For 40 years, Wizard’s Keep Game and Hobby store has served the Muncie Community, and continues to do so

<p>Wizard’s Keep Game and Hobby store owner David Barnette poses in front of a shelf in the store. Before Barnette became the owner he worked at the store in the 1990s while attending Ball State University. Hannah Amos, DN</p><p><br></p><p><br></p><p><br></p>

Wizard’s Keep Game and Hobby store owner David Barnette poses in front of a shelf in the store. Before Barnette became the owner he worked at the store in the 1990s while attending Ball State University. Hannah Amos, DN




The roll of dice. The fwip of cards. Jokes, taunts and laughs exchanged alongside strategies and plans. Bonds are formed and made stronger simply by playing games.

For 40 years, Wizard’s Keep Game and Hobby store, located in White River Plaza, has been serving the Muncie community and providing a place to buy and play tabletop games. 

Opened in 1984 in the Village on Ball State University’s campus, the popularity of fantasy games like Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) inspired the name. In 2012, the store moved to White River Plaza for more space and better parking. 

David Barnette has been the owner of the store for nearly 20 years, taking over in 2005 and becoming the second owner. He fell in love with the store during his time as a Ball State pre-law and philosophy student. 

During his downtime, he hung out in the store and played different games. This led to him working in the store and connecting with fellow tabletop gamers.

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Cards hanging on a rack in Wizard’s Keep Game and Hobby store March 23. Wizard’s Keep has been open for 40 years. Hannah Amos, DN


“I've always had a love and a passion for games, but also gamers, so we've developed a community. I've made a lot of friends from people that come here and shop and hang out,” Barnette said.

Before he took ownership of Wizard’s Keep, he worked in the store in the ’90s for six years and became the store manager. When it came time for him to graduate, he was at a crossroads between going to law school or taking over the store. 

“One thing I really liked about [being the owner of Wizard’s Keep] wasn't just a job where you could go work in the factory or you just gotta do it to cash your paycheck, but it was also a community and my social scene as well,” he said.

Barnette believes the long history of the store, along with the wide selection of games, sets it apart from other stores. 

Currently, Barnette is the only employee at the shop working all seven days it’s open. 

The shop is divided into two main sections, with the front lined with different shelves and racks holding board games, role-playing games (RPG), figurines, cards and other gaming materials. The back of the store is open for people to play and connect with others. 

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Wizard’s Keep Game and Hobby store owner David Barnette fixes Scythe, a strategy board game, on a shelf in the store March 23. Barnette took over ownership of the store in 2005, becoming the second owner. Hannah Amos, DN



Barnette finds it important to have space for people to play the games they bought. 

Players like Brandon Price, an avid board game player, have become regulars at Wizard’s Keep. On Saturdays, he and a group of others play different board games, such as Clash of Cultures, a modular board game about civilizations.

“I just like the social aspect of [games],” Price said. “Every game has different game mechanics. So, I like exploring the different game mechanics and how they interact and how you interact with players in the game.”

Price was introduced to the store when he moved from Virginia in 2011. At the time, he was “getting big into gaming,” and he needed an outlet that both sold and allowed people to play games. 

Price said Wizard’s Keep provides a great outlet for the community, and he enjoys the “friendly atmosphere” of the store. 

Other players like Marie Bayer, Andrew Wiman, James Benjamin and Logan Kelley meet up on Saturdays around noon and play Magic: the Gathering, a collectible card game released in 1993.

They play a format of the game known as commander, a non-competitive multiplayer format of the game. The group plays the causal, social version rather than the more competitive one-on-one version to prioritize fun and getting to know each other. 

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Wizard’s Keep Game and Hobby store owner David Barnette poses in front of a shelf in the store. Before Barnette became the owner he worked at the store in the 1990s while attending Ball State University. Hannah Amos, DN



Kelley said competitive games are more focused on winning than creating an experience. 

Wiman was a part of the original commander group that started around 2010, but the game didn’t stick until recently. 

Bayer is a few weeks new to the group. To join, all she did was simply ask to play. 

“That's the nice thing about the game is you can literally just come in, know nobody, and say ‘Can I play?’” Bayer said. “Suddenly, you’re in a group of people playing a game and having fun.”

The open gaming space and weekly Magic games are what introduced her to the shop. The same is true for Benjamin, a Ball State first-year architecture major, and Kelley.

Bayer appreciates the gaming space because it allows her to experience the social aspects of gaming while having a “neutral, safe space to get together.”

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A customer of Wizard’s Keep Game and Hobby store Marie Bayer plays Magic: the Gathering in the commander format. Bayer joined a group that plays Magic on Saturdays around noon. Hannah Amos, DN



“Girls in these games tend to be statistically less. There are far fewer of us to play a lot of these games,” she said. “I feel completely safe coming here to play games with anybody at any time.”

Despite the lack of women who play these games, Wizard’s Keep provides a space for them to feel more comfortable getting involved. 

“It was a big thing for me because it was a place I could find people like me, and people wanted to play the games like me,” Barnette said. “So in that regard, it is kind of important to kind of carry that tradition forward.”

The customers believe the space helps the gaming community grow, allowing new players to learn how to play games. 

Benjamin notes that the mission of the store and the community building was easy, people simply just love to help new people play, he said. 

A community once stereotyped as male-dominated has expanded into one of all types of players. Barnette said when they first started, it was “white nerdy males” that would play. 

But things have changed, Barnette said. At Wizard’s Keep, “everybody games now.” 

Contact Hannah Amos via email at hannah.amos@bsu.edu or on X @Hannah_Amos_394.

Reporter Arianna Lessner contributed to this article.

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