The modern video game shopping experience is like eating the leftovers from a necromancer’s lair

[written in complaint by Sir Gaulian]

From what I understand, necromancers are vile, vile creatures.  If you thought that those kids you see in malls all across Australia (and no doubt other parts of the world) wearing black from head to toe were bad, wait ’til you meet a necromancer.  They are so obsessed with death that they want to see it reanimated – not rejuvenated, reanimated.  That means that a guy with sixteen lashes across his chest exposing his innards is now walking around like nothing happened?  “What, it’s just a scratch” he says as he sits at the foodcourt table next to yours scoffing down a Big Mac.  It also means that a guy with no arms could be sitting next to you at the cricket over the summer, asking you if you can raise his plastic cup full of diluted beer up to his mouth so he can drink.  The worst part is that these necromancers, they don’t keep a clean house.  The caves these guys operate in are nothing short of dirty, and unhygenically so.  Leaving a pile of dirty underwear in the corner of the room I guess I can tolerate (at a stretch), but leaving a head, a couple of arms and a mashed up bloody corpse on the dining room table in the middle of the house isn’t just dirty, it’s a breeding ground for all sorts of microscopic nasties that will pillage your organs at the drop of a hat – and that won’t just be fixed by a spray of Glen20 into those odour filled placed.  Its for that reason that I don’t often find myself visiting the local necromancer cave.

Occasionally though, the loot makes it worthwhile, and trudging through darkness in the hopes of finding some enchanted glass sword or an ancient dwarven cuirass can be rewarding.  But more often than not its not worth the trouble.   I feel much the same way about visiting modern video game stores, the only difference being that instead of being dimly lit (if at all) by the occassional wall-mounted torch or luminescent fungus, they are brightly lit with far too many unbearable fluroscent lights.   The only difference being that the overpriced copy of Assassin’s Creed II or Call of Duty: Black Ops just isn’t worth the pain.

Necromancer's lair, complete with hanging bodies and a panoramic view of death (Oblivion)

You see you walk into an EBgames, JB HiFi or GAME in any capital city here in Australia and you’ll automatically wonder why video gaming is your favourite hobby.  The sights, sounds and smells are something that you really don’t ever want to be confronted with, particularly voluntarily.  And if you think the customers are bad – a mixture of that ‘just been at school smell’ that is instantly recognisable and exponentially repulsive, and that ‘I ate McDonalds for both breakfast and lunch for the past six years’ smell – the sales people are even worse.   The modern gaming store chain clerk is the equivalent of an amalgamation of someone that was told by their parents that they are incredibly special in every way (when they’re not), and that guy at the record store that has been a fan of Henry Rollins since Black Flag even though he’s 16 years old and the last Black Flag album was released before his mother even hit puberty.  Add to this the fact that they call Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas retro, and they think that Contra is the ‘street name’ for the Xbox Controller S, and you’ve got a person that I not only want to avoid like the plague, but actively display general disdain toward.  Hearing a shop assistant talking in JB HiFi about how the multiplayer for Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3 is far better than the single player and that he’s spent hours on it already with a kill:death ratio of 6:1 a month before the game’s release is something I just can’t handle.  It actually makes me want to go home and shoot myself  for being in any way associated with these people, even tangentially, through a similar interest or hobby.

Strangely enough, the game shopping experience I DO like is much like a necromancer’s lair in its physical attributes.  Dark, dank and chock-full of treasures and curios that are often shoved in a corner in no particular order.  Dungeon Crawl (, a video game store that sells mostly new games almost right in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, is probably my favourite place to go to buy the latest and greatest video games,  usually stocking not only the latest blockbusters but a wide range of imports from Asia and Europe – particularly for the portable systems.  The range is one reason to shop there, but it is a place where the staff not only know their stuff, and you can honestly accidentally spend a lunch break talking to them about why it was absolutely worth importing Jeanne D’arc for the PSP and know that when they put forward a different opinion about how Yggdra Union is better (they’re wrong), they aren’t just basing it on a press release or the latest news on their favourite website.  It is a new-school independent video game store with a bunch of awesome dudes working there that somehow manages to enable that sense of discovery that I look for in a retail experience, even though 95 per cent of the stock is for current generation systems.

The only thing better than Dungeon Crawl is a shop that stocks games that were developed before Monica Lewinski’s dress needed dry-cleaning to remove the stains.  My personal favourite is a place just in St Peters outside of the Adelaide CBD that looks like the kind of place you’d come across in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but instead of finding bottle caps or hair clips on shelves, you find that copy of Little Big Adventure for the PS1 or an import copy of Parodius for the Sega Saturn you’ve been looking for for ten years.  And when you’ve parted ways with that hard earned cash that probably would’ve just been spent on the latest novelty flavour of Pringles at the supermarket if you hadn’t bought the games,  you can browse through the piles of old copies of Electronic Gaming Monthly emblazened with all the video game mascots of yesteryear that didn’t have the appeal to last beyond a couple of games (and usually for good reasons, Gex).  It’s at this point you realise that games were way better in the old days, that Mortal Kombat II for the Game boy looks like ass but plays like a dream, and that you’d forgotten about how much you wished Primal Rage II was released even though in hindsight the first game wasn’t that great.  These are the experieces that you come out of loving video games more than ever before, and what part of being a video game enthusiast is all about.

Dungeon Crawl - Elizabeth Street, Melbourne (VIC)