This morning seemed like any typical, normal day. I got up feeling like shit from allergies, groaning as I got out of bed about needing to go into work as my head pounded from inflamed sinuses. As I do any other day, I grabbed my PSP to listen to, slipped my Pokewalker into my pocket, and proceeded to walk up to work expecting the worst. I was already in a horrible mood and lately the past two weeks have been hell at the particular game store I work at (which I shall call “Game Store” for privacy reasons.)
After a brisk walk, I came to my store and behold! It was hell yet again. I felt my mood drop even more as I proceeded into the bathroom to change into my uniform and took mental notes on what all needed to be done. My head began to spin as my “to do” list grew. I took my spot behind the counter where I began to clean up. I heard the charm to the front door ring. I turned quickly to be greeted by two fairly older women with three large bags full of games to trade in. I bit my lip to hold back the desire to moan as I watched an avalanche of games spanning from the original PlayStation to the Xbox 360 engulf my counter. I tried to be as polite as I could without making eye contact while I began to sort the games out. Little did I know that I was about to have an emotional, heart pulling experience.
The gaming collection presented to me was a very large RPG collection and a handful of other games, some which where personal favorites such as: Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, Final Fantasy X, Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door, Viewtiful Joe, Psychonauts, Shadow of Colossus and a handful of other, harder to find games. All of the games had a sense of whimsical magic and fantasy to them. The type of games that allow you to escape reality from by engrossing yourself in the mystical adventure the developer created for you. I admired the collection to say the least. Clearly whoever owned them had good taste and was a bit of a collector as almost each one was in its original case with the manual. I was honestly surprised that such a wonderfully put together collection was being traded into “Game Store” over being sold privately online for a higher price. I figured a collector would have known that even if the games were played, their value was still worth more than what was being handed to these ladies. Then I discovered the truth as to why these games were being given away. As I started the transaction, I overheard a conversation being exchanged between the two women. All I heard was, “His passing was so unexpected…” which caused me to stop with a case in my hand.
The games before belonged to a dead guy.
I stood there for a moment staring down at the piles of games I had created as I took in the thought that all of these had once belonged to a man who was no longer alive. A strange, surreal feeling rushed over me as I realized that these two women who -- at first -- had been a nuisance to me, were really two women trying to move on with their lives. A chilling moment followed closely the second I opened a case to find no disc inside; it was still in his system at home -- his last game that he played before his death.
Curiosity struck me as I tried to fish information on what had happened. A few minutes later I found out that the games had belonged to one of the ladies’ sons who have passed away three months ago. I did not dare ask what his cause of death was; I felt it was too personal of a question to ask. I believe though that she had mentioned that it was some sort of disease. Whether it was a long term illness that they were aware of or a sudden illness, I will never know.
She apologized for bringing in so many games at once as she noticed the overflowing counter behind me. “I’m sorry,” she had said, “There’s so many. Games were his passion.
“It’s alright,” I replied sympathetically, “I’m more sorry for your loss.”
Though with each passing moment, I felt my heart sink a bit more. One by one, I sat the games on top of each other as I scanned their bar codes for the pricing. I would occasionally glance up to see her eyes slowly swell with tears as she stared blankly at the counter. Once in awhile I would hear her weak voice say something along the lines of, “Oh he liked that one so much” or “I bought him that for his birthday”. She had picked a few of the games to examine their case before setting them back, telling a brief story about how the two of them would play together or how he introduced her to the games he loved. Or she would look around our store pointing at displays and would say how he would have loved to have played that. The second woman, who I assume was a sister or a friend, commented on how she didn’t really get into games but respected that he liked them, making her pretty emotionless when getting rid of his property. It sourly struck me.
Last October, I had lost my grandmother to a variety of organ failures from her age. My whole life she had been paralyzed from the waist down and was a diabetic. She was unable to move or go anywhere, so I would go to spend a week or two over at her house during the summer. I use to take my GameCube over with me and after her Soap Operas and the news was over, I was allowed to hook it to the TV in the living room. She would then watch me play. At the age of 70, she was amazed by what technology had become. Soon enough “Did you bring that game?” became a common thing for her to ask me whenever I came over because she enjoyed watching me just as much as she enjoyed talking to me about the game even if she didn’t fully understand what was going on.
To some people, games are nothing more than pixels and a waste of time due to not being productive. Sure, gaming isn’t a hobby for everyone but to consider it as completely useless seems like a stretch to me. In the case of the mother and I, it brought the family together. Games offered us something to share with one another; we bonded over liking of the stories, characters, and overall enjoyment from playing together. Needless to say, I saw a glimpse of relief in her eyes as I told her about my grandmother and me. Even though I hadn’t lost a son, I could relate to her at some level. It was enough of a level to make her feel comfortable to open up a bit more.
I soon politely asked who he was. She said his name and I fell silent. Her son was a regular customer of ours. I didn’t know him personally, but I recognized the name and his description due to how often he came into the store. (It wasn’t until later on today that I had realized that he hadn’t been around as much as he use to; well now I know why.) He was the type of person you never would have expected to have a problem. I can’t recall a time he came into my store without a smile on his face or ever complaining about something going on in his life. Even times when there were conflicts with policy, he never once got upset over it. Personally, he was one of the most calm, understanding customers I had seen. I had even given him a free t-shirt at one point for not throwing a fit like most people over a misunderstanding that took place and since he brought the game the shirt was for.
Generally he kept to himself but he would ask for the staff’s opinions on some games before purchasing them. My hands soon started to shake as I realized that some of the games he owned were ones I had recommended to him. My eyes began to burn as the mother started to speak more freely to me, especially when I reached to his copy of Final Fantasy X. She gentle caressed the game as she tilted her head saying, “Oh Final Fantasy… He loved that game… We use to play it all the time, remember? I’m sorry to sell it…”
I could tell she was beginning to feel guilty for getting rid of the games that he had once held so near and dear to him. Much like some of the items my family currently has around the house due to inheriting them from my grandmother, I understood the bittersweet need of wanting to hold onto something for sentimental reasons but also wanting to let go. It was time to make room but she felt as if she were betraying him for selling his games since it would have upset him. I did nothing more than looked up and teary-eyed said, “I’m sure he’d be happy knowing his games were going to make some kids happy some day.”
With a smile she nodded and began to explain how much he use to love “Game Store”. Apparently he enjoyed coming to my store because of the people who worked here. He always seemed to feel welcomed by the staff that he found to be so friendly. She said that if he had to make the decision to sell his games, he would have brought them to us anyway just because of how much he liked the rest of the staff and me. It hit me hard honestly. Most of the time I saw myself as nothing more than a corporate pawn. People never hesitated to scream at me and tell me how my mistake or abiding policy ruined their day. Yet, here was a woman crying at my counter telling me how much I -- and everyone else -- had been such a big part of his life. It was a surreal feeling that I can’t even begin to put into words. Neither did he or I know either one personally, yet there was a sense of care just from sharing gaming as a common interest.
When the day was said and done, she had thanked me greatly for helping her, saying that I made it easier for her to handle saying, “good-bye”. I had to take a moment to step in back and breath. I felt a sense of sadness dwelling within myself. I was a bit shocked with myself at how much I seemed to actually care and felt the need to reach out to his family just from knowing so little about him other than his obvious undying love for videogames. His fascination with fantasy brought him and reality together.
What made the whole situation harder to handle was the fact that a few days ago, a co-worker and I were mentioning about how we felt it was strange for kids to ask Make-A-Wish to give them shopping sprees at “Game Store”. While we both agreed that it’s nice of the company to honor such a wish, we both felt that perhaps going on a trip or living a dream would be better than buying games, but today helped me realize just how passionate someone can be with gaming. I’m sure to him it wasn’t just a hobby. It was more than entertainment. It was an escape, a chance to feel happiness since the games brought him enjoyment as well as the rest of the family. I shall always know him as the young, happy man who still had so much to live through, but sadly, his time came too early.
Don’t worry, Mr. Turner, Final Fantasy XIII is just as good as you hoped it would be.