It started like any other day. I woke up, took a shower, put on some pants. You know, the usual. Little did I know that I was about to embark on a journey that would make Dante's Inferno seem like a trip to Ikea.
Over the summer, I had been working at least 40 hour shifts each week, sometimes climbing up to 60 hours in a week. A vacation was needed. It just so happened that this final week of summer was the most viable time to take a break. A week with no responsibility, no work, and no need for pants (I still decided I would wear them however as a courtesy to my nieghbors).
The first few days were pleasant. I caught up on some anime in my backlog, started a new JRPG (Tales of Xillia 2), and lounged around with the almost ecstatic feeling that, for the next 168 hours, I was completely free. As I neared completion on my Xillia 2 playthrough, I pondered the potential of picking up another game. After all, I have this free time, so I might as well make the most of it.
So, I riffled through my walltet. The stereotypical "POOF" sound wafted from the billfold. I picked small bits of moss from the area where the money should be, a sign of the amount of time my wallet had been without food. Undeterred, I checked my accounts. As it turned out, I had $30 in Best Buy Reward coupons and a small amount on my Best Buy credit card. Finally, a stroke of luck!
I researched for days on what I should get and psyched myself up for Metro Redux on PS4. Hype was building, though I tried to be realistic. Many gamers know the hype feeling. One does not simply buy a game. Half the fun is the psychological torture one puts him or her self through in preperation. Once it arrives, world peace will be achieved, a general calm will fall over the earth, and Justin Beiber will spontaneously combust. Truly, the world will be a better place.
In reality, this hype is the very thing that betrays us. It is because we expect so much that we often feel so miffed when the final product is not capable of being everything we want. Still, we continue to engage in the same process again and again. I attempt to guard againt this hype by keeping expectations low, which was my goal today.
It was around noon on 08/27/2014. I strolled off on my seemingly mundane journey to my local Best Buy in hopes of ensnaring my target. I strolled in the door with a swagger about me. "That's right, it is noon on a Wednesday and I am shopping" I imagined saying to the guy at the front of the store. It is so rare to feel like you have swag and today, I had more of it than Kanye West.
"HYPE SET TO LOW"
"SWAG SET TO MAX"
I go the the shelf where my prize awaits...only to find no prize. I see the tag. I see the empty section of rack, but I do not see the object of my hype. I ask an employee to check if any may still be in the backroom. I watch as he scampers off, and then I awkwardly hang out in the games section feigning interest in game cases until my shepard returns. After some time, I see him in the distance making the slow walk of shame towards me. There is nothing in his hands, which clues me in to the impending conversation. "The system says we have 2 in stock, but they are missing. Sorry." I knew it was not this guy's fault that 2 copies of the game had vanished, and so I thanked him for his effort and marched towards my car with my head held up high. There is another Best Buy 20 minutes away, I told myself. A slight detour, but no problem. If anything, this little detour only hightens my hype for the game since we always want what we cannot have. It does damper my swag ever so slightly however.
"HYPE SET TO MODERATE"
"SWAG SET TO HIGH"
I pulled into the second Best Buy of the day. As I walked towards the entrance, I noticeed that the heat was sweltering and the humidity was thicker than a space marine's bicep. I confidently strolled in and instantly made a beeline towards the games. Upon arrival, I scaned the (poorly) alphabetized rack of games and found the spot where my prize should have been. For a split second, I enter a state of shock. Surely, it could not happen again. I scan the area a second, third, fourth time. Nothing. I again trouble an employee. Maybe they are on a new release kiosk or something.
"Lemme check for you" the surpisingly well demeanored employee said. He pulled the game up on the computer in store to check inventory and then responded in a way that gave me such severe deja vu that I began to wonder if I was Bill Murray in Groundhog Day: "Our computer says we have 2 in stock I will check the back." As he walked away, I tried to reassure myself. After all, what are the odds of a crazy random happenstance occuring twice in the same day to the same person? I again tried to act inconspicuous in the aisle until my potential savior returned. After a few minutes, I saw him in the distance. I braced myself for the results, refusing to look down at his hands for fear of the inevitable. "I checked, but we don't have any. I don't know why the computer is showing that we have 2."
A sharp pain ran from my brain to my toes. It was as if a vision had presented itself before me and shown me the harsh reality: I was doomed to repeat this cycle from now until the end of time. I was Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow. Instead of robo-aliens, my scourge was Best Buy employees. The end result was the same though.
"NO," I told myself. I will not submit. I will get this damned game.
HYPE SET TO HIGH
SWAG SET TO TOM CRUISE (MODERATE)
The only other Best Buy near me was quite the trek. Rather than set myself up for instant disappointment, I checked the online tracker again (not that it had been very useful up until now). The site said they did not have it, and so there would be no sense in going. Fine. Time to try different methods.
My family forced me to get a Wal-Mart credit card about a year back. It was the holidays and we needed extra cash to buy essential items like Monopoly: Multi-Colored Pebbles edition. I had some money left on the card, and so I decided that, if ever there was an endeavor that warranted using the card, this was it.
I entered the Wal-mart, already a bit dejected. Just the fact that I had been forced to go to Wal-Mart was an assault on my swagger. It might not quite be Mordor, but it is at least that City where the Nazgul attacks. along the way. Still, at least this journey would finally be over. I may have had to compromise my integrity to do so, but at least I would succeed in my mission. After all, every good story needs the hero to fall down in order to get back up.
I slinked to the games section, hoping to grab my game and get out before any ring-wraiths came my way. I reached the case, scanned it, and felt a familiar sting. There's the tag, there's the shelf, and there's nothing on it. I asked an employee, a surpremely disinterested man that obviously had been robbed of his soul long ago by the corporate machine, if he could check the back. He shot me a look, and then caved to my demands.
He returned after what felt like an eternity to give me a dilemna: "I have good news and bad news...." Obviously, this would not end well. "We have the game, but we cannot sell it to you. The game does not release until next month." I feigned politness and demanded the man let me speak to someone from electronics. He ushered me towards the electronics checkout where I encountered another disinterested soul. Again, the man did not strike me as particularly mean or rude, just numb. That is, he knew what to say and when, but had no emotions. Those had long since been stamped out. I prodded him to look at Amazon, Best Buy, Gamestop, etc. The release date was obviously yesterday, not next month. Reason did not matter however. The man had a script that he needed to maintain. "The system says otherwise, and I cannot sell it to you." I don't know how I responded to that statement. I know I did not say something openly hostile, but I know the tone of my voice was definitely hostile. The words were something like "Well, that is wrong, but thank you for your time," but the sub-text was something along the lines of "I HATE YOU, YOU MONSTER, I SHOULD KICK YOU IN THE NUTS RIGHT NOW."
It was at this moment, that I was reminded of a scene from The Dark Knight. "Some men just want to watch the world burn." I had now become that man. I had nothing left.
HYPE SET TO "I WILL DIE IF I DO NOT OBTAIN THIS F***ING DISC BECAUSE THIS IS THE ONLY THING THAT WILL VALIDATE MY GODDAMNED EXISTENCE."
SWAG SET TO "I HATE MYSELF AND I HATE YOU ALL"
As I prepared to storm out of the Wal-Mart with fevered rage, I was momentarily snapped back to reality. I bought a paltry few dollars of items to the self checkout, and concocted a plan. I rang out and clicked the "cash back" button so hard that I am shocked that I did not insert my finger throgh the electronic device, thus electrocuting myself to death (this would have beeen keeping with the theme of the day thus far). Surely, by transforming my cash into legal tender, I could find somewhere on the planet that was selling this holy artifact. In some alley somewhere, I would be able to pay a man in a trenchcoat who would give me the game and a hefty discount on some heroin.
Now that I had cash, I decided that the best course of action would be to just charge headfirst into the heart of Mordor itself. I drove to the nearest Gamestop, and caustiously trodded on the forbidden ground. I reached the shelf and again found a hole. At this point, disappointment and frustration had given way to numbness. I had nothing left to give. Perhaps I would just begin my life anew, spending the majority of my time writing in my diary under the pen-name NightPayne 666 while blaring Linkin Park from my stereo. Still, I decided I might as well talk to Sauron himself before leaving. I approached the counter and asked the store associate if they had the game. He grimaced, and prepared himself to respond in the negative, but something gave him hesitation. It may have been kindness, it may have just been a sense of duty, it may have been that he sensed I may lunge at him in suicidal rage if he gave me more bad news. Whatever it was, he paused and said "I think we actually just got more in this morning. This might be your lucky day." I attempted to mask laughter under my breath at the connotation of it being my lucky day, but his words intrigued me. I refused to succumb to hope though. Hope leads to pain and misery. I knew better than to hope. From the drawer, he slowly raised a shimmering, glistening object. I audibly gasped, frozen in this moment in time. My journey would finally end. Could it actually end?
After suffering through some questions of regarding my desire to pre-order things, renew my powerup card, or take a survey, the game was placed into my hands. On any other day, these slight irritations at Gamestop would be cause for some consternation. Today however, was not one of those days. I found these quirks endearing. Sauron was my friend today and there was nothing he could do to annoy me.
HYPE LEVEL SET TO "THIS GAME WILL NEVER LIVE UP TO THE EXPECTATIONS I NOW HAVE"
SWAG LEVEL SET TO:
What did I learn from this whole experience? I am still replaying that question to my self. Boy Meets World reruns have taught me that there is always a life lesson that can be shoehorned in somewhere. Was it that pride cometh before the fall? That is, maybe I should have kept my swag low since my overconfidence invited problems. Or, maybe that Gamestop is a necesary evil when it comes to brick and mortar stores? After all, they saved my bacon in this instance and generated a hell of a lot of goodwill from me in the process.
Maybe I could be more introspective and say that I learned that I should be more happy with the things I have? After all, I own plenty of older games in my backlog that I could have played instead. Or, maybe I learned that brick and mortar stores are losing money for a reason and that this is further evidence that Amazon is the best invention ever?
I don't know if any of those were the take away lesson. The only thing I know is that I endured what I can only imagine is the gamer's equivalent of hell today, and that I survived.
Oh, and Metro Redux better be the best goddamn game on the planet...or else.
Crisco is a TAY commentor who occassionally writes really long meandering articles and essays about random topics. He enjoys assorted cheeses, the band "Tool," and using straws to make himself look like he has Beaver teeth.