Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Shadow of the Bat, or, the Story of the Unsensible Purchase

When I was fourteen, I put out an order for Final Fantasy Tactics for the Playstation. Because of its rarity at the time, it was used, cost me $70, and took six weeks for them to find a copy. And I thought that it was the most effort I'd ever go to to buy a game.

I was wrong.

When I was twenty-three, I jogged to the nearest EB Games one wintery evening to get a copy of Dragon Warrior VII for the Playstation 2 on the first day of its release. They were out, but they said that the other store had one--the catch was that I had to make it there before 9:00, closing time, and it was already 8:30. It was a very, very quick run. And I thought that it was the most effort I'd ever go to to buy a game.

I was wrong.

Today, I paid an exorbitant amount for a deluxe edition copy of Batman: Arkham Asylum for the Xbox 360. (Folks, that's where the birthday money you gave me went. I'm sorry.) And if I ever put more effort into getting a video game, it will be because I'm stealing it from the Tower of London.

A friend of mine once complained that his family bred good value studding bulls, but no one local would ever come and take a look at them; they all went to places like Texas. I suggested that part of this was, when it comes to a really big, rarely repeated purchase, people don't just want the product, they want a journey, a story that shows all the effort they underwent to get that product. In the antique game, for example, you're selling the history as much as the object. In a similar vein, Michael Benedikt, in the book he edited, Cyberspace, says that in a true cyberspace, travel should not be instantaneous, because the journey is an important part of the human experience of travel.

We are both wrong.

Or, at least, we're both missing an important proviso: when the difficulty of the journey reaches a certain point, it's no longer a good story anymore, it's just a pain in the ass, and actually makes you resent the end product.
Wanna guess how this relates to me getting Batman?

My brother gave me a phone call yesterday to inform me that EB games was having a limited, half-off sale of the game. (Which was awesome of him, BTW.) Now, in the city of Blank, there are two EB games; they are 12 km from each other, and approximately 7 km each from my apartment. This will be important later. I decided to run out to one of them--literally. It was a good run, and best news of out this whole affair is that I'm back to being able to do 7km without much stress, which bodes well for future longer runs. Yes, I'm sweaty and disheveled and not really in any condition to be in a mall, but I wasn't going to be there for long.

Or so I thought. I talk to the clerk, and he tells me they're sold out, but expecting a second shipment by 2:00. It was, at this time, 11:00. So I myself some lunch, (I went to New York Fries; I've been craving them for ages. Not as good as I remember. So the second good bit of good news is that I've got that out of my system.) It was a long wait; thankfully, I had my Ipod, and a book on tape. (Chesterton's Club of Queer Trades. Review to follow. Preview of Review: that word meant something different back then.) At 2:00, I come back, and the guy says their shipment's been delayed, and probably won't get there till tomorrow. But he calls the second outlet, and they have a half dozen copies left--first come first serve.

Well, I've gone this far and this long. So decided to go to Mall B. It's 12 k, though, and adding the distance home from there, it would be 26 k total, which was not what I'd signed on for. So I went with the bus. (Good thing 3: got over mild phobia of public transport. It's not a phobia, it's just a distaste for paying money for something my feet do on their own.)But I wasn't carrying change, so I needed to get some cash back on a purchase. (Which I did at the Shoppers; final good thing, I got those razor blades I needed.) And then I was on the bus. I asked the driver if the bus went to the other mall, and she said yes. What I should have asked was if it was the fastest bus that went to the other mall. An hour later(slightly faster than I could have run it; very slightly), I was at mall B, glad once again for my Ipod and the melodic voice of Franz Ferdinand.

If the game had been there, this would have made a tolerable story, in which the final goal was reached. As it happened, the store had sold its last copy of the on-sale version 5 minutes before. (Bad thing 1) But they still had 2 $85 deluxe edition copies.

I shouldn't have. I know I shouldn't have. That much money would have bought one, maybe even two books off of my comps list. But before you judge me too harshly, remember that I had just spent 6 hours waiting for this moment. Six hours of mall people, bus people, and jogging. I needed to have something to show for my efforts. Even if it was a game I barely even wanted anymore. So I bought it. It turned out to be in this huge, cumbersome box in a bag, (bad thing 2), which meant my plan to run back home was even less of a good idea, which meant the bus again. Now, the store didn't offer cashback, and neither did the first five other stores I checked, so I had to make a withdrawal at the ATM, pay the service charge, then break the subsequent $20 with an inane purchase (Bad Thing 3) , all to get the change I needed.

Apparently, though, this bus changes its number half way through, so I had to get off while there was still two kilometers to walk with the big, awkward bag (Bad thing 4). One kilometer from my apartment, the handles break (Bad Thing 5). Five hundred meters from my apartment, I trip (I kid you not) and twist my ankle and hobble the last distance. (Final Bad. Bad: 6, Good: 4. And let's face it, they weren't that good.) As for the deluxe package, the biggest bonus seems to be the plastic batarang on a plastic stand. Totally not worth a 'deluxe' label. (Although it is sitting on top of my TV, because, really, what else am I going to do with it?) (That's also not quite true; though not advertised as such, the coolest part of the deluxe package is the faux-leather with string binding wallet that the manual comes in. I could find a use for that.)

So, after all that, how is the actual game? Can it be so good that it overcomes all the financial and emotional torment?

I have no idea. I need to catch up on all the comp reading I skipped first.

Later Days.

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