Game On

Game On

Magic started it all

In the trading card game Magic: The Gathering, players simulate a battle between wizards and attempt to defeat their opponents with a combination of luck and skill. Maintaining life points seems to have less to do with cards that offer spells and lands and more to do with strategic thinking. Having a good strategy is imperative, whether you are playing Magic: The Gathering or selling it.

Game On - Magic

When friends and fellow gamers Cody Dame and Tanner Lytle decided to turn their hobby into a business, the deck was stacked in their favor. In a storefront in downtown McCook, they opened Game On in 2007 and catered to a clientele seeking everything from the latest video games to one-of-a-kind trading cards. However, Dame and Lytle did not create a business to only sell gaming products; they also managed to engage a community in the process.

Hobby turns business

Game On As kids growing up in this southwestern Nebraska town of approximately 8,000 people, Dame and Lytle spent their free time doing what most kids in small towns do: riding their bikes and hanging out at the park. That was until a card shop opened when they were in junior high. The new business primarily sold baseball cards and sporting memorabilia but the owner also carried a new type of card game called Magic: The Gathering. Soon, Dame and Lytle were attending and organizing gaming events around town. When the card shop closed, they could see the potential in creating their own business to capitalize on the existing interest in gaming.

In the process of organizing a business plan, Dame and Lytle applied for the Hormel Family Foundation Business Competition and were selected as the first winners of the contest. This provided them with a $25,000 cash investment, as well as additional consulting and advertising services. With the concept and initial funding in place, Dame and Lytle now had to focus their attention on increasing their customer base. The plan they devised proved to be innovative and has set their business apart from their competition.

“Game On is as much of a gathering place as it is a store,” said Dame, who hosts gaming events every night of the week.

Gaming interest grows

Game On - Owners Game On quickly outgrew its downtown location and moved to the Westview Plaza Center where there was more room for merchandise and an opportunity to increase the space for gaming. The gaming room is the setting for nightly “organized play” and, like a bar or coffee shop, it’s also a place for people to gather and connect. Dame and Lytle knew the concept of making their customer base more interactive with the store would not only generate an interest in product but it would provide a sense of community as well.

“In the gaming world there is a niche for everyone,” Lytle said. “And we offer the instruction and location for customers to figure out what interests them.”

As a matter of fact, Game On gifts a free Magic: The Gathering Starter Deck to anyone interested in learning how to play the game.

Winning combination

Game On - McCook Store It seems to be the combination of excellent customer service and a passion for gaming that drives their business to success. Dame and Lytle went on to open a second Game On location in Kearney in 2010 and their website continues to gain momentum. And with five employees, they now find time to combine work and pleasure. Every year they travel to Gen Con, the best-attended gaming convention in the world, to see what’s new in the industry, and in March they attend the GAMA trade show where, in 2012, their business was honored for “Outstanding Marketing.”

Although they excel at promotion, it is only a fraction of what Dame and Lytle do to keep their business thriving. Stabilizing inventory and offering the latest in gaming merchandise are what keep their customers coming back. They are quick to respond to industry trends and whether it’s vintage Nintendo consoles or the newest board game created from a Kickstarter campaign, they make sure Game On is as relevant as any other gaming store in the world.

Great practice for life

Game On - McCook Store Yet as games come and go, Dame and Lytle are both quick to mention that Magic: The Gathering will always be at the core of their business.

Magic is the glue that keeps everything together,” Dame said.

Lytle quickly agreed. “Gaming is great practice for life,” he said. “The skills you use when playing Magic or any other strategic game translates into being the best you can be in any situation.”

It seems as if these two entrepreneurs have managed to find a way to make a living out of what they love to do.

Well played, Game On, well played.

Who To Contact…

Game On

McCook Location
220 Westview Plaza
McCook, NE 69001

Kearney Location
5012 3rd Ave Suite #140
Kearney, NE 68845

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Scott Rager

Robert Scott Rager is a writer, designer, entrepreneur and blogger living in south central Nebraska. You can read more of his work on his blog, County Seat Living (

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