6. The Only Rule Is There Are No Rules.
To be more accurate, there were many rules and they were all changing based on the whims of some imagined dictates from some authority or another. The number of units each Gamestop had left by 1 a.m. differed widely. The way they handled their lines varied based on the store. One store gave me a little voucher for my Playstation 4 when I was still in line, and I had to hand it to the person at the cashier. Another Gamestop did nothing like that, and just asked me what I wanted when I reached the end of the line. When we were calling them, their answers also differed based on some imagined mandate - after three stores told us how many Playstation 4 units they had on hand (ranging from none to ten), one store said they weren't allowed to divulge how many they had, just that they had some, despite the fact that no one else had been worried about it. No two stores seemed to have a similar way of handling the massive droves of shoppers at their gates.
Some of this could just have been due to tired retail employees trying to get people off the phone. They may also have been powered by resentment. I must imagine this is why one store told us they had 10 units and if we hurried we could get one, but when we arrived close to one hundred people were in line already and there was basically no chance in hell of us getting anything. As a side note, this also taught us to start asking how long the lines were. But really the employees seemed sincere overall, guided by a blind and confused central authority, sort of like Azazoth.
7. Do Your Research
This part is very important. Sometime after 1:30 in the morning, we found a Gamestop that had a tolerable line and some Playstation 4 units left in stock. In a fairly ironic turn, it was the Gamestop next to our old house, which had been our local store for several years until we moved back in June. Basically, if we had gone back to the place we were most familiar with we would have had a much better chance of success. Thing is, we probably should have known that as we had done the Black Friday wait there twice before. It seemed more convenient to go somewhere closer, but instead of saving time we had been traveling the county for two hours only to end up at the place we usually went.
It got worse, though. When we got there, we got in line and someone walked back to us and asked what we were there for. We said we wanted three Playstation 4s, but asked if they even had that many. His response was sure, they had them, but they were only allowed to release one per household. This was pretty crushing, especially on a day where we had been up 18 hours already and exhaustion was setting in. Managing to stay sane and not be one of those people I was saying didn't exist a few items back, we took our single Playstation 4 and slumped back to the car, full of abject despair and very annoyed at ourselves for not thinking enough about this whole expedition. We did eventually get the last two, but it required some special tactics.
8. You Might Have to Cheat The System
Sitting here right now, I'm not really sure if we did cheat or not, although there is a strong case in the affirmative. One store told us they could only give us one Playstation 4 due to our being a household, but as mentioned the information flow was a little bad up until now, so it might have been a misunderstanding. Or, maybe it was the store manager's policy and not corporate. I have known store managers to throw a wrench into things here and there like that. Either way, it was 2 in the morning and we were running low on options, so when we found another Gamestop with units we headed over and made a daring plan (note - daring may be a strong word).
Basically, my wife went in first and I waited until someone else wandered in before following. Matching the day so far, it was a short wait. Someone else arrived almost immediately despite the fact that it was well after 2 am. Anyway, we bought our units separately, although we used the same Gamestop PowerUp card and generally made no real effort to conceal ourselves. If there really was such a rule, our very lightweight cloak and dagger was enough to defeat it. Part me felt this was quite unethical, but most of me was thinking it was 2:30 in the goddamn morning and I was upset to have passed through so many hoops just to spend well over a grand on frivolous things.
9. It Was Actually Fun (Sort Of)
I mean, it was fun in the way that you do something exhausting and miserable but it makes a funny story you tell your co-workers who all are amused by it. Consider it the Facebook phenomena. Is it something you can get some good status updates and pictures out of? This seems to be the standard of fun for a lot of people, and I think it made it. It was also fun in some ways for my daughter and it will certainly be a memorable event in her mind. One thing with kids is how many things they forget, even as they get older, but I think she will remember wandering from Gamestop to Gamestop like ghosts from an old Twilight Zone episode.
The fact is that we were mad about getting the runaround up until Black Friday and we preferred staying up late to getting up early. The extreme circumstances add to the feeling of accomplishment, which honestly can be a bit lacking in the daily life. It was basically like bringing home a delicious mammoth to the family to eat in some sort of hunter/gatherer life except much lamer and basically consumerist. But I guess that's basically how consumerism works, buying things because it feels nice. However, with a video game system you will get years of enjoyment out of it and I remain convinced that video games are the cheapest sort of entertainment when viewed on an hourly basis. So, defensiveness aside, it was good times.
10. Was It Worth It? Yes.
Looking back to this site, we can see that the Xbox One looks like a VCR from the mid '80s. It is clunky, weird and has the Kinect. I still rue the day I bought that add-on the first time around due to the fact that it never worked quite right and spread a fine layer of crap on any game I tried to use it with. The Playstation 4 is beautiful and elegant and fits very nicely on my existing shelf instead of needing to be hung from the ceiling or whatever you would do with that hunk of plastic they call an Xbox One. This is a small, if not petty, difference but a real one that I will be noticing throughout the years a console usually lasts.
I have been playing Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and it is the most beautiful game I have ever played. (See video above.) This is despite the fact that it is fundamentally a last-gen game with some translation work and a dynamic weather system. The launch games are a bit thin for me but this will change as time goes on and performance should only get stronger as time goes on. It was inevitable that we would buy into next gen gaming and sooner seemed better than later. Black Friday shopping was the best ( possibly only) way to do it, and a bit of an adventure besides, so if something I want as much as the Playstation 4 is available next year, we will be hitting the lines again for sure.
Previously by David N. Scott