Couple of weeks ago I was in Utrecht for the Magic: the Gathering Grand Prix, which is the highest level open tournament in the game. As usual, I regard these more like excuses to visit certain cities, so why not stay a full week at the former capital of the Kingdom of Holland.
One of the points of interests in the city for me personally, was Oudegracht (the Old Canal), as for some peculiar reason, there are seven shops dedicated to all things geeky (although, I seem to have missed one).
I talked to the owner of the The Joker and couple of the patrons. Besides talking about the problems with the new healthcare law and the economics of the Netherlands (which I personally don’t mind, because I’m interested in how people experience these things everywhere in the world), we talked a bit about the hobby. Apparently, this guy had the first of these shops around, opening it in mid-90s. He’s explanation for the ubiquity of these shops was that the local weather is really bad, so people tend to stay inside a lot. To keep themselves busy, they would play games.
Seems like a good explanation to me.
He also told me that games were quite popular in France, too, where the weather is much better, but the games they play are very different. The French play games you can play outside, using the example of Hive, which has plastic pieces and doesn’t require a board of any kind.
The Joker was quite small, but seemed to have a steady influx of customers, despite the time being early afternoon (and it was raining quite badly at the time). Of course, there wouldn’t be so many of these places if there wasn’t demand for them.
Also, if you ever happen to visit the city, there’s an excellent Greek restaurant called Taverna below the streetlevel next to the same canal, just a block or two north from Blunder. Try the souflaki.