True Confessions of a Gaming Otaku
By Jake Forbes
Every morning I wake up at 2:00 AM, terrified that I have to pull on three layers of clothing and sit on the freezing cold sidewalk in front of Best Buy. Sometimes I make it all the way to my car before I realize that the nightmare days are over. There's no more need to put myself through physical and emotional pain, to suffer the hurtful stares of so-called normal folk, to throw my biological clock out the window for the sake of duty. No, those days are over. I have my Xbox and GameCube.
When Playstation 2 came out, I didn't suffer this indignity. I was smart enough to pre-order, months in advance, before retailers came up with the nasty policy of "bundling." Come August of 2001 when Xbox and GameCube preorders were in full swing, I saw the $500 bundles that forced you to buy hint books, football games, and useless accessories so that retailers could make more profit (not that I blame them as there's no money to be made in console hardware sales!), and I said, no thank you. I'll wait 'til November 15th and 18th respectively and I'll risk walking into those stores at 10:00 AM and hope for the best. 10:00 AM… HA!
November 12th - A change of heart.
Up until November, I was sure that I wouldn't buy an Xbox. Less money to Microsoft, meant more I could spend on Nintendo. But then I started hearing from my coworkers, industry insiders who worked at Activision and other companies, that the developer buzz was shifting more and more towards Xbox. I also had the privilege of playing an advance version of Halo and I fell in love (after my E3 disappointment of seeing multiplayer lag). I'd recently broken up with my girlfriend, I had some extra cash, so I said, "what the heck!" New consoles only come out once every few years!" In the back of my mind I remembered that I was less than a week away from GameCube launch, an event I've been anticipating since E3, but this fact never trickled into my logical budget-conscious part of my mind.
November 13th - The paranoia kicks in.
Okay. It's official. I'm buying an Xbox. I'll just go to Best Buy before work and pick one up. But what if they sell out? They'll sell out, won't they! I went online and checked message boards and found out exactly how many units all of the stores in my area would be selling… not enough! Okay, I'll get up at 6:00 and stand in line for a couple of hours. That should be fine. That'll be fine, right?
November 14th - The sickness begins.
It's midnight. X-Box goes on sale in just 9 hours. I was at a friends house, so for kicks, on the drive home I stop by Best Buy to check and see if any loonies were already lining up… "Holy shit!" There were already a half dozen people out front in their sleeping bags! Okay, okay… I'll go home, get 4 hours sleep, and get in line at 4:00 AM. Two hours later, I can't sleep. It's like it's Christmas Eve and I'm eight years old! All right then, let's do it! I put on a sweater and make the short drive to the Best Buy on the corner of Pico and Sawtelle, the place that I would soon find out is media-central for new console hype.
November 15th - I can't feel my hands.
There's no doubt about it, Angelinos are spoiled with mild weather all year round. I certainly wasn't feeling it at 2:00 AM in front of Best Buy in West LA. One sweater was not enough. There were about a dozen people in front of me, and new people trickled behind at the rate of 2-3 an hour. The hours crept by in a haze. I drifted in and out of sleep, occasionally pulling out my book to read a chapter or two. At 6:00 AM the first media folks appeared. A man asked us all what we were excited about, what we were going to buy, and why we would be out this early. I managed to avoid extended scrutiny by keeping my nose in my book. At 7:00 a little Civic raced into the parking lot and out popped three twenty-five year old guys in head-to-toe Xbox gear (they had Xbox shoes!) and they gave us all Xbox shirts, hats and stickers, and some Taco Bell cash. They bragged that Nintendo and Sony wouldn't drive up at 7:00 PM to give us free stuff. At 10:00 the doors opened, we were let in 6 people at a time, we picked out stuff, and we were out $500 dollars. 10:15- I'm late for work! No playing my new toy until 7:00!
November 17th - Oops, I did it again!
GameCube comes out tomorrow. There's supposed to be more supply- do I need to stand in line at 2:00AM? Nah, I'll set my alarm for 4:00 and spend the extra time playing my Xbox to death before I get distracted by another new toy.
November 18th - They're coming to take me away, ha ha!
Crap! I set my alarm for 4:00PM, not AM! What time is it?!?! Fortunately, after Thursday morning, my biological clock was so thrown off that I was waking up at crazy hours and I saw that it was only 5:00 AM. No shower this morning. To Best Buy! This time there were about 20 people in front of me, and the line contained a couple of parents. This time I thought to wear an extra sweater, so the cold didn't hit as hard. In the spirit of the big N, I brought my GameBoy Advance along to keep me entertained. This time, the time went by much faster. I saw a few familiar faces, I talked with a few other fans. Aside from a few guys in the front who were cranking their death metal, the line was the kind of place you could take your family to for a pleasant morning. The media came back around 6:00, as did a handful of Nintendo employees. These guys were conspicuously devoid of freebees. Microsoft had to buy my love, but Nintendo had me at "hello," so that's okay. I started to drift off for a catnap (purrr) when I suddenly found myself faced with the most disturbing dream. These funny red, yellow and blue sprout people with flowers and leaves on their heads and painted faces, all stepped out of a van like clowns in a circus. I pinched myself and was shocked to see that vision didn't go away! Then a man in a Nintendo shirt blew a whistle and said "Pikmin, stand in line," and I'll be damned if they didn't do just that! For the next half hour the funny-looking Pikmin shuffled around the Best Buy line and parking lot, playing with shopping carts, poking at line standers, and doing funny dances. It was like someone declared it Pikmin day and nobody told me! At 10:00 the doors opened once more, and much to their dismay, the poor Pikmin weren't allowed inside. But I was! I finally got my GameCube, complete with three games and four controllers! A couple hours later, I had all my friends over for a 12-hour orgy of next-gen gaming madness.
November 19th - Wanna buy a Dreamcast? Cheap!
I suddenly realized that without thinking, I spent $1000.00 on video games in just 4 days! And just three weeks ago I'd bought 6 Playstation 2 games because Toys R Us had a sale! Not to mention the fact that I spend about $20 a week playing Bemani games at the arcade… In the words of Parappa the Rapper, "My dad's gonna bite me!" Oh wait, I don't have to answer to parents anymore! I'm a grown up now, and if I wanna make my room into a damn penny arcade, I will! But I do owe a car insurance payment, and rent's coming up, and I'm out of groceries, and one of my credit cards is maxed out… maybe I did go a little overboard…
November 30th - A decent proposal.
In the name of sanity, and for the health of all gaming otaku, I propose the following-
· Henceforth, no two gaming consoles should ever launch in the same 6-month period!
· Preorder bundles should be customizable! No one should be forced to buy the latest football sim!
· If the same 50 people are going to stand in line anyway, let's all agree to show up at 8:00 AM.
· Video game marketing hype people should give out hot cocoa, not baseball caps, to freezing gamers at 5:00 AM.
· Gaming companies should offer financial and mental counseling to their loyal gamers.
So which system is better, Xbox or Gamecube? Well, for now I have to say Xbox, but I have a strong feeling that will change on December 6th when I can bring those adorable Pikmin home.