For as long as I can remember, I've been a gamer. I was born in the 80s and grew up during the 90s. I was first introduced into gaming by my father when I played video games with him on our family's DOS PC. Some of those old titles included Commander Keen, Duke Nukem, Jazz Jackrabbit, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Wing Commander.
What really cemented my identity as a gamer was when he bought my brothers and I a SEGA Genesis for Christmas in '95, that was the day I was introduced to Sonic the Hedgehog.
From that day I've been fascinated with all facets of gaming and the culture that surrounds it. And despite starting out as a notorious SEGA fanboy (a habit I admittedly haven't entirely shook) I now spend my free time playing a wide assortment of genres across a variety of consoles.
I remember a time when the local EB Games (or GameStop as it's more commonly known as in the States) was my favourite store in the city. When I was younger it would always be the first place I'd want to visit during our trips to the mall. In fact, my fondness for the local Electronics Boutique didn't start to dwindle until very recently. Even as online gaming pundits began a maelstrom of negative publicity towards the chain of game retailers this generation, I still happily visited my friends at EB without much consideration for the bad press they had attracted. However, as the clerks I was most familiar with left the store one by one to pursue greater personal interests I found they were instead replaced with staff that were much more typical of your garden variety GameStop that has become the topic of conversation on many forums across the internet. Friendly chatter about my hobby has been tossed aside in favor of an overwhelming sense of negativity and self-destructive business practices. Although my visits to the store had become less frequent over the past few years I never consciously established a reason for my absence with myself, until perhaps now. I'd like to share with you the details of my last visit to an EB Games.
With some spare cash burning a hole in my wallet and time to spare I decided it would be best spent at EB Games. I hadn't actually been looking to purchase any retail titles for some time and I thought that browsing the store may lead to something new to play as I had been dying to find something to sink my teeth into since the holidays. As I entered the store I was greeted by a member of the staff who asked if he could help me find anything. I politely turned down his offer, I've never been one to elicit the help of the staff and I feel more comfortable when I'm left to think for myself in situations like this. After only a couple minutes of browsing one of the discount bins at the front he chimed in again insisting I let him know exactly what I was looking for so that he could help. I hesitated, and proceeded to named off a few topical titles I was planning on looking into further if and when I found them in the store hoping it would buy me minutes of silence to peruse their wares. He returned shortly after with the availability and pricing of the games I mentioned and I told him I was going to pass because the titles in question were too pricey. Despite being more than a year old each they were still full price. He said he would collect the titles at the front counter for me in case I changed my mind, a move I found dubious after having given him a definitive "no thanks".
I made my way across the store slowly looking up and down at the available selection, from PS3 to 3DS and then finally Wii. As I began taking one last look through the titles the staff member approached me once more. "Are you looking forward to the new Aliens game?" he asked while pointing to the game's trailer currently displayed on the store's television set. I was delighted that he was seemingly interested in talking games but my elation was short-lived when I realized he was trying to secure a pre-order. Working in customer service myself I understand the pressure on staff to up-sell but his suggestion was curious. I'm not a huge fan of the FPS genre and the titles I mentioned before were Adventures, RPGs and Platformers. I have my favourite shooters to be sure, but they are few and far between and it isn't a genre I find myself returning to frequently. I told him that pre-ordering was something I no longer practiced because I had been burned by retailers in the past and that Colonial Marines wasn't a game I was interested in playing on day one. He suggested that I really should pre-order a copy because otherwise they would be in short supply, a point I considered moot.
I decided I would cut this visit short. I had no interest in staying any longer so I decided to leave with one title and I brought my choice to the counter hoping for a speedy exit, unfortunately that wasn't going to happen. He then tried to sell me a subscription to Game Informer, a part of the GameStop procedure I had never been a part of prior to this visit. After saying "no thanks" he then tried to sell me on their "scratch guarantee" warranty. I'm very careful with my discs so I declined. All of this finally culminated with him informing me that the game I chose was the last copy they had in stock. Now, all the staff members familiar with me know that I don't take last copies of new titles out of personal preference but none of them are around anymore. GameStop and I have two different definitions of the word "new" and I will not purchase an open product at retail price out of principle. I tried to tell him that I would instead pass on the game but he didn't seem to want to take no for an answer, insisting that it was still technically a new title. This point always makes my blood boil but thankfully the man was called to the back room by a co-worker requiring assistance and I left without completing the transaction.
I'm certain many of you have heard or experienced worse incidents at an EB Games or GameStop and you'll tell me that this was just an average visit. But that's exactly what bothers me about my visit, this was an average visit to one of these stores and purchasing a game or looking around a store shouldn't be this joyless or bothersome of a chore. Maybe I was just one of the few fortunate to have a good EB nearby and maybe that's what makes this change all the more difficult. I remember a time when I would've gone out of my way to find a retail copy of the latest game but now I'd much rather buy it online. Anyways, I'd like to hear from the rest of you here on Destructoid, what have your experiences been like at GameStop recently? Let me know in the comments below.