I had the amazing opportunity to interview Giulio Graziani from Video Game New York located on 202 East 6th street in Manhattan, New York. As one of the many small independent gaming stores today, VGNY thrives in a community of video game admiration and history. VGNY has kept the true essence gaming culture and maintains the connection and rapport of what a local independent gaming store is capable of withholding, unlike big thriving gaming merchants.
VGNY did not start out well and as Giulio puts it “I got stuck with it! I was in a completely different business and we [my partner and me] wanted to transform it into something else. My friend came in and said lets do a video game store. We fought and split and I was so much in debt I said you know what, we have to make it work.” He began as a photographer for Spanish Vogue and film director before owning VGNY, however, after falling into his lap, Giulio believes that video games are a culture and what more could he do than offer a video game cultural experience through his store. As he would say, “make it a part of history; make it something people would feel like spending $5 more for something because they believe in what you do.”
To get a better sense of what type of experience Giulio is talking about, all you need to do is enter the store. Upon entering VGNY, the first words that’ll come out anyone’s mouth is “WOW!” as you take the 900 square feet of wall-to-wall stock of videos game dating back to the Magnavox Odyssey; your hit with up to 10,000 different titles all at once. You can take a trip down memory lane and see the original Game & Watch still packed, the original FM Towns Marty system, the 1990 World Championship, SNES Tester, and a Limited Edition Metal Gear Solid PS3 signed by Hideo Kojima; “the world can come and visit Video Game New York, a video game museum of video game history.” Giulio Graziani doesn’t sell most of the prized parts of history because he believes you can’t say you’re a video game museum without them.”People invest in chairs and furniture; I invest in a piece of culture. It’s not about the value in the future or overtime, it’s about when you make a choice to be a cultural play service, more of a museum than a gamestore you stick with your choice. To me, even a couple thousand bucks is little value compared to the history. The physical monetary value of an item is worthless than the historical value.”
In a time where games are becoming more and more cliché, and less moving or pivotal in gaming history, there seems to be a wane of the influence games had on its culture. Giulio Graziani acknowledges the difference and explains that people in the video game industry don’t know much about video games; “most of them come from the movie or music industry which is already scrapped and now they’re scrapping video games which are heading into a big crash. If something doesn’t change, it’s going to crash.” Giulio is onto a good point with more movies becoming games and vice versa, the drive to produce blockbusters into lingering revenue with one following the other has proved to fail countless times. Before, the important aspect of games was its replay value. “If you play a very old game, cartridge NES game, great deals of them have a good replay value. Modern games don’t. The only replay value is the online gameplay.” The value of the game is transferred from the game itself to an experience online with any game. This is why new first person shooter games are created in abundance with mounds of online expansions and packages as well as why more FPS games are trading back in so quickly.
Besides selling video games, VGNY also sells arcade parts and repairs video games. With their small space it’s hard to do anything else. So they make it a priority to also attend 16-17 conventions every year; “we sell at conventions a lot because what we have interests a lot of attendees. We go to conventions and Expos because if it’s hard for the monk to go to the mountain, the mountain needs to go to the monk. We are the mountains and the attendees of the conventions are our monks.” When deciding on what to bring on such massive trips to cons as far as LA Giulio states, “what we decide to take is like Tetris. I fit whatever I can fit in the van.”
In an effort to stay true to its gamer’s root, Giulio has no fear from competitors like GameStop.“I have zero problems with GameStop. I have a business and GameStop has its own business. We get tons of referrals and customers from them too. Why? Because we have what they don’t or can’t have. We have a niche market as a video game store. We don’t need to compete against GameStop. We need to create a difference in the same market, a difference niche so that people will come to us for different reasons.”
In the next 5-10 years, Giulio Graziani hopes to see his store venture into new projects such as creating a mascot for the store, a video game restaurant where people can taste a game, and developing a video game girl project where he would create a database of all the females characters ever made into categories of role models and misinterpretations. With a promising present and a bright future ahead of VGNY, it is without a doubt the local game store staying true to the essence of gamer culture will never falter so long there are true gamers willing to glorify and admire gaming’s history as an important aspect of its culture.