Monday, November 19, 2012

On Buying a Wii U

(or "Why I Feel Sorry for Today's Young People...")

My wife Sally quite surprised me this year by announcing that our girls really want a Wii for Christmas.  I was surprised because a) Sally hates video games, and b) I didn't think our girls particularly cared for them, either.  That said, Wii is supposed to be the system for casual gamers, so at least buying one wasn't likely to be an overwhelming waste of money, based on the easy of entry into the system.  Moreover, a little research revealed that Nintendo was putting out a brand new Wii system this year--the Wii U--and that it's supposed to be pretty much everything that the old system was, with high definition graphics.

The vaunted console, now in high demand.
So we talked about it, but bottom line, it wasn't too hard to convince ourselves that the Wii U was the way to go for the kids' big gift.  First off, the girls primarily want the Wii because they like to play Just Dance over at their friend Trinity's house, and that's fine, and more to the point, for as much as we like to be relatively old-school parents, I also can admit to wanting to play the new Avengers: Battle for Earth game with Emma in whatever tandem mode the game system offers.  I mean, I am a mega-geek, after all.

Of course, this being the 21st century, you can't just buy a Wii U.  No, like all of these big game companies, Nintendo has engineered an artificial scarcity this season in order to keep excitement around the system high all season.  Needless to say, by the time I personally became aware of the Wii U, it was already far too late to simply pre-order one.  Which meant that I was gonna have to go stand in line some place and fight the crowds, and well, even then I was gonna have to hope for the best.

We checked online, and as it happened, there was a Best Buy just a few miles away that was supposed to be having a Wii U launch event.  Sally called the store at around 7:30 pm, and the guy confirmed that, yep, they were having one, and that folks had already started lining up.  So I put my dinner in a plastic tray, grabbed a book, and headed out.  I figured, "Hey, what the Hell.  If I can ride a train for almost three hours every day, I can sit on the floor in a Best Buy and wait a few hours to buy a hot new game console."

But then I got to Best Buy, and it was not a good scene.  The store was open, but the people waiting for Wii U's were all queued up outside, waiting in lawn chairs in 30-degree weather.  Worse, these were not people with whom I wanted to spend a few hours freezing my arse off.  They were all 20-something kids, more-than-slightly overweight, uniformly smoking, and looking like they literally had nothing better to do on a Saturday night than to sit outside the local Best Buy waiting for the new game console to come out.  Honestly, these kids looked like they were gonna grab their consoles, a bag of weed, and a jumbo packet of  Doritos, and disappear for the next week and a half.

I called Sally immediately.  "Baby, I love you, but I am not standing out here with these people.  I'm sorry, but this is just not who I want to be in my life right now.  I'm coming home."

I don't know that I would have agreed to buy
a Wii U were I not looking forward to playing
this game.
I came home, and I could tell that Sally was disappointed with me, even though she didn't say anything.  Still, we've been married for almost a decade now, and it was visible on her face.  The idea that I went out on a mission and failed was not one that she was comfortable with.  I hated that, but given the choices, I still felt like I'd made the right decision.

We watched TV that night, and I remember distinctly that I fell asleep on the couch some time around 9 pm. Hey, it was an exhausting week.  Anyway, I got up the next morning at about 5:30 and immediately realized that I had an opportunity.  It was Sunday; most of the world had spent the last night tying one on.  My mistake last night was in taking on the gamer-geeks where they lived--on their terms.  Sunday morning, the ass-crack of dawn?  That was my time.

It was time to attack.

A quick Internet search revealed that both Walmart and Target had the Wii U in-stock.  I didn't know when Walmart opened, but Target opened at 8:00 am, and as I noted, I was pretty sure that if I headed out right then, I would be one of the first dudes in line to get the game.  Of course, it was worth driving by Walmart on my way; who knew? Maybe I wouldn't even have to wait at all.

As it happened, Walmart opened at 7:00 am, and when I got there a few minutes after 6:30, all I found was one very bleary-eyed nerd in front of me.  Success!  And I had wait just a bit more than twenty minutes!

While we waited, I started chatting the guy up.  We both noted that the folks working at Walmart on a Sunday morning were the dregs of humanity.  They uniformly scowled at us, and the lady in charge deliberately opened the store a few minutes late just to drive home the point that it was her show, that she was in charge.

I shrugged.  "What do you expect for $8.50 an hour?  I came here because it's cheap.  If Walmart wants to hire decent people, they should pay a wage that will attract decent people."

The gamer-geek immediately bristled.  "But I make $8.50 an hour!"

"Really?" I said.  "Wow.  Where do you work?"  I'll admit that I was a little surprised that a guy making minimum wage could afford a Wii U, but I kept that thought to myself.

"The Game Stop," he replied.  "I've got a degree in Anthropology, but it's impossible to find work.  You can't get a grant as an anthropologist without having a doctorate or something, and without that, I don't know what to do.  So I'm working retail and hoping for the best."

What is there to say to that?

I asked, "So what's your plan?  I mean, surely there're companies that would pay a junior anthropologist to help them do market research in Africa or something."

Blank look.  "I specialized in Japanese anthropology.  So right now I'm doing a lot of social networking for a Nintendo cosplay group and, like I said, hoping for the best.  But in the meantime, I'm still working retail."

Mercifully, Walmart opened its doors at about that moment.  I spent the time it took to walk back to the electronics section thankful for having had the Army to fall back on after having graduated from school myself with a *cringe* European History degree.

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