Delving into the physical realm
I was something of a late adopter of digital media. I felt like less of an owner if the product I purchased existed only on a platform like Steam or iTunes and I couldn’t literally grab it and throw it at people I didn’t like. What if a Lex Luthor style villain decided to commandeer the internet? What would happen to all my online purchases? In hindsight, it was ridiculous, but back then I didn’t want to spend money on things that I couldn’t hide away in my triple-locked cupboard.
This went on for some time. Eventually I was coerced into installing Steam when I purchased a physical version of The Orange Box. I was incensed, of course. How dare Valve force my to use their eldrich system when I had gone out of my way to purchase a real, tangible product that I could chew on, if I wished. A week later I discovered the Space Quest collection for a couple of quid, bought it, downloaded it and I’ve never looked back.
Just before Christmas I left the world of digital media behind and wandered into a brick and mortar shop due to extenuating circumstances that I won’t bother boring you with. The important thing is that I was in a real shop, with real — sweaty — people and the whole experience was absurd.
As I walked into the musty shop filled with parents — for who else goes into these shops nowadays — and their greedy spawn, I desperately wished I was sitting in my comfortable home making the purchase from the safety of my PC. One child, a large ball shaped one, managed to knock me over as he rampaged around the Skylanders stand. He was frothing at the mouth as his mother flirted with the spotty sales assistant. God, it was a terrible thing to witness. But I was a man on a mission. A mission to purchase Far Cry 3 for my beloved rig. A physical PC game, truly mental. In the last four years I have picked up (not including Far Cry) exactly three PC games that I can hold in my hand. They were all purchased online, however, and two of them were MMOs that I was able to download and play before the games arrived.
The shop which will not be named was tiny. Really, really tiny. The PC section was, as expected, the smallest of the lot and contained a pitiful selection of games. Either massive AAA titles priced well above the average, or god-awful trash that most self-respecting gamers wouldn’t even have heard of. On one shelf there was a rat doing crystal meth. The only copy of Far Cry 3 the shop had was some overpriced special edition nonsense that the staff member tried to thrust upon me. “If you don’t get this version, some of the areas you go to won’t have extra stuff in them.” WHERE DO I SIGN!?
I managed to fend off the eager salesfolk and declined their offer of the special edition. I got one of them to go and check their system to see if they were anticipating getting the regular edition in any time soon and in the mean time I decided to trade some stuff in. Ah yes, the real reason I was there reveals itself. I decided some time ago to get rid of my Xbox 360 and I was offloading some of my now useless games, hoping to offset the cost of Far Cry 3. It was then that another failing of the brick and mortar shop reared its ugly head: they are at the mercy of local authorities.
Doing business in my home town requires companies to jump through hoops, endless hoops, because the City Council is effectively a little dictatorship. To trade anything in required several forms of photo ID along with proof of address. I should note that the shop already had my address, but that wasn’t good enough. Thus, I could do nothing.
It was around this time that the sales assistant returned with the information I had already gleamed from my phone — once again technology proves to be more efficient than real people. They wouldn’t be getting any normal copies of Far Cry 3 for a very long time, if at all. It makes sense; who the hell buys PC games from normal shops?
So, and this is where it gets silly, using the shop’s online store, the staff ordered me the game, which would get sent to the shop, and then mailed to my home. In the end they were doing exactly what I could have done myself without leaving the safety and comfort of my flat. I went into town and into a hellish shop to make an online purchase. The trip and time wasting in the pit of despair took up an entire afternoon where I could have been staring at a screen, picking my nose, or harassing community members on CHAT/10. Important things that I didn’t do because of this debacle.
The lesson here is simple: Fraser is an idiot and shouldn’t go into shops to buy games, even if it’s just as an experiment so he can write an article about it on an off day. It’s not all bad, however. I now own Far Cry 3, several days after I would have had I bought it like a fully functioning human being from 2012 rather than an extreme Luddite, but I can play it now. I even have a box taking up space in my room when such a thing is at a premium in my increasingly cramped den of iniquity. I can sniff it. Can you sniff your downloaded version? No you fucking can’t. 1 – 0 to Fraser.