Gamers, Donuts and Pikachu
No one likes waiting in lines. There is always something better we could be doing, anything besides standing with a bunch of strangers and waiting around. We all have stories about lines that went on seemingly forever, winding through endless twists and turns, and creating something of a cranky mob in the process. And who hasn’t had that heart sinking moment like the kid in The Christmas Story, when you think you’ve found the end only to realize that it’s just the middle of a much longer line that extends at least a mile into the distance. Well, this Sunday I waited in a line with my kids for the release of the new Pokemon game for the DS and I have to say, lines are actually fun in the company of Gamers.
The first time I experienced the coolness of waiting in line with Gamers was the release of the original RockBand. It came out at midnight at select locations, and for me that meant a Best Buy in Massachusetts. It was cold enough that we were taking turns sitting in our cars to warm up but we were all so excited to play the game that we didn’t care about a little frostbite. After waiting for a couple of hours, a car pulled up and some guys that kinda looked like rock stars emerged. They reached into the back seat and came out with dozens of Dunkin Donuts boxes and giant cartons of coffee. It turns out they were from Harmonix, the developers of the game who just happened to be local. They’d gotten donuts and coffee to feed the masses because they were so happy that we wanted their game badly enough to wait in the freezing cold. They also had stickers and random loot to share as they answered questions and we got hopped up on sugar and caffeine.
This Sunday, I stood in line in a nice warm mall waiting for our local GameStop to open at noon. That’s pretty late in the day if the game of your dreams is mere feet away behind a flimsy metal gate that you could stick your arms through if you tried really hard. Okay, you might also have to be Stretch Armstrong, but the games were still horribly out of reach yet, so very close. Once we confirmed that the store had not opened early for the big release and had a brief chat with the one Gamer who was already waiting, we wandered off for a bit. When we returned about 15 minutes before the store was due to open we found that a line had appeared during our absence. The guy we had seen earlier had apparently stayed and waited because he was way up near the front, but we were now doomed to the dreaded end of the line. On arrival at the back of the line, however, we were met by a welcome surprise.
The manager of this particular GameStop had little Pikachu coloring sheets and crayons for the kiddos. Children were spread out on the floor, happily coloring and chatting to pass the time. Better yet, he had also purchased several boxes of Munchkins which he was happily doling out to the line. Yes, sugary, donuty, goodness for a bunch of Gamers. This guy knew his target market and we were a happy bunch as a result. Some of the folks waiting had their DSs with them and were playing games with each other even though they had never met before and would likely never meet again. This same phenomena happened in the lines at PAX East last year. Complete strangers became new friends just by playing games together and chatting about the coolness they were about to experience.
Lines are not fun. They’re boring and often keep us from getting to something we desperately want, but, if you’re a Gamer, not so. They’re filled with a sense of camaraderie, excitement, and a shared experience of expectation. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll even get donuts.