Knowing a lot about games is kind of a blessing and a curse. Sure you love possessing all of the knowledge is personally rewarding and having a conversation/debate/flamewar with a fellow gamer can be a lot of fun. Knowing that you can get a copy of pretty much anything hot on the radar no matter how short supplies are through knowing the good locations your area and the people who run them. The flipside is that everyone that you know comes to you when they have a video game related crisis. I was sitting around after just waking up around 11 AM on Thanksgiving morning and I had just consumed a large piece of pumpkin pie. I was thinking about going back to sleep, only to emerge later and consume copious amounts of mashed potatoes when my cousin came up to me.
“You know how to basically find anything at any time when it comes to gaming, right?”
I knew what was coming. “I don’t know if I can get THAT for you.”
“I haven’t even asked you what I wanted yet.”
“Go ahead but I already know what it is.”
“I was wondering if you could track a Wii down for my son for Christmas. Everywhere is sold out and I don’t want to pay $800 on Ebay. I know that it’ll be tough to find, but could you look out for one? It’d mean a lot to my son.”
“Ugh,” I said, “I knew that’s what you were going to ask me.” I thought to myself that there was almost no way in hell that I could get one at this time of year. Heck, I couldn’t even find one earlier this year if I tried. The only reason I even had one was because I preordered the system a half-year before it came out. “I’ll see what I can do. I don’t think I’ll be able to find one but I’ll try.”
“Thanks, it means a lot that you looked even if you still can’t get one.”
Two hours later, my brother comes up to me. “My wife wants something for Christmas that I’m having trouble tracking down. I was wondering if you could help me find….”
ARRRRGG!!! So now I’m stuck trying to find two Wiis for members of my family for the holidays. I don’t think I could even find one let alone TWO. Even though this task is a difficult one for me to accomplish, I’m still in wonder about the Wii phenomena. Something about this system is making it seem so much different than the usual Christmas-time Tickle-Me-Elmo. In only a few moments, I was asked to find the same system for a nine-year-old boy and woman in her twenties. I’ve never heard of anything like this occasion before. The Wii has this mass appeal that I haven’t seen in a video game system since the NES. I’ve seen people looking for Wiis this past year and heard arguments on the internet but only now did the whole thing click with me until this moment.
I knew how hard it was going to be to help out my family so I felt a little discouraged. Still, I looked back to all of my knowledge of what was happening in the retail world this week. While up at college, I talked to a friend who worked at a Gamestop there. He said earlier that week that every Gamestop in the entire company was keeping a stockpile of Wiis for the Black Friday rush. I thought to myself that this lead was my best bet to get the systems. Say what you want about the company but having friends that work in their retail stores can really help you out in a bind. My cousin and brother chose just the right day to make their holiday requests it seems.
I called my best friend since high school up that I haven’t seen in months. We’re the kind of friends, though, that help each other out all the time and are as good friends as ever despite me being away at college most of the time.
“What are you doing tomorrow?”
“What are you doing tonight?”
“Want to wait out in front of Gamestop overnight in twenty thirty degree weather to get two Wiis for my brother and my cousin?”
Like I said, good guy to have around.
Later that night we were getting ready for what was sure to be a cold, horrible, fun disaster. My friend almost backed out and I had to talk him back into going. This was our mission and we had to take desperate measures to accomplish it. We put on our layers, took out blankets, loaded the car with lawn chairs, and grabbed some snacks as we set out into one of the coldest nights of the season.
We arrived at our local mega strip mall (I live in New Jersey, the kingdom of strip malls, pizza parlors, and air pollution) and passed the Wal-Mart. It had a line around the building and it was already 11:30PM. We wondered why in world people would wait in front of Wal-Mart. We found out later that they were apparently having some sort of crazy deals on high-def TV’s and digital cameras. We traversed the parking lot to the other side, crossing our fingers that Gamestop wasn’t nearly as packed as Wal-Mart. We get there and see a sizable line of people already freezing their butts off. We were immediately discouraged, however, we still wanted to check out the situation.
We checked the door of the Gamestop and our eyes lit up. “30 Wiis in this store on Black Friday!” it said. We were in luck. My friend and I were going to be 14th and 15th in line so we were sure to get both systems! So we took our places in line right behind a group of high schoolers. We knew that they were an interesting group of guys as they had a makeshift tent already made on the sidewalk consisting of a couple blankets supported by two overturned shopping carts. They were crowded around a metal bucket they’d found and were shelling peanuts and spitting sunflower seed shells into it. I could say that I thought it was odd….but I thought what the hell and we joined them.
The line grew bit by bit every hour with a couple of people here and a couple people there. We had little in common with each other, other than our hopes to get the Wii.
We quickly found kinship with everyone in line yet we all had diverse reasons for getting the coveted system. Everyone who came into the line added something new to the group dynamic. We were a smattering of Ebay opportunists, video gamers, mothers that hoped to make see that smile on Christmas day, and Wii-hunting mercenaries like ourselves.
We started off rather civil. Everyone was polite and hopeful. But around 2:00 AM some of us started getting cold and bored. One of the high-schoolers in front of us started lighting peanut shells on fire inside the metal bucket (what can I say, kids love fire). Soon enough, they started burning all kind of things starting with bits of trash to a school text book. Ray Bradbury would blush. Then the wheels started turning in their heads. We’re cold….fire creates heat….WE SHOULD KEEP THE FIRE GOING!
The high-schoolers then went behind the toy store down the strip mall and collected a huge amount of cardboard to use as fuel for their makeshift furnace. In no time they had a makeshift furnace going that oddly made the whole experience 200% more enjoyable. We warm, had a task in keeping the fire going, and it brightened our countenance. Who says pyromania isn’t constructive?
A police officer then rolled by in his patrol car, bored from making sure the rabid shoppers at Wal-Mart didn’t trample each other over cheap goods. The high schoolers started to get nervous. There was no way they could hide a glowing metal bucket.
“What are you folks doing?”
“Waiting for the Gamestop to open up so we can get Wiis,” I replied taking a leadership role so the high schoolers wouldn’t run away.
The police officer then proceeded to stare at the fire bucket, shrug his shoulders, and say (these are his exact words), “Huh….no shit…” and then laughed, promptly turned around, honked his horn amicably, and returned to Wal-Mart. Everyone’s jaws dropped. The high schoolers were still moist from their fear urine.
We kept the fire going for the rest of the night. Around 4:45AM we got some of the folks to hold our places and went to watch the craziness ensue when Wal-Mart opened at 5:00AM. Unfortunately, it was rather uneventful. We went to go see some people biting each other and pulling hair but the police officers had them under control. I guess it’s good that no one got hurt but we were bored and wanted a show of gladiatorian proportions. We did see one line-cutter get ejected, though, and he got all of the dignity booed out of him by us and the other onlookers.
We went back to our cozy fireplace and started telling dirty jokes. It surprised me how much the middle aged house wives indulged in our conversation. They loved it and even joined in on occasion to tell their own.
Around 6:00AM the sun was coming up and my parents arrived to give my friend and I some much-obliged hot coffee and cereal. They’re the best! We were all very anxious now as Wii time was nearing. More and more Wii hopefuls started filling out the line totally entirely more than thirty.
The manager of the store came a little early to ready himself for his stressful day. He looked at our fire and shook his head. He went in and then quickly dealt out tickets. Now everyone knew exactly who was getting a Wii. Most of the people in the back of the line left disgruntled. The rest let the in-line auction bidding begin! The people behind us started making deals to sell their tickets then and there and made some quick cash. Everyone was starting to get riled up and were all excited that the moment was about to come. That’s when the fire department arrived…
One of the high schoolers wanted to empty the ashes of the spent cardboard in a nearby trashcan without dowsing them completely in water. The trashcan was smoldering lightly but not ablaze. The men on the fire truck when they got out gave us a nasty look that said, “You guys are nuts and I’m tired as hell. I wish I could slug you.”
They then left disgruntled as they arrived and the first four of our group filed into the store. I was really happy they had us go in small groups. The shopping experience was much less hectic and we could look around a little before leaving. My friend and I shortly filed in. We each got a system and were about to cash out. In my drowsy glaze I totally neglected to tell the clerk to include anything else. The manager then came up to me and suggested that I should probably get extra controllers and nunchucks while I was at it. I know it was his job to get us to buy more stuff, but I actually knew he was being nice and trying to help us out. I remembered last year that it was almost as impossible to find extra Wiimotes as it was to find the system itself. So we each picked up a copy of Wii Play w/ Wiimote and an extra nunchuck. I also picked up a copy of Mario Galaxy for my sister-in-law and a Wii Zapper w/ Link’s Crossbow Training (hey, I needed to get something out of this trip).
My friend and I left the store and the noisy mob-like line behind us and returned to my house for a quick play test of the Zapper then we parted ways. I tried to put the whole night in perspective. I didn’t really get anything out of the whole deal. We did something crazy for my family and I didn’t really gain anything. My friend put it best when he said, “I don’t care that I didn’t get a system or money out of last night. Starting a fire in front of Gamestop and telling dirty jokes with women my mom’s age was one of best experiences I’ve ever had.” I then agreed, shook his hand, and we parted ways to sleep in our own beds.