Saturday, March 31, 2012

In the Game Store

I've been quite bored with my current crop of games, and have all but abandoned many of them, unfinished. Gerbil Physics, The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, Resistance: Fall of Man, and a few others have failed to maintain my interest long enough to see them through to completion. It's not that they're bad games. I just think I'm just suffering some kind of ennui; that is to say, I'm in a rut of boredom.

So, I decided to visit my favourite bricks-and-mortar video game store to seek out something new. Specifically, I went to look for Catherine because the demo I played on XBox Live intrigued me enough to get the full game. I did find it; I bought it (new, for PS3) and three other used games (there was a buy-two-get-one-free sale going on), but more on that at another time. Right now I want to mention something that went on at the store while I was there.

Now, this place is small. So, if there are more than four people there, it's busy. I walked in to discover that it was indeed busy. Amongst the patrons were a boy, around 17 years old, and his mom. While he perused the games, she stayed by the entrance, like she was anxious to make a quick exit. Every now and then, though, she came over to him to see how he was progressing with his choices and, as I soon found out, to (indirectly) express her displeasure at his decision to buy some games. The first time she came over he showed her the two games he had chosen so far. Then came the inevitable question, "Are these games violent?" I just rolled my eyes as he explained to her that the one game wasn't, but the other one might be. "Might be!?" she said. She gave him that I'm-so-disappointed-in-you-now look, sighed deeply, and walked away. I guess she was worried that these silly, violent games would turn him into a lazy, anti-social loner who would eventually give up girls and then go on a killing spree.

As I wandered back and forth between the PS3 games and the 360 games I heard one of the clerks say to the mom, "Is there something I can help you with, ma'am?". She responded with, "No, I'm just here with my boy --- the overgrown one over there." I glanced at the kid and could see that he was embarrassed, and a little cowed, by her narrow-minded comments. She then came over to him and said, "Wouldn't you rather buy some workout equipment? Are you sure you want to spend your money on this? Are you sure?" I believe I heard her ask that at least three times before they left: "Are you sure you want to spend your money on this?" Then, just before they approached the counter, there was a variation on that: "Well, if you're sure that's what you want? If you're sure that's what you want to spend your money on?"

To his credit, the kid --- who, by the way stood at least 190cm (6') and probably weighed around 80kgs (approx. 175lbs) --- never raised his voice, talked back, or whined in protest; he just made his choices and stuck with them, even after his mom said, "How much is this going to cost me?". After they left, I had a bit of a chuckle about it with the three clerks, one of whom mentioned that of the three games the kid had chosen, the most violent was a Castlevania title. I neglected to ask them if they witness situations like that frequently. I think I'll do that the next time I'm there.

I wish I could have said something to that woman, but as I do not have kids of my own and am not aware of the dynamic in that family, it was not my place to do so. I felt sorry for the kid for having to deal with his mom's attitude, but I also was exasperated by the mom's failure to understand and support her son's interest and for falling back on stereotypes of games and gamers (games are violent and played by overgrown boys). Did she not notice the diversity of people who came in to shop while she was there?  Didn't she see the other mom and her two young children, probably 10-12 years of age looking for a Wii game; the couple in their early-30s looking for a singing game; the couple in their mid-20s looking for a game that featured co-op play (whose flirtatious banter about previous games they'd played together was quite cute); the couple in their late-30s looking for a game they could play together, but which could also be played by their kids; the 43-year-old man (me) chosing games for himself; the young kids looking to buy some Microsoft points; the early-20s couple looking for another controller? The world of video games is populated by all kinds of smart, interesting, well-adjusted people who do not feel they're wasting time or money playing them. You just have to open your eyes and your mind to see and understand them.

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