Suzanne and Patrick Hug bonded through their passion for video games and tabletop gaming during nights spent in friends’ dorms as ASU students. A year ago, the couple turned this passion into a family business.
Suzanne, who graduated from ASU in 2003 with a degree in economics, is a member of ASU’s Sigma Kappa chapter and regularly helps the sorority with its community involvement and fundraising. Meanwhile, Patrick graduated from ASU with a degree in history in 2004.
“Yeah, I married a non-Greek guy,” Suzanne said. “I started playing ('Magic: The Gathering') back in high school, but we played 'World of Warcraft' together, and just playing board games in the dorms with friends was a lot fun.”
The couple now owns and operates Athoria Games, a store in East Mesa that sells tabletop games, trading cards, video games and comic books. Patrick said owning a game store has been a goal for several years, and they both said they are proud to be able to provide a welcoming environment and bully-free zone for people of all ages.
“Our number one value here is respect, and we are dedicated to being a bully-free zone," Suzanne said. "We actually have two kids, a nine-year-old and a seven-year-old, and we wanted somewhere that we would feel that they would be safe to play.”
And customers can sense the familial atmosphere at the game shop.
“During my first five minutes walking into the store, they immediately made me feel super welcomed. They make you feel like part of the family,” said Chad Leguis, a returning customer at Athoria Games. “I absolutely love it. It’s such a friendly and family-oriented atmosphere, and it's just definitely the place to be if you're on the east side.”
Patrick and Suzanne are considering hosting video game-oriented events in addition to the tabletop events they already host. However, their store specializes in tabletop games and trading card games like “Magic: The Gathering,” “Dungeons and Dragons,” “Warhammer” and the newly-released “Star Wars: Legion.”
War games like “Warhammer” and “Star Wars: Legion” are strategy-based games that require players to maneuver mock armies similarly to chess, but with a sci-fi or fantasy twist.
The shop hosts regular events weekly as well as special events. The couple also hosts events at the shop to raise money for local charities and causes.
“I know we've donated to some local schools. We actually sponsored a girl who was in a marching band nearby, and we are looking to do a charity tournament next month where we want to do canned food donations for a local food bank,” she said.
The figurines used in these games are often bought unpainted, and painting them is a big part of the fandom. Athoria hosts workshops for painting the figures, and Suzanne said they plan to incorporate airbrushes in the workshops in the future.
“(Patrick) is really terrible at painting. It’s very therapeutic and calming — you can just lose track of time. I’ll play sometimes, but a lot of times, I’m painting up his team so that they actually look like characters,” Suzanne said.
Patrick said that opposed to video games, tabletop games stand out in this day and age since they require face-to-face interactions.
“Actually being able to see the person that you’re playing with and having that social interaction is great,” he said.
Patrick said selling physical media is challenging because a lot of products are now being consumed digitally. Physical copies of video game sales have dropped across the industry. Digital sales of games made up 74 percent of sales in 2016, according to the Entertainment Software Association.
Patrick said there is a loyal fanbase of casual consumers as well as collectors that still seek out physical media. Although video games are a digital form of entertainment, there are many collectors that seek out physical copies of games with many rare games in good condition selling for much higher than their retail price.
"Magic: The Gathering" collectors will pay hundreds of dollars for certain cards that are out of print or will give them an advantage during matches. Though "Magic: The Gathering" has a digital adaptation, fans continue to play the card game in real life.
“One of the things we talked about when we were starting off with our friends ... was that they didn’t really have a one-stop shop,” Suzanne said. “There were places that really focused on 'Magic' cards or that really focused on tabletop, but to find somewhere where they could go and say, 'I really like all of these things' was something that they couldn't find.”