Game.Stop, a short fiction

“Did you know you can trade in your old games for credit towards your purchases?”

My eyes glance around the store. A 5-foot tall poster tells me to Go Green Save Money by trading in my old games for someone else’s old games. Empty game cases line the walls, each one’s cover art marred with a bright green Trade Me sticker. I look down to my left, then right. On each side of me is a bin that shouts Recycled and is filled with more games, more green stickers. Finally I look down at the counter, covered in flyers promising me the best value if I trade in the most wanted titles. I could get up to $30 if I trade in The Order, a game I paid $70 for when it came out 9 days ago.

“Yes” I say flatly.

She continues, undeterred. “Right now we’re having a promotion where if you bring in 5 of your old games that are worth $8 or more we’ll give you $100 towards…”

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard her go through this speech. In fact, I had just heard her recite it to the two customers in front of me. The glint in her eyes seems to dim with each repetition. While the words fall out of her mouth in the way only things so rehearsed and meaningless can do, I wonder what she’s really thinking.

“…we’re also currently taking pre-orders on the new Amiibos that are coming out…”

I imagine she was initially really excited to get this job. The money probably sucks and I doubt customer service was her first choice, but the love of games made up for it. Who could complain about getting paid to be around and talk about games all day? I bet it was fun for a while. Thumbing through the shelves each day she probably discovered all kinds of new games she wanted to play. Her first few paychecks likely went right back to into the store. The employee discount was small, but at least it was something.

“…there’s still a bonus if you trade in your old 3DS for the New 3DS, which is compatible with the Amiibos…”

I wonder how quickly it started going downhill. When was the first time her manager took her aside and admonished her for chatting about games too much and touting the amazing trade-in deals too little? Told her it was mandatory to recite at least 5 of the current offers to any customer she cashed out or spoke to on the phone. Reinforced that she should always ALWAYS sell used copies of the games over new.

“Would you like to guarantee your game for only $2?”

How many times has she been told to get those guarantee sales up? How often is she compared to her obnoxiously overeager coworker who always has a smile plastered onto his face and is unphased by the dirty looks he gets as he goes on, and on, and on.

“No thank you.” I smile in a vague attempt to offer my sympathy for having to ask this question..

“Are you sure? In case of any damage or scratching we’d replace the disc…”

As much as this overly long sales pitch makes me want to scream, I stay quiet. It’s not her fault this is what her job requires of her. She knows this is a racket, that her place of employment is basically picking the pockets of the game companies, a number of whom make games she loves (and some of whom she couldn’t care less about). That fact is probably easy enough to put at the back of her mind though, while me telling her what I really think of her sales pitch would not be so easy to ignore.

I shake my head.

“Do you have an Edge card?”

I’m sure she’s seen her fair share of customers who are less concerned with being polite. Seeing people’s eyes glaze over as she begins the checkout process is probably the best she has to look forward to. Outright verbal abuse hopefully doesn’t happen often but she’s a sales associate, so I’m sure it does happen.

As I hand her my loyalty card and payment I hear her coworker haranguing a couple browsing through the XBox One games behind me.

“Did you know you can trade in your old games for credit towards this purchase?” he asks eagerly.

“We don’t have any games to trade with us.”

“That’s okay, if you bring them in with your receipt later on I can reimburse you for the value of the games.” I glance over my shoulder and see that he’s standing very close to the couple, nodding as he talks.

“Well, I’m not sure our son has anything he’d be willing to part with,” the woman responds, glancing at her husband.

It’s not hard to tell that the couple is uncomfortable and just want to pick out a game.

“Well, you can bring in anything, even if the discs are scratched…” he just keeps going.

I think back to when I was a teenager and I used to like visiting Electronics Boutique. The walls were lined with shiny new copies of Playstation, Nintendo, and big box computer games. Now the PC games are all but gone. If there was ever a valid argument for the merits of PC gaming it’s that game stores don’t harass you about recycling them.

I quickly take back my cards and the bag the woman at the cash hands me and start rushing out of the store.

“Don’t forget to bring your games back to us when you’re done with them.”

I promise myself I won’t go back there. Again.

15 responses to “Game.Stop, a short fiction

  1. I don’t think we have Gamestop here in Oz, but EB has that soulless feel that you describe. It’s one of the reasons why I have never really felt like I was missing out by not having a console – the more the PC games market became focused on digital distribution, the more anachronistic it felt to be limited to having to either go to a store (and endure the sales pitch) or order online (and have to wait for delivery).

    Don’t both PS and XBox have digital distribution now? How long are they going to hold on to hard copies?
    Dahakha recently posted..What if: Prophecies

    • GameStop owns EB, at least here, I’m not sure about Australia.

      Consoles do have digital distribution, and I think hard copies are on their way out. I think the game companies have to go digital in order to combat places like EB, who have basically built a business on stealing their money. Hard copies had more of a place on the older consoles when space was limited, but that seems to be changing. GTAV on XBox One for example, requires a 50gig installation, even if you have a disc. What’s the point of the disc then?

  2. Also I think this is exceedingly relevant and cringeworthy:

    Dahakha recently posted..What if: Prophecies

  3. I can’t do Game Stop anymore. We’ll go in occasionally if we need a hardware piece immediately, but more often than not we just buy digital copies of PC games or use Amazon for the rare system game we purchase. EB and Media Play used to be these godly stores. Now all of them are just becoming Ferengis, in the worst way.
    Chestnut recently posted..The Token

    • I try not to buy much at GameStop. I’ve been making a real effort to not buy anything recycled from them, as I’d like the people who actually made the game to profit from sales. However, my boyfriend still gets stuff from there and there’s a store right beside my work, so I’m often in there to pick things up for him. It’s so obnoxious, and I swear the sales pitch gets longer and worse each time I go in.

  4. Over a decade ago, I was a sales employee for the local EB Games (which was later bought out by Game Stop). Things were very different back then. Sure, we had some quickie lines we had to repeat when we answered the phone… “Thank you for calling EB, where you can prepurchase XYZNewGameComingOut. How may I help you?” (And I still remember it even now…)

    But that was the extent of it for many years. And it was actually a great job back then. I remember with fondness hanging out with customers and talking games. It was THE place to go for gamers in my little town… since it was the only game shop around back then.

    Then, about the second year I worked there, came the corporate push to sell Game Doctors (machines that fixed your scratched disks). Suddenly, we had to make so many Game Doctor sales within a month, which amounted to trying to talk the things up and sell them. We did sell some, but honestly, in our town, there’s only so many of the things you’re going to move.

    Then came the restructuring and the silly training manuals and videos. Suddenly we had to memorize sales manuals and have people observe our sales tactics on the floor. Let me tell you, that was pressuring, and that was the beginning of the canned info we were supposed to try to feed our customers. Most of us didn’t do it, though, beyond the test. We were gamers and we knew our gaming customers were smarter than that.

    I left once I finished college, just in time to avoid having to push magazine sales with every game we sold. And before Game Stop bought them out.

    It’s been an evolution downward. I don’t envy anyone in retail, because I’ve done my time.
    Aywren recently posted..FFXIV Progress: Triple Triad, Syrcus, Scholar, and Epic Hats

    • It does seem like it would have been a cool place to work a decade ago. I used to love going to Electronics Boutique for games.

      I never worked at a game store, but I did work at Chapters (a book store) for a number of years. It was the same thing. First it was great, I got to be around and talk about books all day. When I worked on cash, I was asked to sell loyalty cards but that wasn’t too big a deal, I could tell who would buy one and who not to waste my time on. Then another company, Indigo, bought Chapters. All of a sudden we had sales contests, we were selling less books and more other junk. We were told to push certain items over others. It became a lot less fun.

      • Yeah, it’s amazing how different it feels walking into a GameStop of today. Hobby shops still have that old feeling, but rarely do I find places to go where you can relax, have a friendly chat with your cashier about new titles, and leave without being harassed into a credit card/warranty/membership.
        Murf recently posted..Bonus Objective: How do you keybind?

  5. I just go to Best Buy for physical copies for my PS4, and online purchases otherwise for my PC. I used to love old comic book stores for the same reasons why I used to love old gaming stores. The hangout and like minded community was built there. That is no more, clearly.
    Isey recently posted..WoW Doesn’t Need More Revenue Streams

    • I still have this naive kind of hope that one day I’ll be in an EB and I’ll actually have a conversation about games with someone, but it never happens. When I went to pick up DAI I was asked the stereotypical “are you buying this for yourself?” and not even by the sales person, by another customer.

  6. I purchase all of my console games on Newegg or Amazon. Often, they even have deals with pre-orders that aren’t more useless junk (I got The Last of Us PS4 for $5 dollars off on Newegg). I know it is the age of insta-gratification, but I can wait a few days usually.

    I do still wander into my local Gamestop though. I honestly miss going there and being happy about it. “Going to town” meant driving 30 minutes or more to the bigger city, so I would always beg my mom to let me go to the mall and the city’s only EB/Gamestop. I was too shy as a kid to make friends that way, but I loved being surrounded by the things I loved, games!

    Every time I visit, I have a strong sense of nostalgia and melancholy. I almost never purchase anything.
    Murf recently posted..Bonus Objective: How do you keybind?

    • I generally don’t mind waiting either. There are maybe 3 or 4 titles a year that I consider day 1 purchases. GameStop is really the most convenient, but I keep getting more and more hesitant to give them any of my money.

  7. After that visit, I wouldn’t blame you for never visiting that GameStop again! You’d think that most GameStop associates would know that *most* of their customers understand how the store works.

    We have two GameStops in town — one is great (the associates are relatively nice and don’t give you the “hard sell” all the time), the other one is awful (the associate are rude and nothing ever seems to be in stock, ever.) Though we get most of our games online, we do occasionally visit the nice GameStop for pre-orders and such. What they try to hock most often is Game Informer subscriptions. Thanks, but no thanks.
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