FRIENDSWOOD — Space Invaders buzzes from an arcade machine creating a retro feel. In the corner, video game aficionados scan through the hundreds of old-school video games.
At Player 1 Video Games in Friendswood, the coolest video games aren’t the ones for PlayStation or Xbox. They are the ones for Atari and Sega game systems.
For about four years, Player 1 has specialized in video game merchandise that spans the entire history of video gaming.
In an afternoon, one can time travel all the way back to the 1970s or check out the newer games of our decade.
Store owner Michael Wicks took his small hobby and collection of game titles for the first Atari game system and turned it into a business as well as social hangout for those who prefer the classics.
The store came about out of necessity after Wicks was laid off from his engineering job in 2008. It was in those months of unemployment when his then-girlfriend, now his wife, encouraged him to dedicate himself to his dream project of running a video game store.
Before Player 1, Wicks had no professional business experience and knew little in terms of managing a business.
What he was though was a video game expert. After he received his first Atari system in 1979, he amassed a giant collection, sometimes collecting three or four copies of the same game.
Even in high school when all his friends lost interest in video games, Wicks continued playing and collecting into adulthood. His love of video games remains a constant.
“You have to have a business you love because you will make it a better business,” Wicks said.
“If you want to open a restaurant but you have no passion for cooking or never worked in a restaurant, then it probably is not going to be a success.
“You have to love the business that you open. If you don’t, you don’t have a chance.”
When Wicks opened the store in February 2010, his only stock was his own personal collection. Since, the store’s collection has grown significantly.
Player 1 not only features retro video games and consoles, it has an array of other retro-video game related merchandise including plush toys, action figures, key chains, wallets, game manuals and original art. The small size of the store adds to its charm.
Every space is filled with games and gaming-related materials, giving it an atmosphere that lacks a bland, corporate feel.
Trading and selling video games remains the backbone of the store. But even that comes with a rule to not up-sell.
The primary objective, he said, is to help and not to push any trade away.
“Some people come during their lunch breaks to check out the store and buy nothing,” he said. “I don’t mind. I enjoy the company”.
Wicks said he doesn’t mind operating with only a modest monthly profit.
The store makes enough of a profit to stay open every month. Since opening the store Wicks found another engineering job that pays the personal bills, so the store is more a passion than a business concept.
“Most people don’t get the opportunity to do what they love,” Wicks said.
“They have bosses and co-workers, everything’s out of their control. I wake up every day, excited to go to my job.
“How many people can honestly say that?”