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Video games: those who sell, those who review, and those who play

I recently read a blog post on Penny Arcade’s site that was posted by Gabe that dealt with his issues with a local GameStop/EB (for those who don’t know, they are now owned by the same people so I consider them to be interchangeable, a laughable thing since we have one of each in our local mall).  The issue has been one that I’ve heard and dealt with many a time myself: a person goes in right at launch to buy a game and they tell them that sorry, since you didn’t reserve the game it’s completely sold out, and what a bad person you are for not having reserved said game.  That person then goes to the local Target or Best Buy or Circuit City or what have you and finds, lo and behold, stacks of the game!  He purchases the game, cusses out GameStop/EB, and goes about his merry way.

Now, I’ve heard stories of this ilk many a time before and I’ve actually experienced this myself, going in to GameStop and being told they were already sold out to just walk to the Target some hundreds of feet away and finding that they have plenty of the game in.  What makes things different this time is two items mentioned in the post and subsequent links.  The first one just sickens me: that there have been reports that GameStop/EB employees have actually been told to tell people that they are out of stock for a game (when they aren’t) for the first day or two so that they can increase their reserve rates.  Now, I worked at a GameStop for several months (in the Christmas season nonetheless), and while we were told to basically push reservations and make people feel bad if they didn’t reserve it, I can at least say we weren’t told to outright lie.  That’s just…. I just…. wow.  I just don’t have words for how that would make me feel.  If I ever found that my local GameStop/EB was doing that, I would never, ever purchase anything from them again.

The second item I initially thought was insightful and if nothing else a bit informative, but the more I thought about it the more it annoyed me.  It was a link to the 28 Confessions of a GameStop Shift Supervisor.  Now, I actually sat down and read my way through this lengthy post, and after working at GameStop I really can’t say that what he says is false.  Yes, when I was working there we loved customers who would reserve things and buy into the stupid discount card.  We were required to keep our “numbers” (i.e. how many reservations and discount card sales we did) up or we would be threatened with reduced hours and termination.  And frankly we were always too understaffed to keep a good eye on everything so gutting a game to put the box out was one of the few ways we could keep shoplifters at bay.  And yes, we hated those customers who brought in their N64, Playstation 1, and the 30 games they had to go with it for trade right before the store closed.  I understand this guy’s frustrations, I really do.  But you know what, dude?  If you don’t like it that much, get a different job!  I mean, seriously, if it bothers you that much what people say and do, get out now!

Also, I’m sorry, but GameStop/EB has really turned into a pawn shop over the past several years.  Yes, they still sell new games, but the whole emphasis any more is completely on used game sales and trade-ins.  If you want to purchase a new game from one of these stores you really do have to reserve it, and woe be to you if you take the reservation off.  I just went in the other day to take the reservation off of Assassin’s Creed so I could use the money on something else, also because I wasn’t sure if I wanted the game right now.  I had to deal with flak from the sales clerk trying to get me to buy the game that I didn’t want!  And when I assured him for the 4th time or so that I didn’t want to get that game, he asked me if I wanted to use that money to reserve another game!  When I had already told him that I wanted to use the money to purchase an item I had brought up there!  Good grief, people.  In the end, I had to tell him that I was removing the reservation due in part to financial reasons, which is about the one area that the clerks won’t try to pry into (too dangerous of an area).  It’s about enough to make me never want to enter the store again and only make my purchases either online or at a Best Buy or something.

In the end, someone commented somewhere on the article (I don’t remember where now) and basically said that the last thing they need is a guide on how to shop at a GameStop/EB.  I fully agree.  And really, if you want me to read your guide on how to shop at your store, how about you read a guide on how to work with customers?  What do we want?  It’s simple: a place to go look at games, for you guys to have the utterly new ones in stock (if it came out today, is super popular, and everybody wants it, stock more than 2 of them), and to not be hassled when we come up to the register or while we are walking around in the store.  If you make a store where the customer doesn’t feel like they have to make a reservation to be liked and the staff doesn’t push them around, “they will come”.

The second major topic I want to touch on are those who review games.  Again, the item that made me think was a post on Penny Arcade’s blog, and again it was by Gabe.  Basically, he talked about the recent reviews of Assassin’s Creed and the varied scores that the game is getting.  He was playing the game himself (and loving it) when he read some of these lower scores and the reasons why, so he decided to try and push himself to finish the game.  What he found was that when he pushed himself to finish the game quickly, he didn’t like the game much anymore.  This brings up several thoughts, the foremost being should game reviewers push to get the review out at soon as possible and have to finish the game quickly, or should they wait and take things at a slower pace?

For myself, of course I would love for a reviewer to take things a bit slower because that’s how I’m going to play the game myself.  I rarely play a game to just get to the end as fast as possible, and only then do I do it because there is playability after the game is “finished” (LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga is a perfect example of this, as you can beat the game and only have technically finished 40% of what the game offers).  But is this possible?  I know that when I’m eager to go purchase a game or if I have one on reserve and I need to find out if purchasing it is a good idea or not, I want that review out either on the day of the release or before.  But what about this case?  And who could decide which games get the long treatment vs. a shorter one?  ::sigh::  I don’t know.  I guess the best solution would be for game manufacturers to get the actual street copy of the game to the reviewers earlier.  Then perhaps they can give each game the time they deserve.

And for my final thing that I wish to discuss, it’s actually how much I’ve been playing games lately.  :)  It may come as a surprise to some, but really I haven’t been playing games nearly as much lately as I used to.  And “used to” encompasses a time that was only a few months ago.  I do know of a couple obvious things that have changed since then.  One is of course Natalie, my new daughter, and the other one was finding out that I have CKD.  Now, I don’t want this post to go maudlin again, so I will be mindful of what I say.  In short, if you had the choice between spending time with your family or sitting in a room by yourself playing video games, which would you choose when you actually know your time on this Earth is numbered?  Yes, yes, I did get a good report from the doctor the last time I went, and nothing has really changed since then.  And I do plan on being around for a good long while.  I haven’t annoyed nearly enough people yet.  :)  But gone from my life is that feeling that I have a “bunch of time left” to do what I want, that feeling of freedom that you have that you don’t really feel it till it’s gone.

What does this mean for my video game playing?  Merely that I’m more aware of what time I spend playing games, and how that takes me away from my family.  I’m not going to stop playing!  I like playing video games and I think they are a good tool for relaxing.  But I think I am going to just naturally cut down on the time I spend playing, and try to confine it to times where I wouldn’t be missed, like when nobody’s home, or Natalie’s sleeping, or whatever.  It’s not that I’m going to stop taking time out for myself, because I know I do need to do that, but I’m simply going to try and be more aware of what opportunities and use them when I can.  Will I succeed?  Who knows?  But I have to try.  I just don’t want to wind up being one of those fathers who, when their children are teenagers and about to leave the house, says “I should have been there more, and I should have taken advantage of the time when they were young”.  I know I won’t be there for all the times that I should.  And I might be there for times I shouldn’t.  But I have to try.  I have to try.

Tengo familia.