Bringing the virtual world home: Video Game Trader

For Calgarians, video gaming has a true home.

That addess is Video Game Trader (VGT), a locally owned business with stores on Centre Street North and in Forest Lawn.

This business specializes in retro video games, along with new and used game consoles.

Jeff McNeil, the new owner, bought the store two years ago after working with the previous owners for nine years.

The former owners retired after 25 years and it took McNeil three years of negotiation to buy the store.

Where History Began: Richard Huneault, stands behind the counter wrapping user manuals and greeting customers as they walk into the store in Calgary on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Huneault has been growing his beard out for months and is really excited for movember. (Photo by Elzbeth Sweder/The Press)

McNeil is really passionate about “nerd stuff” and wanted to invest in something that would make him happy and that he actually enjoyed doing for the rest of his life.

“I started in 2001 because I left a job in car sales and met with the owner. I stayed for nine years because there is just something special about this place,” McNeil said.

The people who work at this store have a strong passion for what they do and an appreciation for what the store brings to the community.

It has also outlasted most of the other video game stores in the city.

Standing Among History: Tommy Chau has been working at the store for over three years and loves the atmosphere of his work place in Calgary on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Chau is going to be travelling to Singapore to visit his girlfriend and bring her back for the Christmas holidays. (Photo by Elzbeth Sweder/The Press)

“This store opened in ‘91 and it has outlasted every Mom and Pop video and game store.

“It has outlasted Rogers, Blockbuster and Future Shop. In a year were GameStop and EB Games are getting further and further away from games, we are still here and we are still kicking ass,” McNeil said.

“I like to work with history,” said Emmelia Taylor, an employee of VGT who has worked with McNeil since the beginning of his ownership.

“Jeff is a major social butterfly, [and] he loves being involved with the community,” said Taylor.

McNeil is community oriented and it is important to him and his business.

VGT supports many events in the community.

It hosts video game tournaments, charity events, and also retro arcade free play at the Grey Eagle Casino, that happens the first Monday of every month.

Richard Huneault, who has been with the business for 10 years and is one of the managers, said VGT isn’t like other business.

“It’s a family-owned company, it isn’t corporate. You don’t have to put up with unnecessary rules, or things that are unfair.

“We are treated well here and it’s a fun place to work,” said Huneault

One of McNeil most recent endeavours was hosting a video game tournament on Aug. 4 at the Acadia Recreation Complex.

VGT rented out and filled a big auditorium with retro TVs and consoles with games including Melee, Street Fighter, and Tekken.

People came from all over, including Edmonton, to join in on the competition.

There was even a battle of the cities, with Edmonton going home the reigning champions in Tekken, a 3D fighting game that was released in January of this year.

This tournament also had retro arcade video games that were free to play.

VGT has also participated in the Calgary Expo where they had a booth to promote their two stores and free buttons to give away with their store brand on it.

The passion for video games started for McNeil at a young age.

He grew up in the early 80’s when Sega Genesis and the Atari console first came out. These two consoles are considered the “grandfather,” or the “golden age,” of video games.

Customers can tell that McNeil cares by the way he greets everyone with a welcoming smile as they come in the door.

He is informative about the video game life and if he doesn’t know the answer, he can go to his many employees and find out.

“I have been playing games for a long time and I found this store online and it’s fantastic,” said Mathew Pacentrilli, a regular customer.

“I always have the best service when I come in,” said Jakob Morgan, a new customer.

“I just started coming here, but I would definitely tell my friends about this store.”

 

The charm of this establishment shines through from the employees to the customers walking through the front doors for the first time.

“I am happy to buy and sell things that I am really passionate about,” said McNeil.

Fun Times at Work: Tommy Chau, tried and quiet his co-worker while doing his interview. Calgary on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Chau is excited for the charity event this weekend and thinks it is for a great cause. (Photo by Elzbeth Sweder/The Press)

“Video games [were] always fun and to get together with your friends and play these retro old games really brings people together,” smiled McNeil as he sat and watch his two young nephews play Mario Cart on the big flat screen television in the middle of the store.

We are treated well here and it’s a fun place to work. –  Richard Huneault

“The thing that attracts me to what Game Trader does is it focuses on the retro games, multi player games, family, and community involvement.”

McNeil waves his nephews goodbye as a new horde of customers swarms in.

He looks over and smiles.

“It never stops.”

About Elzbeth Sweder 2 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Elzbeth Sweder worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2017-18 academic year.

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