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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Small Business Spotlight: Every night is game night at Mystery Box Games

Photo by Austin Carey for The Lafayette
Barbara Vasconez and Mik Mattis are the team that runs all operations at Mystery Box Games.

Sunday nights are lively at Mystery Box Games

A group of people gather around a table in heavy debate over “Nemesis,” a cooperative sci-fi horror board game. Their survival is on the line. Some are standing up, others are laughing – all have their eyes glued to the game set. Shelves covered in every board game imaginable surround them. 

“This group here started off as customers,” the co-owner of Mystery Box Games, Barbara Vasconez, said of the players. “They came into our store multiple times, played some games. And now we’re playing games with them because they’ve become friends.” 

Friendship is what started this whole operation: best friends Vasconez and Mik Matiss came up with the idea for Mystery Box Games when they were playing video games one night in 2021.

“One night we were playing Mario Party and I told her about the idea of board game cafes,” Matiss said. “And she was like, ‘You know, we could do that.’ And here we are.”

Mystery Box Games first opened in January 2022 in Downtown Easton and moved to the West Ward on Northampton Street in August. 

The space operates similarly to an arcade. Individuals spend $5 for their first two hours and $5 for every additional hour. During that time, they have access to all the games in the place. Matiss hopes to be a destination where people come together outside of their jobs or homes.

Mystery Box Games welcomes players of all skill levels to pick from a wide array of kid’s games, old-school games, role-playing games, card games and more. The establishment also sells games at the back of the store.

Vasconez actually hadn’t played many board games before opening the business with Matiss. She strives to make Mystery Box Games an inclusive environment for all customers. 

“When you’re in here, we’re actively trying to help you play something new so you get out of your comfort zone, but in a safe environment where you don’t feel judged because you don’t have a million board games,” Vasconez said. 

Besides normal store operations, Mystery Box Games also hosts weekly and monthly events. On Wednesdays, it hosts a Magic: The Gathering draft night and on Thursdays and Saturdays it hosts a Magic: The Gathering Commander event. Sunday afternoons are reserved for juggling club and Pokémon free play. Every third Saturday of the month at noon is “Gayme Day” with the Eastern Pennsylvania Trans Equity Project. 

Each event is accompanied by a Discord channel for further chatting and gameplay.

“I’ve seen two different regulars that we know from two different things come in and be like ‘Oh, you’re so-and-so from the Discord. It’s nice to meet you in person,’” Matiss said.

That’s Mystery Box Games’ mission – to create community. Mattis and Vasconez welcome all and even play with customers, whether it’s a group of friends or a solo gamer.

“The big thing is that we want to be a safe space,” Matiss said. “We get people that have social anxiety … if you can come in by yourself, we’ll sit down and play a game [with you].”

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About the Contributors
Bernadette Russo
Bernadette Russo, Culture Editor
Likes trees and hates writing bios.
Austin Carey
Austin Carey, Staff Photographer

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