Back! Back, Foul Demon!

Last weekend, I had a burning desire to shoot some things. I mean, I wanted some aggressively stupid, smugly violent, thoroughly unredeemed murder to be happening on my television. So I journeyed forth from my apartment to the local GameStop, where I purchased Gears of War. I have always been curious about that series, but my lack of a 360 was always an insurmountable obstacle. There was a PC version, yes, but somehow I sensed something wrong with that concept. Gears was undeniably designed for the 360. To play it with a mouse and keyboard would be to miss the point.

Let me say right now that Gears actually surpasses any desire I might ever feel for the aggressively stupid and smugly violent. I know it’s an early-generation game, but its ugliness still boggles the mind. It’s world seems to have been conceived by some unholy combination of Albert Speer and Eli Roth, and the shooting actually seems to drag quite a bit. Far too many encounters degenerate to me sitting frozen in place, popping shots at enemies who are also frozen in place, trying to do the same to me.

That’s neither here nor there, though. Buying Gears of War at a GameStop in 2010 is an odd experience. The clerk looked positively stunned, and he cocked his head at me and asked, “Did you just get a 360 or something?”

“Yeah, finally got around to it. Trying to get caught up.”

Then the GameStop ritual began, the endless string of up-sells that makes each simple purchase a 5 minute transaction, while the line stretches out into the mall floor and parents finally give up and drag their children out of the closet-sized store.

I have often wondered, as I listen to clerk give the hard-sell to customers, how profoundly off-putting it is to have someone insist, wheedle, and cajole until you finally relent and subscribe to Game Informer. Sometimes they let you go in peace, but other times it’s like the clerks are on a mission to pack you off with a disc-warranty, a new predorder, a membership card, and a magazine subscription.

“C’mon, man, Game Informer will help you stay up to date so you know what’s coming out and what you need to get. C’mon, we both know you buy enough games to make this worth it.”

This time, however, I think I discovered the cross and holy water that stops the conscientious GameStop clerk in his tracks. As he started in on his pitch, I said, “Honestly, I don’t think any of that stuff would do me any good. I’m a PC gamer. I buy almost everything through Steam.”

“Oh,” the clerk said. “Steam, huh?” He admitted defeat and rang up my $7 purchase.

  1. When I was at Barnes and Noble, I was told– in so many words– that the number of hours I would be allowed to work each week was directly related to how many memberships I sold. Since I needed to work at least 35hrs a week to afford both rent _and_ food, I got very good at selling those damned memberships.

    Until fairly recently, the CEO of Barnes and Noble was a major owner of Gamestop. (B&N owned Gamestop outright until 2004.)

    Short version: Yes, they are “on a mission to pack you off with a disc-warranty, a new predorder, a membership card, and a magazine subscription.” It might literally mean the difference between eating 2 meals a day and getting 3 meals a day.

    There’s a reason I left the corporate world and started working in the clean, honest world of machine politics.

      • Flitcraft
      • October 29th, 2010 8:04pm

      Yeah, I figured it was something like that. And to be fair, I’ve seen the clerks push hardest when someone obviously higher-up is present. But still, I get really annoyed when I have to deny membership three times before the printing of the receipt. I’m sure that’s something sales-side people are aware of as well: there’s a point where the upsell is self-defeating. But corporate policy isn’t written with an eye toward what customers really want, or what employees can actually deliver.

    • Colin
    • October 29th, 2010 6:31pm

    Yeah, I love how Game Informer advertises it’s the “Number 1 gaming magazine in the country!” I wonder how they managed that…

      • Flitcraft
      • October 29th, 2010 8:23pm

      Yeah, and it’s a little frustrating to see how they just rack up the first-looks and exclusive feature stories on just about any game they want. The new Bioshock, the new Batman, it’s all comes to them. In fairness, they have some great people who put out a brilliant product. But it is a stacked deck.

    • Spades
    • October 29th, 2010 9:58pm

    Everytime I go to Gamestop I always leave with some useless junk. It always goes like this, I go to the counter with my chosen game. The clerk immediately starts their speel about all these cool things I can get from Gamespot. I have a strong and kinda of deep voice when I talk to people so when I talk to strangers I try my best not to sound angry or look angry when I say “No” to them. So after I get bombarded by these offers I simply say “No thanks” but they keep on nonetheless. I try not to appear annoyed or anything like that just to be polite. When they continue even after I say “No” I just don’t have to heart to say “No” again (especially if its a girl since they’re VERY persistant). I then leave with some useless Gamestop merchandise or list of games (which can be preordered) that I’ll never get because a)I ain’t got the money and b)I don’t want those games anyway. Those bastards are crafty I’ll give them that. BTW why did you get Gears of War? If you want mindless violence get Duke Nukem Forever, the best game ever. :) (seriously)

      • Flitcraft
      • October 30th, 2010 2:05am

      Yeah, I’ve usually had a similar problem saying no. But that’s why I’m telling you: just make a big deal out of what big PC gamer you are and how you mostly buy digital. Doesn’t have to be true, but it does seem to discourage them.

  2. I must be lucky because the people working at the GameStops near me aren’t nearly as persistent. They’ll pitch the upsell to me exactly once upon each purchase. I only have to say “no” once.

    On Gears though, why didn’t you just hook up an Xbox controller to your PC? Not to mention you can get either the PC or Xbox version digitally over Games on Demand for $20 I think.

    Do you just not like the art style or how much the engine has aged? I’ll agree that developers have made great strides with Unreal Engine 3 since 2006. Gears 2 (and most UE3 games since) looks a lot better.

    As for playing the game itself, you are generally supposed to flank in Gears. I at least appreciate how the controls facilitate that by letting you easily navigate while remaining in cover. It’s slightly more tactical than most of the console shooters you’v seen this generation.

      • Flitcraft
      • October 30th, 2010 2:31pm

      It’s definitely more the art style, I think, although some of the barrenness of the level art could be down to an engine they hadn’t mastered yet. The controls are okay, although sometimes Marcus just doesn’t seem to want to get in cover when I need him to. But while flanking is a big part of it, there’s still a lot of sitting in cover and blasting away.

  3. Seriously? I’m not sure if this is humor or not…do you really feel put upon by the sixteen year olds that work at GameStop? The lines I will grant you – it’s to the point where I don’t want to pre-order things anymore, the service is so incompetent. I’d rather roll to Target on the way home from work, on release day, to pick up a new game and have it over with.

    But complaining about up-sells? I’m not sure whether to take that seriously or not. No one tries to upsell me. If you tell them “No,” the right way the first time, they get that you’re not interested in being sold anything. You just have to give them the stare. ;)

      • Flitcraft
      • October 31st, 2010 2:57pm

      Perhaps the Stare is what I need to refine, but I’ve definitely had encounters with GameStop clerks who are not dissuaded b the first no. They think that’s an invitation to persuade. But at my local GameStop, the clerks push hard sometimes. To the point where it is a nuisance.

  4. LOL, Steam. It’s quite interesting reading about Gamestop and its methods with The Escapist an d now you sharing your experience with them. Where I live, I don’t have to deal with any of that. All I do is go to the store’s webpage, order the game I want, and call them up, pick up from store. I’d have to call them up to make sure they’ve got stock for a game. They don’t stock up on games as much here.

    BTW is it true that Gamestop ‘guts’ their games? I mean you buy discs that are only in sleeves? I’d be pissed if that was the case.

    • I was shocked to read that on The Escapist, the gutting bit. I think maybe that referred only to the shelf copies? I’ve never purchased a “new” copy of a game at GameStop which wasn’t shrink-wrapped.

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