Though hundreds of thousands of gamers swear by Amazon.com when it comes to ordering new releases or old favourites, I've never once ordered a video game from the popular online marketplace. Despite the allure of free launch day delivery and bonus credit, I've limited my game spending to local retailers. I didn't realise why until I finally caved and purchased SoulCalibur V online.
It hit me late Saturday night: SoulCalibur V was coming out in a few days and I'd yet to preorder a copy.
Despite the fact that I've never really had problems getting games without specifically preordering them, years of smirking GameStop employees had done their work. I panicked, just a little bit. It was a silly thing to panic over, but I find that if I loose all my pent-up anxiety on the little things there's none left for when something truly horrible happens and I can keep a level head. It's OK to be a little unbalanced if you know how to guide the inevitable fall.
As soon as I got home I hopped onto my computer to rectify what (in my head) had grown into an error of planet-destroying magnitude. Moments earlier in the car my wife-figure had mentioned how much she loved SoulCalibur, so suddenly it wasn't just about me; my family needed the game, and a father is a fierce beast when protecting his family.
Stabbing the keyboard with fingertips like especially dull, fleshy daggers (five tiny hand penises?) I logged into the website of my usual video game retailer, which I won't name (but rhymes particularly well with GameStop). There were no more copies of the collector's edition available for site to store shipping, and I had to have the collector's edition. I loaded a copy into my cart for normal delivery, but then I remembered that there were other places to purchase video games online. Kinder places. Gentler places. Kindler places?
Why hadn't I thought of Amazon before? That's what went through my head as I dropped the all-important collector's edition of SoulCalibur V into my cart, entered Emily's credit card information, selected launch day shipping and completed my order. It was so fast, so easy. I leaned back in my chair with a grin. "Hey love, I've got a copy of the SoulCalibur V collector's edition coming on Tuesday" I proudly proclaimed.
"What's in the collector's edition?" she asked.
Pause. "Let me look that up."
And that was that. No driving to the store in the middle of the night. No standing in line with video game loving strangers, discussing World of Warcraft. No hours spent watching boys act awkwardly around the store's attractive young female employee. Just a couple of clicks, and I was on the express lane to SoulCalibur V land.
I was also a little sad.
Those are all the things I love about getting a brand new video game. The waiting, the anticipation, the camraderie, the awkwardness; even if Amazon made chat rooms so people waiting for their delivery could sit around chatting, dropping out one-by-one as the UPS man knocked it wouldn't be quite the same.
Now I don't blame Amazon for stealing the fun from my new video game purchase. I made a conscious choice to utilise the technology I've afforded myself to steal away my own fun.
So I blame myself? No, I blame the internet.
Let's take a trip back to early 1991. Me and a couple of co-workers from Arby's had just closed the store off of Lower Roswell Road in Marietta, Georgia, after spending several additional hours cleaning for a VIP visit the next day. It was around 3.30am, and somehow our manager had managed to schedule us all to open the store at 6am for breakfast as well.
With nowhere to go and nothing to do in the two-and-a-half hours we had between shifts, we did something that young people did a lot back then: We sat in the parking lot and talked about completely stupid stuff. Ex-girlfriends; movie quotes; the proper use of ammonia (shooting flies out of the air in the back room); how meat-headed our manager was; we talked quite a lot, but the core of our conversation was embalming fluid.
Specifically, we couldn't figure the name of the main chemical used in embalming fluid. We tried to remember this for nearly an hour. Why were a trio of Arby's employees trying to remember such a thing? That doesn't matter, unless you were eating at that particular Arby's around that time, and I'm pretty sure the statute of limitations has passed.
The point is we tried to come up with the answer for hours. It wasn't until we were all at work a few days later that one of us busted out with "Formaldehyde!"
You don't get conversations like that anymore. The question is asked, puzzling glances are exchanged, and smart phones are reached for. The answer is found on Wikipedia, and we move on.
Some would argue this is a better way. Hell, I'd probably argue it was a better way too if I weren't feeling so damn melancholy about the whole thing.
There are no more "wasted" hours spent puzzling over the unknown, bugging strangers for help and just generally fooling around. Spur-of-the-moment late-night cross-county runs to 24 retail establishments looking for obscure items have been replaced with a minute or two of internet shopping.
And now it seems like my waiting in line for hours in the middle of the night for a new game release days are at an end as well. Sure, I'll still camp out for consoles, and now and then work will send me out into the cold to get pictures of folks standing in line. Otherwise, it's release date delivery for me.
I'm going to miss those things something fierce. *sniffle*
Unless my copy of SoulCalibur V doesn't make it in time, of course. Good thing Amazon never screws up game shipments.