It’s Friday night in Oak Cliff, and the regulars at a little shop on Eighth Street have their game faces on.
This is a weekly ritual for a few Oak Cliff gamers, who spend much of their free time in the back room of Red Pegasus Games and Comics. Coca-Cola or Vitamin Water is their poison, and Magic: The Gathering is their game.
There are high school students and dudes in their 30s with kids and jobs, but a couple of times a week, they are equals at the card table.
Red Pegasus is one of two gaming shops, the other is Oak Cliff Games on Tyler Street, that have taken root in our neighborhood to foster an already vibrant gaming culture here.
Jorge Rangel opened Oak Cliff Games in January because he was tired of driving out of Oak Cliff to find gaming tournaments.
His shop offers Xbox and Wii on two big screens as well as Nintendo systems for a cluster of about six smaller monitors.
Card games are big here too, but this is Yu-Gi-Oh turf. People come from all over the Dallas area to compete in and trade cards for the game based on the anime series of the same name.
Both shops offer card drafts. That’s when a group of players pays into a pool of boxes — Magic: The Gathering cards can cost about $250 for a box of 36 packs. They open all the packs and a player can choose one card and pass the remainder around until all the cards are spoken for. That way, everyone receives a mix of cards and feels he or she has had some choice.
“Most stores don’t do drafts all the time,” says Jacob Sneed of Oak Cliff, who plays Magic at Red Pegasus.
Red Pegasus is more than just the Magic gathering spot, however.
Owners Kenneth Denson and Gabriel Mendez-Denson put on a ton of special events, including, recently, Bat Girl day, celebrating the birthday of Oak Cliff’s own Yvonne Craig.
Saturday mornings are “Pokemon central,” Kenneth Denson says. Tuesday is board game night. Saturday nights are reserved for Cards Against Humanity. Wednesday is for Dungeons and Dragons.
“We get a good turnout for just about every game we do,” Denson says.
Plus, because of their proximity to the school, “we’re the unofficial Adamson after-school program now,” he says.
Meanwhile at OCG, as the kids call it, a middle schooler is playing “I Wanna Be Sedated” on the Rock Band guitar. Alex Rodriguez, who recently graduated from Sunset High School, and Jose Ayala, who will be a senior at Adamson, are playing Smash Bros.
Xbox games can cost about $60 each, and the shop allows them to play games they don’t have for $5 an hour.
Besides that, there is plenty of room, so they can invite all their friends to OCG instead of crowding them into their bedrooms.
They can host tournaments with their friends, bring in food and be themselves.
Nobody’s mom is shushing them.
The shop closes at 9 p.m., but regulars often stay later to play one more game and one more and one more, Ayala says.
“Sometimes we get everybody to play Rock Band, and it gets really crazy in here,” he says. “We get really into it.”
At Red Pegasus and Oak Cliff Games, customers are free to let their nerd flags fly. The masters of Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh, at their respective hangouts, will teach anyone who wants to play, and some of them will even let the card curious borrow a deck.
Having more and more players is worth it, even though that often means more competition, says longtime Magic player and Red Pegasus regular Pierre Browning.
“I taught him,” he says, pointing to a friend. “And I was even helping him, and then he beat me. That’s OK because we’ll play again.”