When I was a kid going to a video game store used to be fun. Yes, that’s correct, just as the title suggested. Actually, it doesn’t suggest it — it downright states it. I guess I should explain this in two parts. First, why it used to be an enjoyous activity and finally (which is redundant in saying as it’s only a list of two things) why it sucks ass nowadays.
Before I get started, yes you’re right, enjoyous isn’t a real word. I think it should be. Because of this, I’m going to use it no more than three times in this little article. Considering it’s been used twice already I’ll use it just once more. WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT!
PART ONE: THE ENJOYOUSMENT OF THE PAST
Surprise! I bet you weren’t expecting it that early where ya? Okay, alright. Sure, technically it’s not the actual word but a variation, but that’s what made it more of a surprise.
Anyway, I digress.
As a kid, I didn’t strictly go to video games stores. Back then I don’t think there were any game store chains around. If anything there would be dedicated mom & pop (mum and dad) shops that you would go to for most, if not all of your video game related needs. EB Games was still a bit of aways out from launching in AUS. In fact, Good ol’ Electronics Boutique didn’t get going until 1997. And you know what? It was probably even later than that in Perth.
I have no recollection of going to an actual dedicated video game store as a youngun. Back in the day of the NES my brothers and I only really saw video games in department stores like Kmart. Just because Kmart is the department store I mentioned doesn’t mean your other household or garden variety department stores aren’t as good. Feel free to substitute your favourite which would have sold video games in the early ’90s.
I remember distinctly that the electronics area was in the middle of the clothing sections. I could be very wrong. After all, memory cannot and should not be trusted. When you remember something you aren’t actually remembering back to the time of the event, rather just the last time you remembered about the event. So, in my mind looking at NES games such as Super Mario Bros. 3 and Metal Gear between pantsuits and women’s hosiery was a legitimate thing. Back then games were kept under lock and key in glass cabinets, being the high ticket items they were. At a hundgey a piece, they certainly didn’t want kids getting their grubby little mitts all over them, covering the cartridges in jam and such.
The early ’90s also saw the arrival of big box toys stores in Australia. Sure, there was the obvious retailer Toys “R” Us, whose grammar was only out-worsened by the aptly named World 4 Kids. Not only did these havens for entertainment have video games kept locked up and out of reach, they also had IDUs. If you didn’t already know, IDU stands for Interactive Display Unit. My specific memory leads me to believe World 4 Kids was better, as they had different game systems set up at multiple endcaps. Going from playing Super Mario All-Stars then running down to the other end of the store to play Aladdin on Sega Mega Drive, all the while being yelled at by my parents to “CHOOSE SOME DAMN TOYS AND STOP PLAYING VIDEO GAMES! WE DON’T HAVE ALL DAMN DAY!” Ahh, simpler times… Simpler times.
I swear this place was cool
PART TWO: THE SHITTENING
As time goes on and the numbers dwindle the Shittening begins. It’s rather quite similar to the Quickening from the movie Highlander, starring the myopically challenged Christopher Lambert, or as the director of the film (I assume it was the director — my memory could be lying) in the special features of the Highlander DVD calls him, “Christoph Lambear”.
How is the Shittening similar to the Quickening you ask? Well now, that’s a very good question. Why don’t you sit a spell and I’ll tell you all about it…
Hey! Where are you going? Okay, Okay, I won’t talk about Highlander anymore.
This photo actually makes sense
But the Shittening is real. It’s a condition that most, if not all frequenters of video game retail outlets will face. Speaking of faces, the Shittening is multifaceted. In Part Two of this two-part… thing… I’ll explain what these faces are. And this already being Part Deux, I guess I should actually start.
Going video game shopping no longer brings me the same kind of joy as it did as a child. As a kid, we had very few responsibilities, if any at all. It was our parent’s job to make sure we stayed alive. When you were a toddler they were tasked with being the orderly in charge of your suicide watch, making sure that you, as a mindless drooling blob, didn’t stick a slobbery fork into an electrical outlet. Frankly, I think the use of “therapeutic restraints” may have been an acceptable step in many peoples developmental years. Our parents had the burden placed upon them, in many cases willingly, to take care of the things that now make going to get games and game related stuffs suck.
It’s the everyday shit that makes the Shittening come to be. It’s the responsibilities that no longer belong to someone else. They’re all your’s baby! If you’re out of school it’s likely you have a job. I know why you have a job too. No, it’s not because it fills you with self-worth or makes you feel like an integral part of the community. It’s because you got bills dawg! You’ve got shit you wanna buy! You got a pimp that needs his protection money, in the form of government taxes that pay for things like your libraries, roads and healthcare (sorry U.S.A.!) And remember just like any good pimp, it’s not afraid to let you see the back of its hand if you don’t pay what’s due.
The downside of being a self-sufficient, worldly part of society, that attends a workplace at least five days a week, is that you only get a couple of days of “me time”. Really when you think about it the so-called two days of me time is shortened instantly by the need to sleep. Any self-respecting person knows fifteen hours of sleep is required to recharge one’s batteries, but that isn’t the real world. So let’s play it safe and say 8 hours is the average amount of time spent in slumber. That’s sixteen hours out of the possible forty-eight gone already. Now add in what should be non-negotiables, such as eating, showering, evacuation of the insides… That could easily take up an hour or two a day getting you down to a potential minimum of just twenty-eight hours left. Heck, you probably have other stuff to do as well, like chores etc. I certainly do. I’m mean, I could be playing games RIGHT NOW! But no, here I am writing about not having enough time to play games. In reality, you could only have a few hours a week to play games.
It’s the conundrum. When you’re a kid you have all the time in the world to play video games, but no money to buy them. When you’re older you have money but no time. It’s a cruel mistress growing up. That’s one reason why it sucks to go to buy video games now; you get to look at all the games you won’t have time to play.
But that is life. You can’t blame the things you can not change and unlike what those twelve-step programs tell you, you don’t need to have the serenity to accept these said things. We have a right to complain about them as much as we damn well please. However, if you want to change your life you’re probably looking to change it in a major way and video games, I’m sure, would probably be irrelevant. For those of us who aren’t going to dramatically change up life, these issues are probably the main things that cause going to a video game store to suck. For me, there’s something that is only recent and much worse.
Whenever I go to buy a video game, video game merch, pop-culture goodies or literally anything else at my local video game store, or even one on the other side of town, I get asked the same question:
“Are you buying this as a gift for someone?”
Every. Single. Time. Last week I went to EB Games and bought a set of Super Mario Bros. fridge magnets. And in that young-adult demeaning manner they asked the stupid question. NO, THEY ARE NOT A GIFT FOR SOMEONE ELSE. I HAVE A FRIDGE. CAN I NOT HAVE A FRIDGE? WHERE DO YOU EXPECT ME TO KEEP MY COLD GOODS?!? IF I HAD CHILDREN WHAT ELSE WOULD I USE TO DISPLAY THEIR CRAPPY ART WITH ON THE MAGNET BOARD OF “OH LOOK DADDY AREN’T I SO GREAT!”. YOU DON’T KNOW ME! I’M YOUR FUTURE! I USE TO BE YOU DAMMIT!
Believe it or not, I was the Store Manager
It’s not their fault I guess. I’m no longer the target demographic. I’m at the age where I’m meant to be made to feel old. Heck, I’m early thirty-somethin’. And I literally did use to be them too. Well, you know not literally. But yes, literally. I peddled the merch to the masses in a video game store when I was their age. Fuck, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was about to drop when I started and now they’re trying to unload the eleventh title later in the series to me. They want me to feel old. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s not on purpose. Did I do the same thing when I sold a game to someone older? I hope not. I sure as heck don’t want the burden of being the one responsible to send them into an emotional breakdown every time they buy a game, causing an existential crisis; questioning if their life has meaning, purpose or value.
I dunno, there is something to twelve-step programs. Let’s see here.
Step 1 – We admitted I am powerless
Yes. I am powerless over this.
Step 2 – Come to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.
Nope. Fuck this bullshit. It’s one thing to admit you might need help, but to leave it in the hands of the non-existent… No thanks.
It’s a stretch for me to relate getting older and things changing to addiction management. Changing your life is doable and yes, it doesn’t have to be in a major way. It certainly doesn’t require getting rid of your worldly possessions and moving to a hippie commune in the forest (I actually know someone who kinda sorta did this, not to say being reminded I’m getting old is reason to do it, but sometimes it sure sounds nice) but possibly some smaller changes.
Not that I’ve consciously been making changes mind you. A few days ago I got a haircut. For as long as I’ve been paying for my own haircuts, maybe even before, I go in and get the same thing, more or less. Number three on the back and sides and blended into the top. When I went to the barber I wasn’t really thinking I wanted a change, or that I needed one. It was just for the sake of doing it. At the end of last year, I also got my first tattoo. Aren’t you supposed to do this in reverse order?
It’s not like I did these things to try and fix issues caused by buying video games. And it’s not like I’m doing it for a change. When my brother found out I was getting a tattoo he claimed it must be a mid-life crisis. I think it’s nice he thinks I’m gonna die in my early sixties.
Halfway through writing Part One, I realised I wanted to add a third part, but that directly interfered with the statement about the redundancy of using the word finally, so here we are in an epilogue.
Realistically, I think I summed it up with “But that is life.” Ain’t nothin’ can be done about it. I also believe there’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it or changing things in your life, whether it’s as simple as a new haircut or moving to a forest.
This, in what should really be called Part Three, actually would more appropriately be called Part 1.5 and is set during the time when I went to a video game store every day. It’s weird because it should really fall into The Shittening. I was responsible for myself and working full time. The same issues were still kinda there to an extent, ie. not having the time to play games, but it wasn’t terrible at all going to a video game store every day. The only people insinuating I was old then were my friends.
And if you were wondering, its an undercut fade “trendy” kinda haircut.