Some stenches take a long time to leave my nostrils, and subsequently I don’t visit the mall very often. The crowded corridors are difficult to forget, and the cacophony of crying children, whiny teenagers, and rabid salespeople makes the mall an undesirable destination. Nevertheless, there are some occasions for visiting that cesspit of humanity, and with its claws dug so recently into my neck, I found myself ranting once again about inconsequential and irrelevant things.
The problem is that I irrationally blame the wrong party for most of the evils in our lives, and the mall gives me a billion different excuses to start railing against our society. In this particular instance, I happened to visit Gamestop to see if they had a copy of Heroes of Might and Magic 3 for Mac OS X.
Gamestop has become ubiquitous with brick-and-mortar game stores anymore. What was once Babbage’s in all its glory was purchased by Electronics Boutique some time ago, but the store itself didn’t change much so I didn’t really mind. It didn’t change because it didn’t have time, it turns out: EB was quickly purchased by Gamestop, and the world as we knew it came to an end.
Computer games have taken a number of evolutionary steps in the last two decades, each step angering gamers more than the previous. Increased focus on graphics and flash rather than story, cutting our manuals down to keyboard shortcut reference sheets, and the rise of first person shooters coinciding with the death of the RPG… Other than MMOs (of which there are few), PC games just haven’t done well the last few years.
Now it’s all consoles, and Gamestop reflects this. As I spun wildly around the store, eyes wide in horror, it occurred to me that my quest was doomed from the beginning. I don’t know why I even bothered to go in. Gamestop isn’t my gaming store, because the mass culture of gaming has degenerated to nothing more than vendors pushing crap on kids to waste some time.
Gamestop represents the death of the metagame, of thoughtfulness, and of harmony between gamers. And it’s not like their distribution model has resulted in lower prices; games have skyrocketed in price in the last ten years, until now it has become almost reasonable to pay $50-60 for a game.
Of course, I’m making some wildly insulting assumptions with the above observations and statements. I’m essentially segregating the gaming community into two camps: true gamers (old school) and kiddies (console pill poppers). And it’s particularly stupid because I own a console myself and love the toy. It would cost me well over a thousand dollars to build a computer capable of playing a game at an equivalent graphics level as my XBox 360, and I enjoy kicking back on the couch with a controller.
I just wish the rise of the console hadn’t necessitated the death of the PC game. Relatively few games are released for computers anymore, and it is harder and harder to justify doing so when the console market has become so profitable and far-reaching. But I also don’t feel that we get the same quality of games in regards to story and gameplay anymore. When I get with gamers to talk about games, we often gravitate towards titles released five, ten, or more years ago. Those are the ones we remember and crave, and I think it’s largely because of the metagame.
Older games didn’t have as much flash, and so they had to engage the player on more than an ocular level. The game was something you could “play” even when not at a computer by considering strategy, reading the lore and back story, talking with others about where they were going or what they were doing. There was more to the game than just the game… I feel like we are getting less for our money now.
It’s not going to change, and Gamestop will probably someday team up with Taco Bell and rule the world from their deep-fried brain-dead Tower of Hate. As for me, I’ll just have to avoid the mall for as long as possible to let these wounds scar over… and maybe take some vicodin before I come back.