On August 30, 1980, Pegasus Games opened in an old house near State Street. The oldest dedicated tabletop gaming store in Wisconsin turns 35 at the end of this month. In celebration, there will be cake, limited-edition T-shirts and, of course, gaming the weekend of Aug. 29-30. Three of the original five founders own the store today — Terry Aitken, Lory Aitken and Mark Anderson.
Pegasus moved to digs on State Street proper in 1984, a peak year for gaming and ur-geek culture in general. Lake Geneva’s TSR, of Dungeons & Dragons fame, released the role-playing games Marvel Super Heroes, Indiana Jones and Conan that year, along with the first Dragonlance gaming module and crossover fantasy novel.
“Wisconsin is blessed with dozens of game designers, and we’ve worked with them from the start,” says Lory Aitken. She notes that folks from TSR have RSVP’d for the birthday celebration, along with John Mueller of card game King of the Jungle fame and Kane Klenko, who devised the real-time city-building game Mad City.
In 1991, “Pega-West” opened in the Market Square shopping center, where it remains today; the downtown location closed in 2001. But Pegasus, which still focuses on board, card and role playing games, must be doing something right in this era of iOS touchscreen games and PlayStation.
“There were times when we thought we might not make it,” says Aitken, who praises the store’s staff, “some of who refused raises at times because they knew we didn’t have the money.”
Game suppliers also helped — waiting, sometimes, for payment, according to Aitken.
Most of all, Aitken praises the store’s customers: “The community of gamers in the area is the backbone. They run most of the gaming events locally, and 40 to 80 people show up for game sessions in our second storefront, which is just full of tables and chairs for gaming.”
What’s next for Pegasus? They’re hoping to update the gaming space in that second storefront, which is right next door, and “continue finding the best games we can,” says Aitken.