Tuesday, November 22, 2005

when video games rule the world

First of all, a shout out to Zimm on the birth of baby #2. Congratulations, tiger!

So last night Amelia and I went to Wal-Mart to purchase some essential supplies (drugs, post-its, eyeliner pencil) and were confused to see a line of people sitting in camping chairs in the middle of the shoe department. We both had various guesses, all of them slightly surreal and odd, but all based on the demographic of the waiting hoard. You see, among all the little campers waiting there, there were no women. Only men--mostly college age or older, mostly overweight, mostly with big boots on. Some had sleeping bags and younger boys with them, but for the most part these appeared to be your typical, slightly greasy Wal-Mart shoppers.

Amelia thought it was some sort of tailgating celebration in honor of Penn State winning the Big Ten this past weekend. Though that seemed reasonable, I questioned why such a tailgating activity would be held in the middle of Wal-Mart.

I thought it had something to do with hunting. The three day black bear hunting season (who knew such a thing existed) opened yesterday in Pennsylvania, and I thought perhaps these men were lined up to get hunting permits or something. If that sounds strange, then you clearly haven't lived in rural Pennsylvania or somewhere else where hunting is hugely popular.

Amelia ended up asking one of the waiting men what they were waiting for, and I have to say the answer should have been obvious: They were waiting in line to purchase the Xbox 360, which was released at midnight.

Mind you that we were there at 7:00, and the line already stretched out of the stockroom, down the shoe department, took a turn, and was making its way to the baby clothing department. And this was still five hours before the release.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that the age of children only playing video games is over. My generation--which grew up with video games--still loves them, so more and more adults (and ever-older adults) are making it ok for grown-ups to play video games. And I'm fine with that. I have an Xbox, and frankly, if finances and my wife permit, I'll probably get another game system in the next year or two once prices drop a little. I'm not particularly embarassed by that (well, maybe a little, but just a little). Yet the need to wait up for hours for something like this--to literally camp out in the middle of a store so that you can be one of the first to rush home and play--is just strange to me. Obsessions that go over the top are odd, whether it's for sports (which I've blogged on before, only to be greeted by vociferous disagreement from my readers), movies (did you dress up and wait in line to see the first showing of the latest Harry Potter/Star Wars/Lord of the Rings film?), or video games.

I just don't understand obsession like this. True, there will probably be a run on game systems this Christmas. But so what? Eventually the market is going to even out, prices will drop, and Microsoft will be sure that there are enough Xboxes available for anyone willing to lay down the cash. The rush to be the first or buy now just doesn't click in my brain--though granted part of this is because 400 bones is a lot to lay down at one time for my wallet.

So someone explain the draw, please. Is it just being first to own it? Because I'd rather wait and see what the reviews say about it being, you know, actually worth owning or not. Is it playing all new games? Because I haven't seen much in the games so far that makes me super excited. Is it being on the cutting edge of technology? Because I'd rather watch the prices drop on current Xbox games and continue to enjoy them for a little while before investing so much again. I'm not being snotty--I really do want to know. Because I just don't quite understand the demand to play first thing at midnight. It just doesn't seem worth it.

The way I figure, these 360s will drop in price when the new PlayStations and Nintendos come out next year. Maybe not a lot, but a little. Plus, I'd like to see comparisons on all three systems and see which one "wins" in terms of best value for the money. Until then, I'll just enjoy my Xbox, which--though not the newest thing anymore--still has hundreds and hundreds of games I've never played and wouldn't mind taking a crack at. And if that sounds dull to you, I answer that it still beats waiting in a lawn chair at Wal-Mart for five hours.

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