’s at Yahoo right now.
T: Okay, that’s something. So when did this all start?
A: This... this started seven and a half years ago. Uh, it was a complete impulse. Um... [chuckles] it’s a really weird story, but pretty much I was with this chick and she was like, “you hate your life, you hate your job, do something.” And she gave me like, “go back to school, get a better job, or start a business.” And [motions to store] it’s clear what I chose out of that one.
T: Oh yes.
A: And then uh, six months later we had a storefront. Like, it was... there was no business plan, there was no loan. There was just “let's do this!” Super impulsive, and I had no idea what I was doing. It was great. I still don’t know what I’m doing! Amazing.
T: So was your first inventory then when you opened just the stuff you had around, or did you actually purchase things?
A: No,I had, I had um... like, I didn’t have a business plan because I suck at writing, you know? I suck at anything that involves paper. And um... so I realized I own a house, I’ve got a fuckton of equity in this house, lets just refinance, cash out. So I cashed out, and then I split it. I’m going to live off X amount, while I spend X amount to get the store. So I bought a lot of stuff at retail cost, just to feed the trade machine so to say, you know?
T: Sure, yeah.
A: Yeah, it was actually really pathetic. I opened the store with... seventeen hundred games? Like, that’s not a lot of games! I’ve had more in my personal collection, you know?
T: How long did it take until people started coming in and dropping off stuff?
A: Day one ah, — like, we had our first customer five minutes after we opened. It was... super weird. He shops every friday. Ev — like, seven o’clock friday night, he’s gonna be in here. [Checks the calendar] So today, he’s gonna roll up. But we started getting trades instantly, really. Um, we got our first three-bucks trade two days after we opened, and it just scaled from there.
T: This may apply to another question I wanted to ask — I was curious about some of the obstacles you encountered opening the store, and it sounds like the first one was equity.
A: Yeah, there was really no — I like to joke that running the store is like business on easy mode. I opened right when the retro boom happened by pure happenstance, so shit. Was. Selling! Everyone was like [deep voice], "I must collect." The biggest hurdle that we had actually happened after we opened, and that was a competitor moving in.
T: [Startled] Oh, uh, I um. I had no idea.
T: I’ve lived in this town six years on and off, and I had no idea you had a competitor.
A: I do have a competitor! I have a very aggressive competitor. Disc Replay?
T: Oh! Oh, no kidding. Yeah. Sure.
A: Yeah they uh, they came in and uh, when it was just us, we had Exile on Main. And they ah — they do what they do. They’re a record store that has video games, you know? So we went in, did our thing, and everything was good. But when [Disc Replay] came in, they said like, “well the value of a game is ten dollars, but we’re gonna sell it for eight dollars. But we’re gonna pay 50% for that game.” So you know, you go in, you’ve got thirty dollar games for fifteen, twenty dollars. Who’s not going to shop there? But in comparison, now we’re overpriced. So it was like... how do we compete with them, but without devaluing other people’s shit?
T: Right, sure.
A: Because you know, you trade in a game, they value it at twenty dollars, they’re going to give you ten bucks for it. Same game for us is thirty dollars, we’re going to give you — ten? Ten dollars for it. We have a lower trade in value for it, but you still get the same amount or more depending on — it’s super weird, you know?
T: Even lower trade in value for the Xbox 360 games these days, I remember.
A: Oh dude, they are trash. They’re trash!
T: Yeah, it’s funny. I guess Disc Replay would be a competitor. I think about your competitor being something like Gamestop, but the things you offer here aren’t even comparable to what they do. I know these days they don’t even take things as old as-
A: We implement Gamestop — since they have all of their prices online, our Point of Sale pulls that, so we know what they buy for when it comes to newer stuff, so we beat them on that, and then we undersell them just by a hair. So we get ‘em on both sides of that. So, yeah, they are a competitor, but just because they’re name brand, and we’re just a rando.
T: I think around the time you opened, when that retro boom happened, Gamestop wasn’t taking trade ins on retro games like SNES or... stuff like that.
(Gamestop began taking Retro games in 2016, three years after Live Action Games opened. To date they still do, but are very selective about what they’ll accept.)
A: Yeah, it was really good like — you said you’ve been here about six years?
T: Just about.
A: So you remember the Gamestop on campus?
A: Oh, that place was amazing. They did wonders to help us grow. Gamestop as a company is shit, but some of their employees are amazing.
T: Okay, so — two snapshots I want to get. First one is just a day in the life of running [Live Action Games.] Is there any prep-work that goes into the morning, or is it pretty much just be here and go?
A: [Laughs] yeah, that’s it. I don’t — I try not to think at all. You know, um... I live upstairs. So sometimes I’m gaming, and I look at my clock or watch and go, “oh you know, it’s 11:50 I’ve got time.” Then I play a bit more games and say, “oh its 11:55, I still got time.” Next thing I know it’s 11:59 and I’m like, “I have to get to work and I don’t even have pants on!” So like I’m running down the stairs, you know, trying to open this place on time — there is no prep work here. You know, people don’t come in until later in the day. So that’s... you know.
T: Do you ever get anybody that’s like, waiting at the doors?
A: We used to, we used to. It’s... it’s weird. Half the people in this town don’t even know we moved, and that’s partly my fault, because you know, that’s expensive and I don’t want to spend money. Then the other half is people are just dumb, so you know... can’t get to everybody.
T: Even the awning on the old place is up.
A: Yeah, that’s the old landlord. He told me he’d paint over it so no one can see it, and that was seven months ago.
T: It’s still... very much there.
A: That’s gonna — yeah, that’s gonna stay there for eternity.
T: Okay, the other snapshot I wanted to do was — expand the scope. A year in operation. Are there certain trends that come up throughout the year, like say maybe spring cleaning? Do people come and drop off more than usual?
A: Yeah. Yeah, being in a college town, it has its waves. The way I like to see it is... it’s May! May is when the students kinda go, right? So I have a lot of students just dumping — It’s like, “shit, we gotta go back home, and I don’t want to pack these seven boxes of video games to ship to myself” or whatever, you know? So we get that happening, as well as spring cleaning starts to happen, so people start emptying out their basements or what not, and we get that. And that happens throughout most of the summer-esque months. And that happens right up until the students get back, and then they always forget shit.
A: "I forgot my controller, I forgot my cable," you know? They feed into that. Plus with the U of I, we get how many new students a year?
T: Uh, it’s a lot.
(The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has approximately 45,000 students, and gets about 7,000 new ones a year. The class of 2023 is slated to break records with more than 50,000 students).
A: It’s stupid. A stupid amount, so you know? So we get them, people wandering in going, “what is this place?” And then it kind of, you know, settles down a bit. Until it just pretty much rinses and repeats. And then you have your standard — you’ve got Christmas shopping time, straight after Black Friday. It could be dead but as soon as Black Friday happens people have money out of nowhere and go, “lets do it!” for like a month and a half. Then it dies again, and then tax season happens.
T: get a lot of business after the tax rebate comes in, huh?
A: Dude, people are already gettin’ it! It’s weird. One guy came in and was like, “I’ve got tax money, let's spend it!” I’m like, “we’re in January, dude.” Like, how?
T: I haven’t even gotten all my forms yet!
A: Right? I haven’t either! What is this? So those are the waves, yeah.
T: I’ve... done some Christmas shopping here myself, so I guess I’m part of that. So the other part of the business I always find interesting is the convention scene.
A: Oooh yes.
T: So I’m curious how that differs from daily operations. Obviously you can’t just bring the whole store, so how do you determine what goes and what stays?
A: You know, I’m going to have to do that tonight. We got one tomorrow. Um... and we’re new, this is going to be our third convention we’re going to, so we don’t know. It’s — conventions are weird. Depending on who you ask, like — some people are just “bring all your trash you don’t sell.” All right, so I can go to a convention that I paid for to sell trash that nobody wants, you know? But it’s really weird, because we just went to one two weeks ago, and nobody was looking at mid-range, higher-end stuff. We had a few people like, “ooooh, Suikoden 2! But I didn’t bring 150 dollars to a convention.” Like who doesn’t bring 150 dollars to a convention, you know? Um, so, it depends on the convention because obviously some conventions bring a certain caliber of people, and since we’re really new to it, we have no idea what we’re doing.
[Adrian is interrupted by a ringing phone. He looks at the caller ID and hangs up immediately.]
A: I have somebody that prank calls me, and um, we have his phone number in our phone. Because I saved it! And he’d prank call me three, four times a day, then wait a week and do it again. And one day I’m like, “dude, you know I have your phone number?” and the phone went dead silent. He didn’t realize we all have caller ID! So now he calls me as a private number, so I just don’t pick up any private numbers anymore.
T: Problem solved.
A: Yeah. Jesus kid. You were born in this technology! You should know how to use it better, man.
T: Okay, so it sounds like the convention scene — people are impressed by the wares, but are not often purchasing as of yet.
A: Yeah, well, we’ve done decent at conventions. It’s been worth the money spent to go there, you know? I haven’t figured it out yet. But at the same time, pulling good stuff from the store to go to a convention so we show well only takes away from our store showing well. Know what I mean? Because you know, you’d come in here and its like, “oh fuck, the’ve got this!” but if we take that to a convention and sell it, we don’t get that wow factor when somebody comes in. At the same time if I sell — like we’re going to Missouri. This... Tomorrow. [Pause]. Or tonight I guess, I don’t know. That’s how I wing it.
T: [Laughing] That’s how much planning has gone into this so far.
A: Yeah, I don’t even know what I’m going to take yet. But um, if I sell to someone in Missouri, I’m never gonna get that game back. It’s gone into the void. Whereas if I sell you a game, and you move, you’re like, “here you go Adrian, I’m done with this stuff.”
T: Which has already happened with me once already.
A: Yes, so it’s — I like to keep it local, but at the same time, if the conventions can give me a little boost in income every now and then, I would never mind that.
T: I guess speaking of the "wow" factor, what would you consider to be your biggest get currently, would you say?
A: [Thinking] depends on how you see this.
A: I like... We have an Assassin’s Creed Xbox. It was one of six built, or made. It was given away as a — it was given away on facebook by Microsoft, I guess. So we have one of those. But no one is going to pay a stupid amount for an Xbox 360. They’re not old enough to be cool again, you know? So we’re just kind of sitting on that.
T: Dare I ask how much that Xbox would go for?
A: We have it at $750, and it’s — we still have it, so apparently that’s not good enough. We’ve seen it on Ebay for anywhere from $2,000 down to $1,200. So $750, we feel is right, but apparently not good enough. But its an Xbox 360, its... give it some time and this thing will — hopefully people will like it. If not, I get to keep it. I don’t care.
T: There is that.
A: I get to keep my games? Yes. So you know.
T: For me, the biggest get might be that boxed copy of Illusion of Gaia over here, it’s not an easy thing to find.
A: You know and that is — it all depends on you, what you like. I had this one kid come in here, and it was a real shock to me. He’s like, “oh my god, they have such old retro stuff!” he’s losing his mind and he runs straight to the PS2 section.
A: And he just oogles over all these “old games.” I’m like, “bitch kid, I was in high school when this came out! I got it on release day kid, you’re killing me!” Then again he was like seven, so I guess to a seven year old that could be old. But man, just stab me kid.
T: Speaking of kids, one of the things I wanted to ask about was part time staff. How has that worked out in the past?
A: It hasn’t. At all. It hasn’t.
A: Maybe because I don’t give a shit, so people are like, “Oh man, he doesn’t care! I can get a job here and not care!” No. No. I joke around, because I have a friend who covers for me, and um, I have two rules. Rule number one is don’t fuck with my money. You know, it’s my income, just don’t. Rule number two is don’t [thump] fuck [thump] with [thump] my [thump] money. And most people don’t understand either one or two.
A: So it hasn’t gone really well, you know. For me it’s all about speed. You want to come in, you don’t want to spend a whole bunch of time waiting for me to check you out or what not, and a lot of people we’ve had like interns or volunteers are just — it’s like they’ve never seen a computer before! I’m like, “guys, it’s not this hard.” So nope, nope. I’ll keep this as a one man show for now.
T: So does that mean when you do your conventions scenes you have to—
A: We shut down the store. You know, we do the cost analysis — we have to make X amount to make sure it was worth shutting down. And we’re shutting down for Saturday, Sunday this week. Even though the convention is just on Saturday. Um, since I work seven days a week, I’m going to use any excuse to not be open sometimes.
T: That’s fair. So do you close down the shop for any holidays, anything like that?
A: I shut it down for... we’re not open Christmas, we’re not open New Year’s Day, we’re not open big holidays, Fourth of July, shit like that. I close half a day for Mother’s Day because I have a mom as well, and she would like to see me sometimes. Honestly, I get free food out of it so I’m like, “which restaurant are we going to mother? I’ll close the store for that!” Besides that, no, I’m really... I’m always, always here.
T: Yeah, I noticed.
A: I think like... I haven’t had a boss for ten years, I don’t think I could go into a normal workforce. So it’s like work seven days a week, or get a normal job. I’m like, "I’ll work seven days a week please," you know? I’ll keep this place open for that.
T: Yeah, that makes complete sense to me. I guess I have some more questions about inventory and stocking. You mentioned Xbox games kind of sell like trash these days? How much do you have in storage?
A: Storage? I can actually tell you, gimme one second, lets computer this shit. Let’s see... [clicking] Xbox 360... in our overstock we have about 350 games in overstock. But we constantly move games over from overstock, you know, but currently, just in 360 we have about 350.
A: I think we’ve got five boxes in the basement.
T: So how do you decide what goes out versus leave downstairs? Because I assume everything on the shelves isn’t the entire unique stock.
A: No, what we try to do is we’ll limit it to one or two of a specific title so we can try to shoehorn as much as we can. Each shelf holds about eighty games, so we try to figure out which ones we want, and then which ones comes in, you know — we’re always going to get like, a Halo 4, fucking a Skyrim.
T: Sports games?
A: And sports games. Not gonna lie, we barely even buy sports games. Somebody’s like, “here’s a stack of sports games” I’m like, “I’ll give you two cents for this whole stack, man. Because I don’t want it.” People even say yes sometimes and I’m like, “why are you saying yes to this? Take your games and go away!” But you know, it’s — it’s interesting, because yeah, we don’t have an infinite amount of space, and then with the next gen consoles coming out soon, we have to rearrange to make room for them now. So it’s — I kinda wish I was like Gamestop sometimes, where it’s like, “okay, we’re not doing PS2 anymore.” Because we’ve got like 2,000 PS2 games! I can get rid of those, and then I have all this room. But no.
T: Not so much.
A: Not one bit.
T: So going into that, how much of your stock would you say is what people trade in versus what you actually seek out to carry?
A: Oh. [Pause]. Oh, that’s a really good question. I would say it’s about — it’ s a 70-30 mix. Roughly. You know? And that’s very — I would say 30 percent is high, you know? Because I’m not going to include like third party controllers, power and all of that. I do my Gundams, I do the vinyl records, I do... what else do I do, shit? [Adrian leans forward to look out over the store] I don’t even know what I sell. I sell random shit, I don’t know.
A: But yeah it’s — for the longest time, I had this mentality of “we’re a game store, we just do games.” I’d say over the last three or four years... I guess I’ve only done this for three years now, um — you adapt or you die, you know? Over the last... what, six years, eight hundred stores like this have shut down or what not. Fuck, Gamestop is circling drains.
T: Seems like every year they’re closing more and more stores.
A: Right, we had three in town, now we only have one. Bloomington shut down, so... we’re adapting, like. Yeah, video games are going to be our main jam, but Gundams, the model kits, have really taken off here. To the point where I have five boxes coming on Wednesday.
A: Yeah, you know, that’s... that’s 120 Gundams, or some shit like that? It worked for us, so we’re going to run with that.
T: This ties into the next question I had, which is when you started stocking things that weren’t games. I noticed like — I first came to this town about six years ago, and I feel like I remember you stocking some things that were... gaming auxiliary? You know?
A: Six years ago, so... 2013?
T: 2014, I think, might be when I first came to town.
A: Okay. So we... there’s a lot, and I’m not going to get into detail on this for obvious reasons. I had a business partner and had a conflicting interest with this business partner, to the point where I fired myself and left the business. Then lawsuits happened and what not. So I’ve only been re-doing this for three years now. I left in ‘15, ‘16, and got it back in early '17.
T: Wow. The timing on this is really wild, because I moved to Jersey for two years, then came back, so I missed all of that.
A: Oh shi—dude, it was terrible. It was terrible.
(The actual details of what occured are, as they often are where lawsuits are involved, under legal lock and key. Buried under dense documents and important signatures. While I’m sure there’s a salacious story buried in the legalese, a piece fit for a tabloid, what occured is not the business of anyone but Adrian and his former LAG partner. We moved on to something he could speak about, something our other editor would be happy to know is stocked.)
T: Have you noticed a significant uptick in sales since getting the Vinyls in? Those been moving?
A: Vinyls have been good, they haven’t been as good as I want them to be. But they’re... they’re something different. We have a few vinyl stores, record stores in town, and some of them dip their toes into it. But overall, I’m very selective. Like, at first it was just video game vinyls. And then like, I sold a vinyl for The Fifth Element and I was like, “I gotta buy that!” Now I’ve got like, a Back To The Future vinyl — you know, stuff that is — you’re a nerd, you’re gonna like this, based on what I think nerds like.
T: Sure, yeah. That’s a way to do business.
A: Everything is based on my perceived — what you guys want, you know? I don’t really listen to you. You’re gonna say stuff, but I’m just gonna to ignore it anyway. It’s great.
T: So the diversification of what you’re stocking, is that also when the deal with Limited Run games began, or was it earlier than that?
A: It was earlier than that. Um, the partnership with Limited Run was — I’m on this forum with other business owners, and one of the Limited Run guys jumped in there and was like, “Hey! We got opportunities, we want, ideally, two stores per state. At a max of 100 stores.” But there’s a proximity setting going on with this, so the stores aren’t competing with themselves. And as soon as I heard they did that, I jumped on it, because being in central Illinois, I fucked everybody else.
(I can only imagine the bloodbath that ensued among the Chicago-based stores, all vying for who would get the coeveted partnership. A cursory search brings up about ten independent game stores in Chicago, and given the proximity limitation, only one could claim the title.)
A: I don’t know what the proximity is, but, you know, I’d rather get it. It’s not that — I like it, it’s good, its an okay seller. It’s not, “I want this because I want this,” It’s, “I want this so you can’t have this,” you know?
T: Okay, sure.
A: Such a dick move. But I like it, I mean, it’s something we can say is a LAG exclusive at this point in time.
T: It’s not something I’ve seen anywhere else.
A: Best Buy gets a few titles.
T: Oh, really?
A: Yeah, yeah. But besides that, nobody else unless someone trades one in or what not. But yeah, so I like it, it sets us apart. Different, from every other store around here.
T: And do they include stuff like the unique vinyls they do?
A: Yes and no. The partnership is... I don’t get any real perks out of this partnership. I get to — the games go on sale on Fridays, we have up until Thursday to order the games for Friday. But I have to pay what you pay, except I don’t — I pay when they invoice me. So every few — seems like every other day, they send me an invoice. They’re like, “you owe us 1,500 dollars for all the shit you’ve ordered in the past few months,” and I’m like, “great Limited Run, thanks!” So, it’s different, but we pay what you pay. We can’t scalp these things. So if I know you’re an ebay reseller, I’m not allowed to sell these games to you. Because you’re going to resell them and that’s not how — you know?
T: I see.
A: So I’m very strict, because I don’t want to lose this partnership.
T: So now I’m curious, if someone comes in to buy something — are you aware of like, common ebay scalpers in the area you have to be weary of?
A: [Nods] I do know some of them, but most people you can tell. You can tell! You know, they’re looking at the store, they’re going through their phone, and they’ll just grab random games, you know? There’s no rhyme or reason to what they buy.
T: Um... wow. Alright. That’s a part of the job I hadn’t considered, avoiding the ebay scalpers.
A: They’re gonna happen. I remember years ago there was a Buy/Sell/Trade facebook group that opened up, and the guy who started it... and I don’t remember if its still going on, but the guy who started the group was a customer of ours and um, he noticed something that had been traded in that was for sale on his group. And he, he — I call it a moment of weakness, because he got frustrated and he was like, “the reason why I opened this — why I started this group is so stores like yours don’t get stuff like this!” Like he started it to remove the middleman, you know? And I was like, “you di-” I didn’t say anything, but one that’s brilliant, and two that’s an asshole thing to do! There’s no reason why scalpers can’t work with us. You go and sell us all your crappy sports games, but you keep all your mounds of good stuff, you know? And fine, keep your good stuff, give us your mid-range stuff, because we’re not gonna be paying you shit for sports games, and then you get angry at us because we’re giving you crappy trade in values.
A: So you know, I don’t — I’ve had resellers that do that. Like, “oh we got a whole bunch of... say Mario 3’s. We know you sell them pretty good, they’re not worth our time, here you go.” And you have this that I want so — give me good turn-ins and absolutely, you know. But I always just get their shit that they can’t sell.
T: You know, on a personal note, it’s hard for me to not buy every single Limited Run thing you get in the store when I come in.
A: Dude, I struggle not to buy every single Limited Run thing. Like... I’m not buying collector’s editions anymore, because as you can see [motions to side wall full of Limited Run box sets] they don’t sell. They don’t sell at all.
T: I do feel like I’ve seen the same stock up here for a little bit.
A: Yeah, and I can’t — I’m not allowed to sell them on ebay. Part of the contract. So no ebay reselling for me, you know. And I can’t sell online through my own facebook or whatever, for the first six months I get it.
A: And by that time I just don’t care.
A: Yeah, there are rules. So the way I do it is if its in this case, I can only sell it in store. If its on the wall I can-
T: I see.
A: Um, so now basically when I’m going to a convention, I’m just going to scoop a whole bunch of limited run stuff and take it with me. It’s easy, you know?
T: That seems like stuff that could potentially sell well.
A: Potentially. Depends on the convention.
T: So do you do a lot of online selling of product that you can-
A: Zero. Zero online.
T: Okay. That’s what I thought.
(Live Action Games does have a website, but it functions mostly as a place to check what's available before stopping in, or reserve a copy for pick up. No shopping cart or shipping here.)
A: Once again, I’m lazy and that seems like a whole lot of work.
A: You know, it — I don’t want to sell on ebay, ebay is set up to remove small businesses. Why shop locally when you could shop online without pants on? And they have a really strong point, I don’t like going outside, you know? And Amazon is the same way. They — they try to get you not to go out. Heck, you can go grocery shopping online now.
T: I used to do that in Jersey sometimes because I hated going out there.
A: Yeah, I‘ve been to Jersey, I don’t blame you. So you know — I refuse. I refuse to do that. You know, I could do facebook marketplace and all that, but... [pause] I just feel everybody’s dumb.
A: Everybody’s dumb and I don’t want to deal with people. You know, in here, people walk in and this is like my house. I don’t give a shit, you couldn’t care less if I sell you something, but if you find something my job here is to entertain you while you're doin' it. I don’t want to actively try to push shit onto people, like online and what not. Nah, I'm good.
T: As we wind down here, I’d like to move to the personal realm and ask when the hell you have time to play games.
A: I don’t. I really don’t play games. I-like I’ve got my Switch here, actually. [Adrian reveals his Switch, tucked behind the keyboard.] And I’m only playing my Switch because we’re doing a um, a game-type thing with a local bar. Where they um, They’re gonna host a game night and we’re gonna supply the game. But we wanna do Smash Brothers, and since I haven’t played it, I have to unlock all the characters. So all I’m doing is playing Smash Brothers to unlock everybody. And that’s my gaming, that’s how I game. To work.
(For now, the location of this potential Smash Brothers night cannot be disclosed. LAG is surrounded on all sides by bars — you can even see one across the street in an earlier photo.)
T: Getting all the DLC characters as well?
A: Already bought them all, yup. Bought the season pass. And I feel dirty doing that, too. Like I’m not a big fan of downloadable content and its like, “you gotta buy this character,” so... You know.
T: Byleth just came out... yesterday? Two days ago?
A: I don’t — I don’t keep up. I just don’t keep up. I like to stay in my own little bubble. But I’m going on vacation in a few weeks, and after I get back I’m starting my twitch streaming for the store. And that is my — “you like to work Adrian, but this is now considered work.” So I’ll play a game the store got in and it’s like, “hey, we got this shit in. Watch me suck at gaming. You should buy this so I don’t have to put myself through this shit.” So you know, it’s going to be a way for me to game but not see it as gaming. It's more just like, oh, it’s an extension of me already working.
T: Sure, a little bit of exposure for the store maybe.
A: Yeah, yeah. You know. Hopefully I’ll roll that out march, maybe? But once again, I like to keep myself busy, so.
T: Is that something you would do during store hours, or outside of it?
A: Noo. It-it’s outside, so either in the morning or at night. And I have a wife, so I don’t know if I need to spend morning time with the wife or night time with the wife, because I’m going to ignore her for several days while I do this. So I need to figure out which will get me into the least amount of trouble ignoring her, you know?
A: She’s really nice about it.
T: This may be a personal question, but is this the same person who inspired you to open the store?
A: Nooo. No, I sued the FUCK out of that person.
(This particular line of questioning led right back to all those undiscolsable legal matters. We moved on to something that could be openly discussed — Adrian's upcoming citizenship.)
A: I don’t mind saying I sued the fuck out of somebody. It’s living the american dream, and as someone who’s not an american yet, I feel like this gives me a better chance on my citizenship.
T: Oh, okay. Have you gone through the process and you’re waiting for it or-?
A: I’m going through the process. I resisted this process for as long as you can, which is — I’m going on twenty-three years now. You can get two green cards, green cards last for ten years. So I’m... I become a legal immigrant in the year 2022.
T: Wow. Well, congratulations.
A: So, yeah. You know, it’s — It’s the dumbest thing. It’s like you apply to become a citizen after you do all your green card shit or what not and they need to do a biometrics test. Which is a fingerprint.
A: But I need to give them my fingerprint to get my green card. So they already have my fingerprints! So like, you can fail this by not having the same fingerprints. But they don’t fingerprint everything! It’s just like, “we’re gonna do your pinky, and maybe the pointer finger on your left hand.” And once you past that test — and you really shouldn’t fail it — you have the big test, which they go ahead and fingerprint you again.
T: Just in case they didn’t get it all the first time.
A: Yeah, this time we’re gonna get his left toe, you know? I don’t get it! And it takes an absurd amount of time. Took my brother two years.
T: Wow. Okay, so — winding it all the way back, how old were you when you first came-
T: Wow, okay. So you’ve spent more of your life here than-
A: yeah, that puts me at... thirty-seven I believe. Is how old I am.
T: I guess one more other personal question I wanted to ask, is what games would you consider formative from your childhood? Because I assume that’s what inspired you to open the store is a love of games—
A: Oooooof. Maybe.
T: Oh. Hard to say, huh? Maybe that was a bad assumption on my part.
A: It is and it isn’t. Like, who doesn’t like video games? I used my video games an escape. I don’t want to be in this country, I’m just going to ignore everybody and be lost in my games. Which is what I used them for. But I had games before I left for-came to the states, just not as much. And then, one of the defining things of me opening this business was I distinctly remember my dad getting angry at me one day, because I was gaming, headphones on, ignoring life, and apparently the downstairs toilet was flooding and I was sitting right next to it and had no bloody idea this was going on. So he comes in, and he pretty much just rips off my headphones and just starts yelling. You know, as parents do. And he’s like, “you with these stupid video games, you will never make money with video games!” [Looks around the store] Hmm.
A: So you know, the first year we hit our — over $100,000 I bring my tax return and I’m like, “bitch, what did you make this year?” So it was kind of to get that little jab into my dad, and at the same time it was... I’m useless at selling shit. I’m not a salesperson. I like video games! You know, and if I — if I can sell video games and not give a shit about stuff, I’ll take that any day. It’s the best.
T: Two questions I have left — what was the last game you played that actually impressed you?
A: [Pause] impressed me?
T: Or I guess maybe these days is it more watching than playing?
A: I don’t even watch games.
T: Oh, okay.
A: We have them streaming in the store but, um... the last time I watched something and was just completely dumbfounded on stream was a Rocket League tournament. And apparently the underdogs came and just destroyed. When People were walkin’ in I was just glued to this TV. People would ask me something and I’d be like, “no. Not now. TV.” You know, it was great. But you know, I played a shit-ton of Overwatch. You know that game — it’s a first-person shooter, but for me it has so many different layers. You can change your class, you can do that — it had this rpg element, type thing I like in a first-person shooter. And I suck at it, so that’s good. It sucked me in.
T: I should mention that you’re currently wearing an overwatch League hoodie.
A: I made this myself.
T: Did you really?
A: Yeah, a time before video game stores.
T: Okay, last question, and it’s a pretty predictable one for any of this line of questioning I think — do you have any advice for someone who’s thinking of starting their own store?
A: Don’t do it.
T: Okay. Kind of what I expected.
A: By all means, like... you do you. Do whatever you wanna do. Don’t have video games be your main focus. If you look at the trends going on right now, or in the past few years, digital is... destroying physical media. Which is fine, but if you’re like, “I just wanna be a retro store,” retro's tanked. Retro's not doing as well as it used to. I mean, we take Mario 3 again. It was a twenty, twenty-three dollar game, now I can’t sell it for twelve or ten. It’s not there anymore. So by all means, if you wanna do it, do it, but diversify yourself. Get into like tabletop with it, get into like cards. We did the Gundams, and that’s helped just — don’t focus. You’ll end up like Gamestop.
T: I can see how as companies are starting to dip into the back catalog now and make those more available, it would have an impact on retro.
A: Yeah, yeah it’s rough. I mean, even the Walmart in savoy sells a brand new game under for what I can buy it from my wholesalers.
A: So you don’t even want to focus on new stuff. When we buy a PS4 we make $1.80 in profit. But if you use a credit card, I make zero. Because all the fees eat — so you know, having new stuff is only to entice you to trade shit in because that’s where the make up is. So yeah, do it smart if you’re gonna do it. [Pause]. And don’t do it around here.
T: Don’t want to invite anymore competition?
A: No! No! Nooo. Let me live out my days in peace.
T: I think that’ll do it. Thank you for your time. But before I go, can we talk about the Super Mario Brothers movie you have on the wall there?
A: Oh, I watched it the other day! That-great movie. It is SO trash. So good.
T: It’s delightfully bad.
Live Action Games is located at 111 North Market Street in Champaign, Illinois. Tell ‘em T@P sent ya.