One of my favorite restaurants in Charlotte, NC is The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar. Cowfish's menu contains a large variety of offerings focused around sushi and burgers. They also have a full-size bar with great beverage options including my favorite Hitachino Nest Beer. The popularity of the restaurant has surged over the last few years. If you try to visit for dinner on a Friday or Saturday, you should expect a wait time of over an hour. However, you can get on their wait list via a phone application before heading over.
Ashley and I took my brother, Austin, to Cowfish last month. We went on a Sunday evening to avoid the usual weekend crowd. We waited about 20 minutes for a table and were seated on the heated patio. Funny enough, we have never been able to sit outside during previous attempts. Whenever I go to Cowfish, I always order one of the Colossal Onion Rings. They are the most amazing panko and coconut encrusted onion rings you will ever eat. The Thai chili and horseradish aioli dipping sauces are great compliments. I recommend asking for extras of both.
The food menu can feel quite overwhelming with nearly endless options of sushi and burgers. This is especially true with the Burgushi options and custom sushi rolls. For a first time visit, I recommend ordering one of the bento boxes to try a little bit of everything. Ashley and I usually order two or three rolls to share. Our favorite roll on the menu is the Tropical Storm Roll. It is a traditional California Roll topped with salmon, tuna, and yellowtail with three kinds of tobiko. We decided to branch out and share a Black Truffle Cheese Burger on our last visit. I really like the quality level of the meat and bun used for Cowfish's burgers. A great tasting burger starts with the ingredients. My brother ordered one of the sushi combinations and enjoyed it.
Cowfish offers a nice selection of alcoholic beverages. My brother I and enjoyed Sapporo drafts while my wife had a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. I typically order a Japanese beer during each visit. Cowfish offers a full range of liquor options as well. I hear the martinis are excellent. We had a great evening at Cowfish and were happy to share a great meal with my brother.
The Magic: The Gathering trading card game is enjoyed by millions of people across the world. Players can enjoy the game with friends in their own home, at a hobby store, or even on their computers. While many players enjoy the casual environment of Friday Night Magic or sitting around a kitchen table, there is a competitive side of the game as well. On the top end of the spectrum, players compete almost every weekend of the year in large, multi-day tournaments. The largest open registration tournaments, known as MagicFests, award at least $35,000 to the top 64 players. There are smaller, multi-day formats held across the United States by Star City Games. If traveling is not for you, some local stores run cash prize tournaments for players around the region. One such example in Charlotte, NC is the upcoming team event on March, 2nd held at Parker, Banner, Kent, and Wayne. The first place team will walk away with an an estimated $1,000 in cash.
We All Start Near the Bottom
Magic: The Gathering is a difficult game to digest, and even harder to master. I still learn tips and tricks from other players each month. Many players play casually online or at their local hobby store. Other players enjoy the opportunity to improve their skills through practice and competition. Becoming a skilled player in Magic takes time like any other competitive sport. When I was a teenager, I played at the local hobby store a few times a month. I rarely did well, but there were a few times I earned a prize payout larger than the entry fee. My first large tournament (and success) was in 2001 at a Junior Super Series Challenge held in Charlottesville, VA. This was a regional tournament for players under 16 years of age. The winner of the tournament received a $1,000 scholarship for college. I played my first competitive deck that contained a tribe of creatures called rebels. The focal card of the deck was Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero (shown above). I was able to do well enough out of 24 players to make the top 8 playoff. Ultimately, I lost in the semi-finals against a strong opponent. While I did not win the scholarship, I did walk away with $48 in prize packs and a foil Crusade (shown above). Whenever I hold the Crusade in my hands, it reminds me of that tournament from many years ago.
Current Competitive Scene
I took a break from Magic for about eight years during and after college. When I returned to the game, I spent a lot of my play time learning new cards and interactions. Playing against people stronger than you will help improve your own skills. If you want to get better at Magic, the most common suggestion is to play a ton. Many of my friends practice Magic weekly with each other and online. We recently did a test group evening for an upcoming tournament. Mastering a particular deck strategy requires knowledge of card interactions and how the deck performs against other strategies.
The Competitive Environment of Magic Moving Forward
Recently, the parent company of Magic abolished the multi-tier competitive structure in tabletop gaming. You no longer can win a local tournament and place well in a bigger invitational regional tournament to qualify. Currently, you must either reach the top eight in a 1,000 to 2,000 person MagicFest or win a 100 to 200 person qualifier at a MagicFest. Additional, the Magic Online game offers high level invitations for winning large qualifier tournaments.
I have previously attended a regional tournament, but did not place well enough for a special invitation. Now that local qualifers are gone, a few of my friends have been attending the Star City Games tournaments. While I hope there will be more local competitive qualifiers in the future, the competitive tabletop scene remains unclear for now.
There has been a large resurgence in iconic brands, shows, and toys from the childhood era of Millennials. This time frame includes the 1990s and early 2000s. An article on the rise of adults buying toys and the obsession with television reboots are just two examples of this phenomenon. One large growth category has been retro video games. An interesting article on the psychology of nostalgia involving retro video games links positive feelings and emotion with past memories. Other forms of gaming like board games and collectible card games have also benefited from increasing demand over the last few years.
Rise of Retro Arcade and Gaming Bars
Charlotte, NC and multiple cities across the United States have seen a growth spur in local retro arcade and gaming bars. There are currently multiple options to enjoy a beer and play retro games near Uptown Charlotte including Abari Game Bar, Lucky's Bar & Arcade, and Palmer St. Arcade Bar. If you are more interested in board games, Carolina Tabletop Games is worth the trip to Pineville, NC.
Growth of Collecting Retro Video Games
It only takes a quick search on Ebay to see the current demand for Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, and other retro video games. Individuals are paying large sums of money to collect and acquire rare video games. The popularity of the NES Classic and SNES Classic further reinforce the point that retro gaming is in demand. The memories of the playing 999 hours in Final Fantasy VII or earning all of the stars in Mario 64 are hard to forget. I find that Millennials, such as myself, enjoy reliving great gaming moments of their childhoods. The other week, a friend and I attempted to gold trophy every circuit in Super Mario Kart for the SNES. After winning the standard circuits, we were unable to earn higher than bronze on the 100cc Special Circuit. How we were able to beat Rainbow Road in the past is beyond my comprehension.
Demand for Other Vintage Games
You have may heard a news story about someone paying $87,000 to acquire one the rarest and most powerful cards in the Magic: The Gathering card game. It is hard for most individuals to understand why a person would pay so much money for a 25 year old piece of cardboard. While I would never pay that amount of money for any collectible, I do know what it is like playing with cards you had as a teenager. Recently, I put together an Old School deck of Magic cards printed between 1993 and 1994. Many of the cards in the deck were staples in the first competitive deck I took to Friday Night Magic. Playing them all over again brought me feelings of excitement and joy. I have fond memories of my brother and I playing Magic on the living room floor for hours.
Can You Make Money Selling Retro Games?
While there is a demand for retro games, not all of them are valuable. The value of an item is determined by its condition, rarity, and market demand for it. One way to determine if a retro game has seen growth in value over time is to apply the price paid against inflation. The price you purchased an item at is very important for determining long-term profitability. For example, I purchased Ogre Battle 64 in 2000 at Best Buy for $49.99 (I found the receipt). The purchase price of the video game in today's dollars is about $70.00. If I sold it on Ebay tomorrow, I could probably get $75 considering its condition and market demand. After accounting for seller fees and shipping, I would actually lose money when comparing my profits against inflation.
One example of making money off retro games is selling a Mirror Universe trading card from Magic: The Gathering. Considering the current condition and demand for the card, I could sell it on Ebay for about $200.00. My brother and I actually purchased the card on Ebay back in 2002 for $40.00. Why is the card worth so much more today? This specific card had a low print run and does a unique effect in the game. In addition, this card is on a special no-reprint list. Considering these facts along with a growth in demand for old Magic Cards, I could make a nice profit today.
The value of retro games and other collectibles can change over time. Had I sold the video game or Magic card in the previous examples three years ago, I would have probably made back only what I paid. Now is a great time to look through old boxes for retro games you would sell. The current market has a strong demand for Millennial related retro gaming.