Gaming All of the Stops

Last week marked the release of the newest installment in the Final Fantasy XIII saga. I’d played the first portion, completely skipped past XIII-2, and then found myself interested in the finisher. Well, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a completionist, which means that I’d really have to go and play what I missed before starting up Lightning Returns. But wait, there’s more. See, I’d had my copy of FFXIII back when I was still gaming on an Xbox 360, and that console (and the games that went along with it) have long been shelved and/or sold. So, because it had been long enough since I’d played FFXIII, I’d want to refresh myself on the story, which, for me, means playing the whole saga from the beginning. That meant rebuying the first in the series (this may be considered an inability to learn from my own past), except this time for the PS3. No problem, right?

Yeah, apparently there’s only one place not online that sells this particular version of the game anymore. And that one place? Gamestop. Say what you will about Gamestop, but it’s probably been said before. People have definitely talked about how much they really hate these stores, and others have glowed about how Gamestop, as a vehicle for used games, allows people to get into games they might never have experienced if they’d had to pay full price. So, seriously, say what you will, but it’s probably been said before (unless you’re Gamestop story involves the ritual sacrifice of small sheep, that is. I’m pretty sure that hasn’t happened… yet).

Anyway, I went off to my local store, and clearly happened upon a slow time of day. My general pattern upon entering ANY type of store, unless I’m actually there for a specific purpose and I know I’ll need assistance for it, is to inform the employees that I’m just browsing, but will find them if I have problems. I did just this, but, again, slow time of day. The employees totally heard me, and even let me be for upwards of a whole 30 seconds, before asking about what systems I owned, and what I might have been looking for. However, they weren’t pushy at all. They were just super cordial, and offering pretty good insights. Sure, they pushed a pre-order, but it was actually for a game that fits my interests, and is something I’ve been thinking about anyway (no, I didn’t pre-order, because I’m willing to be patient, generally). Even odder, with the exception of one item, everything that they mentioned as something I should be trying out is something I’ve already tried, and enjoyed.

Listen, I know that gamers out there are always of different opinions on things, especially about what “can’t miss” games are out there. For some people, if they don’t play every instance of Call of Madden: Battlefield Earth, they’ll feel like they missed out on the biggest thing in the history of things. For others, only the indiest of the indies make their “must play” list, and they would never come close to touching the¬†release of Elder Creed VI:¬†Burnout. The vast majority of gamers occupy some place in between, but it often feels like the people working at stores are partially responsible for pushing the “big games” on people. It was refreshing to be in a store, mentioning the potential shame of FFXIII (seriously, people REALLY seemed to hate the first one of that particular saga), and not only have the clerks interested in assisting, but offering up other games based off of that or recent admissions from my gaming queue to give some pretty insightful suggestions.

Seriously, if every single game buying experience could be like this, I’d just rebuy games I’d purchased once already all the time. Of course, if every game buying experience was like this, there would be no purpose behind Steam, and damn, do I love that little game-delivery-and-wallet-depletion system.

Come to think of it, this past trip was like seeing a live person embodying Steam. Except there was actually a third installment.