I would describe myself as having an addictive personality; one who finds it impossible to practice both patience and consumer restraint. Nowhere is this more apparent than when it comes to video games. I’m the sort of gamer that has to have a game as soon as it comes out; I’m not interested in waiting until its price is reduced, or waiting for the “complete” game of the year edition. No. I have to have it now. I'll purchase multiple copies of games that I love because the developer added new content. I’ll re-buy the new model of a console because I hate being left with what my brain perceives as “inferior” technology. (Yes, I am one of those people who immediately pre-ordered the “slim” versions of both the Xbox 360 and PS3, as soon as they were announced).
The story I am about to tell is the crown jewel of my consumerism. It is a tale about my £400 copy of Grand Theft Auto 4
A few years back, Rockstar announced that they would be returning to Liberty City for their upcoming Grand Theft Auto 4
. At first I didn’t care because GTA
had never been a franchise I was particularly fond of playing. Sure, I’d dabbled in the birds-eye-view world of GTA 1
, but I’d never found my footing in the later 3D releases. While my friends were raving about San Andreas
, I was busy playing Knights of the Old Republic
for the 50th time. Gunning people down in the street and causing mayhem with vehicles never struck me as something I would enjoy, especially when applying a sense of realism that 3D graphics had brought to the genre. (In retrospect, this was a bad decision, and I’ve since gone back to rectify it. I discovered that San Andreas
is a particularly great title; one that stands the test of time and is still amongst the genre’s best). My usual apprehension, however, began to fade during the build up for GTA 4’s
launch; I actually felt myself becoming increasingly interested. Something about GTA 4
stood out to me as a game I had to play. Perhaps it was the genius marketing campaign, or the promise of a more mature and serious story. All I knew was that I had to own this game. That feeling alone meant that come launch day, I would be in line ready to get my copy.
was released on April 29th 2008. I was unable to make it to launch day because I was overwhelmed with University assignments. I did, however, make it to the store a few days later. I was now ready to put my cash in the hands of a major retailer and return home with a game that I hoped would live up to the hype. I approached the cashier and smiled as I asked for an Xbox 360 copy of the game. The cashier took on a sinister tone (at least that's how I remember it), and replied: “I’m sorry, sir, but we’ve sold out of that particular title”. At first I merely laughed it off. I mean, really, was this guy always such a comedian? He stood there, defiantly waiting for me to comprehend the seriousness of his words. They what?
I thought, as it dawned on me that I would not be exploring the streets of Liberty City on this day. They sold out of a major release? This is not some obscure imported game that probably shipped with a limited number of copies. This is a major AAA franchise that was guaranteed to be a hot seller. Calm down,
I thought, as I tried desperately to reassure myself. I’m sure they’ll have more in a few days.
“How long will it be before you’re re-stocked?” I asked. “We cannot guarantee you’ll get a copy for at least a couple of weeks. We have to fulfil new pre-orders.” No. No. No.
I’d subscribed to the notion that pre-ordering was pointless. That even if the sought after collector’s editions sold-out, I’d at least be able to get my hands on the regular edition.
Suddenly the strange fight I’d heard had broken out in another store in the area was making sense. Earlier, whilst passing by a Game Station store, a friend had witnessed a couple of guys towards the front of the line fist-fighting. At first I put this down to nothing more than juvenile line-cutting. It turned out, however, that this fight was due to one of the individuals learning that there were only a limited number of copies left, and had decided that he was not going home empty-handed. He’d cut in front to make sure he was not left out, and his fellow chav – the English version of a miscreant – had decided he was having none of it. This explanation had crossed my friend’s mind, but at the time I reminded him that video games never sell-out - in my experience - not to mention that chavs often overreact to silly disputes. No, this was a case of impatience, I concluded, and had nothing to do with how many copies of the game were available.
I snapped back to the present, and began to feel a sense of panic overcome me. What do I do?
I thought. I don’t want to be left out. This is the most important game of the year; I refuse to be the only person not playing it.
It was at this moment I noticed something curious. Behind the counter - beautifully displayed amongst the usual peripherals – was a PS3/GTA 4
bundle. I stared at it intently, letting the beautiful box art imprint itself onto the backs of my eyes. “Do you have any of those left?" I asked, as I pointed towards the console I’d only months earlier described as over-priced. “Yes, we do. We have plenty of the console bundles left.” The cashier replied.
There was a decision to be made. One that could only be reached by conversing with the more rational part of my brain.
My rational mind is a beautiful shade of blue, whilst my foolish self is a more violent shade of red:
Can I do this? Well, you could, but it would be pretty stupid. Yes, but I’d have GTA 4 and wouldn’t have to suffer the torment of knowing everyone else was playing it except for me. Look, I’m not going to lie. I want you to play this game, but buying a console just so you can play one title – a multi-platform title – is really, really dumb. Oh be quiet, it’s a reasonable amount of money for such a brilliant game. Reasonable? £400 is reasonable? You haven’t even played it yet. It’s probably going to be terrible. Besides, that money is supposed to last you through to your next semester. F*** that. It’s GTA 4. Lyle, you’re making stupid split-second decisions again.
Sometimes you have to know when to listen to reason… This was not one of those times.
I handed over my debit card – I wasn’t the poor ex-student I am today – and returned home with a brand-new PS3. I cannot describe the amount of joy I experienced un-boxing that beautiful, black beast. I would later come to realise that the joy I experienced in that moment would far exceed the joy I felt whilst playing the game. Sure, GTA 4
is a brilliant title. Is it worth buying a console for, however? No. Especially when you already own a console capable of playing it. It made no sense for me to not simply practise patience. I could have waited a week or so and purchased the game for £40. I could have waited until it was reduced to £30 a few months later. I allowed my impatience to get the better of me.
I have been called many names by friends who were there whilst this story played out, and they were not at all flattering. Ultimately, however, it proved to be a very good decision, as I was able to experience the incredible library of exclusive titles that the PS3 has to offer. I would have eventually purchased a PS3 – especially after MGS 4
launched – this just sped up the process. After I finished GTA 4
I remember feeling pretty silly. There was nothing else out there that I really wanted to play on the PS3, and for a couple of months I contemplated selling it. After doing a bit of research – looking at PS3 forums and YouTube videos – I quickly became aware of games like Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
. These two incredible games made me excited to be a PS3 owner, and in the years to come other brilliant exclusives would only further validate my moment of consumer hysteria.
Long after I traded in my copy of GTA 4
, I still look upon the massive beast that is my original PS3 with fondness. I’ve since given the console to my girlfriend, on which she loves playing Ratchet and Clank
(and only Ratchet and Clank
, much to my exasperation!). In the end I can look back on my decision without regret, but for a moment in time, I was a shining example of what happens when someone with an addictive personality boards the hype machine. When one man’s impatience causes him to react without rational thought, and conclude that possession is more important than reason.