Dear videogame store at the mall,
Why do you suck so badly? Why do you positively revel in your antiseptic, soulless, funless, melted low-fat vanilla soft serve-ness? A set of newborn octuplets with eight bottles wedged in their tiny gluttonous gobs couldn’t pull off as much sucking as you, videogame store at the mall.
When a 31-year-old male finds himself at the mall and his pregnant wife is shopping for baby clothes, your job is simple: offer an oasis of time-killing euphoria to help pass the weary hours. When you are not providing this service, it means you are vigorously engaged in sucking the hairless, cross-eyed pooch.
If you are a mall store selling any of the following products—organic health supplements, shoes, handbags, cell phones, eyeglasses, coconut-scented body lotion, stationery—you have full license to suck to your heart’s content. But any retail establishment that even tangentially deals in videogames has a sacred calling. You are not at liberty to suck.
Ever since the mall arcade died off—“please enter your initials: RIP”—you were forced to carry the torch. I know you didn’t ask for this. I know your shoulders were too scrawny to bear the weight of this responsibility, but you were the closest thing we had left. We just wanted to be surrounded by games—all those glowing portals leading out of our existence into brighter, noisier, more exciting planes of being.
Videogame store at the mall, you used to at least give us a PlayStation 3 demo unit on which to muck about. Sure, the experience wasn’t perfect. The game was always MotorStorm. If it was a game we were dying to play, you made sure the controller’s left analog stick was broken. We all knew it was a token gesture to begin with. But it’s a sad state of affairs when the pitiful arcade-currency pun I worked into that last sentence will provide gamers more lasting enjoyment than the fun-starved husk of retail efficiency you’ve become.
We were willing to grudgingly forgive your missteps because we loved videogames that much. But then you abandoned all pretense to liking games. The demo unit disappeared. Now you’ve got a flatscreen TV that plays trailers for the current top-grossing game in a permanent loop.
You’ve got maybe a dozen new releases lining the walls, arranged in accordance with their current chart positions. These new releases are so outrageously expensive, we know you don’t expect us to buy them. All you want to do is funnel us to the used games in the middle of the floor where you make all your money.
The grimy used-game cases lining the racks in the center of your store don’t contain any discs, a theft-prevention measure that also provides a tidy little metaphor for your lack of substance, videogame store at the mall.
Would it bankrupt your chain to display even the tiniest hint of personality? Here’s a pro tip: videogame stores should be more exciting than hospital waiting rooms. Or you might consider having new releases available for shoppers to play. What if you invited us to sit down for a minute while we played? We might even let you sell us a coffee or a soft drink while we play. My guess is that Mountain Dew and Red Bull will hold a super-duper X-treme arm-wrestling match to determine which company gets to sponsor your little gaming cantina.
Yes, videogame store at the mall, I realize there are pimply brats who will try their damndest to monopolize any playable game units. If they do, feel free to kick their scrawny asses out of your store. We will help you enforce. Only non-pimply, slightly older brats may monopolize the playable game units!
If you want to have a future, you need to help us do more than buy games. You need to help us experience them. You need to provide a space that meaningfully conveys the delight of the games you are trying to peddle. You need to aspire to the personality of a Tim Schafer game. You need to reverberate with the sound of gunfire and light saber swipes and race car engines, not teeny-bopper Top 40 radio jams.
Videogame store at the mall, please send your whole board of directors on a field trip to the Apple store and only let them return once they’ve taken enough notes to trigger the excruciating onset of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
But most importantly, videogame store at the mall, please give me a place where I can enjoy killing a couple hours while my wife gets her shop on. If you can’t accomplish that much, then I hope the Digital Download Apocalypse devours you whole and coughs your half-digested bones into a steaming heap with the rest of brick-and-mortar retail.
Jason Killingsworth is Paste’s games editor. He is based in Dublin, Ireland, and writes about music, film, tech and games for a handful of outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonkill or drop him a line at jason [at] pastemagazine.com.