116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
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Critical Hit Games owner sees gaming as a community event
Iowa City store has been in business going on 17 years
Chance Kirchhof likes to do things old school.
“We’re an analog shop in a digital world,” said Kirchhof, who co-owns Critical Hit Games in Iowa City.
“The shop is based on the game stores of my youth. Back then every town had two or three games stores.”
Critical Hit Games specializes in role-playing games card games, such as “Magic” and “Pokemon.” It also has board and miniature games, and they buy and sell retro video games as well.
“And we also have a fully restored arcade called the Lost Quarter Arcade, which is a bit of a labor of love for us. We find vintage machines, like ‘Pac-Man,’ ‘Galaga’ and ‘Burgertime,’ and we restore them for play. And people have been really been enjoying that sort of trip back in time.”
The shop also hosts a variety of gaming groups, events and just open game time.
“Sometimes I feel like a ringmaster,” Kirchhof said.
“But I am here to make people feel welcome, very much like those spaces I grew up with. This is a community-based game store where you can come in and really feel like you belong.”
In his day-to-day work, Kirchhof also does all the ordering, manages inventory and decides what new games come into the store or what gets restocked. He has developed leaders for the different gaming groups that make use of the gaming space at Critical Hit Games.
“They tell me when they need space or how many tables they need. We can also help provide them with prizes and rewards. But I rely on them to really be my connection between myself and the community of gamers here.”
Critical Hit Games first opened in downtown Iowa City in 2005. Kirchhof is the third owner, having bought the business in 2015 after working as a teacher for many years.
“I was a long-time gamer here and helped run events and judge certain events,” he recalled. “I had all kinds of friends here, played in game groups.
“It was a hobby for a lot of years, so when the shop came up for sale and I had been looking for a change, I thought the timing pretty serendipitous. I thought it was the natural next step to go from judge and regular gamer to shop owner to see what I could do with it.”
Kirchhof noted some customers have been coming to game at the store for more than 10 years.
“We have everything from parents that want to bring their kids in and get them into a social event that isn’t screen-based,” he said.
Kirchhof said he also sees a lot of college students coming into the store.
“They grew up in the ’90s and 2000s and then they come here to go to school. They immediately look for their new local game store. So every fall we get new freshman coming into to say they will be here to play for the next four years. … We have a lot of gamers that are in their 30s, 40s and 50s that come and play.”
Critical Hit Games
Co-owner: Chance Kirchhof
Address: 115 S. Linn St., Iowa City
Phone: (319) 333-1260
In recent years, the store has expanded, upgraded game playing tables and added an arcade option.
Being a community-based social space where people to gather to play has brought its own challenges during the pandemic, Kirchhof said. He said the store was closed for a time, then moved to curbside pick-ups before being able to open up with masking for shopping only.
“It was just walk in and shop and walk out which is fine, but I definitely did not get into this to be a retail shop. The community space is the real draw,” Kirchhof said.
The store has re-openend but requires masking and vaccination.
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