Welcoming visitors with food, drinks and a bright atmosphere, Victory Point outwardly seems like an ordinary café.
What makes this café unique, however, is that it is home to more than 700 board games organized neatly on its shelves. With available games ranging from Battleship to The Settlers of Catan, customers can travel to faraway worlds or outer space all while being in the comfort of Berkeley with a latte in hand.
The café, which is located on Shattuck Avenue, was co-founded by Areg Maghakian and Derek DeSantis and was established with the aim to create a sense of community through playing board games.
“We see ourselves as a place where people can socialize and get back with their friends,” Maghakian said. “Games are the social lubricant for that.”
With an affinity for coffee and board games, Maghakian and DeSantis decided to work together to establish the café in 2014, and their plans were ultimately brought to fruition in 2015, when the doors to the café were opened.
Victory Point Cafe has consistently worked to create a sense of community since its opening, including expanding its space in order to accomodate more people. The expansion nearly doubled the café’s size, according to assistant manager Nora Burnfield.
Burnfield has worked at the café since its opening and said the employees who have been at the café since the beginning collectively feel like they have gradually gained a much better grasp on what running the business entails.
“We’re getting to a point where we’re really established,” Burnfield said. “We’re more confident in ourselves. We feel like we have a place.”
From the beginning, the café has always had an appeal, which Maghakian attributes to the ability of board games to appeal to childhood nostalgia. He added that playing board games is a “call to old times” as the world is becoming more digitized, and face-to-face interactions are becoming less of a part of daily life.
Maghakian also noted changes in board-gaming in the last decade: “What we’ve seen in the last 10 to 15 years is a gaming renaissance, and board games have gotten significantly better than when we were children.”
The café has become an increasingly popular spot for people of all ages, and everyone can spend their time at Victory Point differently, whether that entails different styles of games or just relaxing in the space.
Although many people stop at the café to grab a bite to eat or use it as a place to work, Victory Point is known as a place where community members of all ages can come to play. Burnfield added that many of the café’s customers are frequent patrons.
“I love the regulars,” Burnfield said. “Seeing familiar faces creates a sense of community.”
Whether someone comes to the café alone or with a group, customers can enjoy the games the café has to offer for $5 on weekdays and $7.50 on weekends. A number of the café’s employees — who have gotten to know a multitude of the games during their time working at the café — recommend different games to customers and can teach them how to play.
Jonathan Bielak, a teacher and Berkeley community member, said he always feels comfortable at the café, even when he comes to play games solo. As a parent, he also expressed appreciation for the café’s ability to create a family-friendly environment.
Maghakian said he enjoys seeing people having a good time playing, adding that one can learn a lot about an individual’s personality by how they play. Maghakian also said one of his favorite things about Victory Point is how often couples come to the café for a first date, adding that some couples who met at the café have since been engaged.
Though its day-to-day operations offer a steady stream of gameplay, Burnfield said Monday nights are among her favorites. Each Monday, the café has an open game night starting at 6 p.m. — people can come in solo or with a small group and get paired with another group to play a game.
Burnfield said these nights foster an even greater sense of community, and people often make friends by attending. She added that many of these individuals come back to play with the people they meet at these open game nights.
“We’re fortunate in that gaming is for everyone — it’s for kids as well as adults and seniors,” Maghakian said. “It’s nice to provide something that sort of crosses all of (the) demographics.”