Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Subject to Availability, Not Valid in Rhode Island

So last night I participated in what might be my last "Midnight Release" for a video game. I had mixed feelings about the whole event and almost didn't go. But, since it's very possible it will be my last, I figured I'd stick it out.

First, let's get something out of the way. I played about 45 minutes of Halo: Reach last night and loved it. Alright, we're done with that part.

Back when PC gaming was booming and the Xbox wasn't even a glimmer in Bill Gates' eye, video games were in high demand on the first day of their release. This meant there was a decent chance, if you didn't hurry your ass to the store, you wouldn't get your prized video game because they would all sell out like steaks at a T-Rex convention.

I remember several games that fell into this category--Diablo, Diablo II, and the original Starcraft are the ones that come to mind. I remember going to the mall at lunch just to procure my "collector's edition" before they were all gone. This was before online shopping became ubiquitous, and before preorders really existed at all. And the collector's editions sometimes weren't all that special. But you were often lucky to get the regular edition of the game. Sure you could try to "reserve" a copy of the game but that sometimes had disastrous results.

I barely knew what Halo: Combat Evolved was when I received it as a gift. For Halo 2, I ordered the collector's edition from Amazon. But I was so excited to play it that I also went to a Midnight release and bought the standard copy of the game. I went to Halo 3's, Halo ODST's, and now Halo: Reach's Midnight releases. I almost went to Starcraft II's Midnight release but skipped out on it.

Why? Well, first of all, I knew I would get my copy of the game. I had put money down on it; it was reserved for me, guaranteed. I was really excited to play it, but I knew it was mine. I'd tear the arms off of anyone who said otherwise.

The second, and most important reason, is because the Midnight releases aren't really all that exciting. The release for Halo 2 was fun. there was a huge line (I was near the front) and we sat in the mall for hours, talking about "dual-wielding" and other such nerdy subjects. The game store passed out sodas and balloons and asked trivia questions--lame questions, but it was kinda fun. Everyone was abuzz with excitement. I'm pretty sure someone peed themself. Maybe not, but they should have. I should have demanded such.

The downside to this method, while fun, is that people cut in line because their friends had been there, saving their spot. It gets chaotic when the doors finally open, and angry mobs are definitely a possibility. You've got hundreds of tired, hungry, excited, and probably sweaty and overweight gamers who WANT THE GAME. They want to be the first to get it, especially if there is the possibility of free swag etc.

So, for Halo 3, things got more organized. I have to admire the system but, at the same time, it was not nearly exciting. There was still electricity in the air but it was more from a 9-volt battery instead of from a power plant. The game store let us pay off the game in groups and then assigned us group numbers that would be called to actually get the game. This meant we didn't have to wait around all night. So a couple of friends and I went to a bar, then returned to pick up the game.

Halo ODST was mostly a no-show. I got in, got the game, and got out in less than an hour.

So fast forward to last night and Halo: Reach's Midnight release. I've been heavy into Starcraft 2, and the Chiefs are playing the Chargers...at Arrowhead...opening night...on Monday Night Football. Despite having multiple other things to do, I still feel compelled to go to the Midnight release of Halo: Reach.

There are several things I notice about this release:

1. I am perhaps one of the oldest people in the group. I feel a little out of place.
2. The line is longer than I expected.
3. Many of the people in line are your archetypal videogamer--overweight, floppy-haired, teenaged. One of them keeps bumping into me. He's had too much caffeine. I briefly consider punching him in the kidney, but think better of it. He'll need both those kidneys later in life at the rate he's going.
4. So many people are staring at their phones, doing stuff. Me included. I'm using my phone to track the Chiefs game.
5. This is not a fun line. This line is business only. These people (again, me included) want their game and then want to go home and play it. I want my game so I can watch the Chiefs win, then play it.
6. The line is moving extremely slowly. I've never seen any preorder line move this slowly.

So, really, the Midnight release wasn't fun, save for the anticipation and excitement of getting the game. Most games that I want I am not as passionate about so I doubt that I will see another Midnight release in my liftetime.

Though I would consider a Duke Nukem Midnight release...if that game was to ever actually get made.