Would You Like Fun With That?

As I’m sure you don’t need to be reminded, shopping over the Christmas period is a hellish activity, but even worse is working in retail (especially for a misanthropic grinch like myself). You’re pinned behind the counter being blasted by inane Christmas songs, whilst being forced to repeat the same few phrases over and over ad nauseum. But venture out from the relative safety of the till and the zombie-like hordes quickly surround you, using pushchairs as battering rams and regaling you with their Christmas lists, each one thinking themselves more worthy of your attention than anyone else.

This Christmas I landed a job at HMV, which has been fantastic (apart from the public) but I also tried for a job at my local Game. Now you’d think my experiences in retail (Waterstones) and product knowledge gained from working in games testing and games journalism would count for something, but I soon learnt that the narcissistic two-bit dictator that runs the place would rather hire pliable school leavers than anyone who might actually know more about videogames than he does (not that I’m bitter or anything). Perhaps this is indicative of the fundamental problem with Game, which can be summed up thus: it’s shit.

Ok, so that's Spam, Spam, Spam and Assassin's Creed?

Let me explore that thought more deeply. Game supplies a youthful audience with what is undoubtedly the world’s biggest entertainment, this century’s most creative cultural force and a product that hinges on the very notion of fun. Then it presents it all in an utterly lacklustre, dull and outdated corporate environment. I mean the utter joylessness of that store is almost painful. They might as well be selling suits or tins of spam (although admittedly spam that has had its contents removed and kept behind the counter in a cupboard). But the biggest problem is that it’s a well accepted fact that Game (which also covertly owns the only slightly cooler Gamestation) has an almost total monopoly on the high street. Aside from aisle 50 of your local Tesco there’s simply no other physical place to go and buy games.

Rough Trade East: A very cool record store.

Now let’s look at the alternatives offered by vendors of other media. Anyone who has visited Rough Trade Records in London will know that the independent music store can thrive by offering an exciting environment appropriate to the product it sells. Rough Trade has a cafe, listening posts with oh-so-comfy headphones and laidback staff, whilst its eclectic music range is eccentrically organised by country. Music zines and posters advertising gigs cover every inch of the pseudo-industrial space promoting a sense of community, whilst a small stage offers a range of free gigs from bands big and small. In short the place has a really cool atmosphere and is a joy to hang out in. Meanwhile as an alternative to the bland, identi-kit popcorn aesthetic of Cineworld every major city boasts an art cinema with a truly unique identity. So with this in mind why on earth should lovers of the world’s biggest, most exciting cultural force have to put up with the bland shittiness of Game? We need a revolution.

In my ideal store all shop assistants would look like this.

Imagine this: a gaming boutique that incorporates a quirky games-themed cafe (promoting ad-hoc wifi link-ups between handheld consoles) and a mini arcade that is closer to the Japanese variety than our traditional seaside hives dominated by one-armed bandits and penny-falls. A place that could host cosplay parties in the evenings presided over by chip-tune DJs, special game launches co-ordinated with PR companies, or even talks, not unlike the ones seen at Eurogamer, from acclaimed developers and commentators. There could be festivals and tournaments, an ‘unsigned’ section for indie gaming and murals of gaming icons by hip graffiti artists donning the walls. It could, in short, be an awesome place to hang out, not just to shop.

There’s a lot of grumbling these days about the dying high street, but if all it can offer over online shopping is long queues, inflated prices, rip-off ‘loyalty’ cards and grumpy staff then frankly it deserves to go under. If I had a few spare million I know where I’d invest it, but as I don’t I’ll just have to hope that someone out there with a little bit more influence than I have is thinking along similar lines.






4 responses to “Would You Like Fun With That?”

  1. Martin avatar

    Hmm, I think you may be looking at this in a slightly blinkered fashion. Yes, we all know that Game offer the worst trade in prices and some of the highest pre owned prices, but Game’s consistant presence on the high streets mean that we have always had an outlet to buy games from. If game ceased trading years ago I’m sure the market may not be around as it is now.
    I also think you’ve overlooked the indie games shops, which in all fairness aren’t as noticeable these days, but they still exist. Glasgow has G-Force, 3 shops supplying all your gaming needs. Hamilton has Gamecentre where a few of my friends work. There are also stores like cash generator and the like to buy games from.
    Don’t look at Game as being the anti Christ, every ying needs a yang and that’s just what game is.

  2. Walter avatar

    The place you describe already existed in Glasgow in the form of ESC games, we did overnight and all weekend launch events, private events and LAN parties for companies to test out new games, we had local DJ’s play punters at DJ Hero as well as playing music, at one point we had 11 arcade machines with a load of driving, rhythm, shmups and fighting games, a wi-fi connection free to customers to use with their laptops and handhelds and we had a couple of local artists the the place with some excellent art work.

    It closed late last year because, even though all of these things existed in that shop, people still don’t want to pay money to play games that they already have in their own home, the reality is that demand in the UK just isn’t enough to keep somewhere like that open, I know of 4 similar gaming centers in the UK which have closed in 09/10.

  3. Dean avatar

    Hi Walter. Man that sucks. Sounds like an awesome place and just the kind of place i was thinking of. Would have loved to have seen it.

  4. Graffiti avatar

    nice information provided…….

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