Undercover at the Gears of War 2 Midnight Event
You may have seen news reports showing lines of screaming fans at openings for movies or (more recently) video games. In an attempt to get an insight into the type of person that would attend such an event, I, heroically, volunteered to pre-order Gears of War 2 (GOW2) and go undercover at the local midnight event at Gamestop.
It had nothing to do with getting to write off GOW2 as a business expense, I swear.
I donned my t-shirt with the phase "I'm Internet Famous" on it, grabbed my camera, and headed to my local Gamestop. I thought I might blend right in but I was wrong. Most of the people there had at least one article of clothing with a GOW logo or graphic on it (and I'm betting there were tattoos and Underoos I couldn't see as well). Hats and shirts were the most common though a few of the hardestcore had giveaways from the other midnight events for the first game (including metal COG tags (sort of like Dog Tags but from the game) around their necks as well as other swag from other items from other games/movies (Halo 3 the most common). I also grabbed an iPod just in case that was standard apparel (it wasn't, which was good since I didn't have any songs on it anyhow).
The doors to the event opened at 10pm when you could actually purchase the game (the pre-order just reserves the game - you have to pay for it when you get there). At that time you are given a slip with a number on it (if you've ever waited tables, you'd recognize it as one of the order forms commonly used in the restaurant industry). You also received a code for a special gold gun to be used by you when playing online and some free content (which I understand is a theme and maybe a map or two).
If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry, you are in the majority. Let me sum up by saying it is gamer swag that 98% of the players wouldn't give a fig about. Plus, I'm pretty sure those gold guns will just make you a huge target in the online games.
I arrived fashionably late at around 10:30pm. There were a number of people milling around outside (one guy told me that he was waiting for his mom to come pick him up) but none of the crowds I was expecting. Talking to the Gamestop staff, it seemed that about 300 people had pre-ordered the game (which is down about 100 from the pre-orders of Halo 3 for those of you keeping score). I was the 37th person to pay for their game. If you wanted, you could pick up the 300+ page strategy guide for 20% off the normal $20 price tag. Of course, you'll spend more time reading the guide than playing the game, but if that's what you want. Plus, there is the crazy thing called the Internet where such things will be available for free like... tomorrow... so... Well, let's just say that I saw more than one person with "strategy-sized" bags over the course of the night.
I decided to hang around and see what would develop. Slowly, as midnight approached, people started trickling in. I made friends with a guy I'll call Twitchy. Twitchy was very excited about the release of the game. Twitchy was also very cold (mostly because he wore flip-flops) and kept in constant motion to stay warm (or so he said). He also checked the time on his phone with ever increasing frequency as midnight approached. By 11:45 he was checking it every minute or two. By 11:58, he was staring at it. When midnight hit, I thought he'd explode (he didn't, but I stood clear just in case).
There were a lot of characters there, most of them men. The youngest was probably around 16 (there with his dad or legal guardian) and the oldest looked to be in his mid-fifties. There were less than a handful of girls, the most colorful of which was a youngster who I'll call Happy that apparently didn't know that all you have to do to get attention is to show up at an event like this with a tight shirt and hip-huggers (she had both) and instead proceeded to pound energy drinks and scream about everything. At one point she crawled into the trunk of a car (not really sure the reason - everything sounded like, "Need more sugar" by that point). When they informed us that they'd be giving out the games at the back of the store, I decided to disassociate myself from Happy as I didn't want to come home with stains on my shirt from when her eyes exploded from all the caffeine. Now there's an uncomfortable conversation with your wife.
If I had to describe the tone, I'd call it somber - but probably pent up excitement was more like it. Most of the people there were talking about all the stuff they liked about the first game, things they were looking forward to in the second, or politics. It was that last one that really was the problem. The stereotype of the socially inept gamer is there for a reason and was played to full effect when one guy decided to run around asking everyone who they voted for. I thought I'd see a full fledged nerd war unfold but luckily, Gamestop didn't have the Official Lancers in stock yet or you'd be reading about me on the evening news.
By midnight, there were in total about 50-60 people standing by the dumpsters behind Gamestop waiting for their number to be called so they could pick up their game. I figure that's about 16-20% of the pre-orderers who were excited enough about the game to show up at midnight to get it. No one got jumped for their Limited Edition or anything, it was very orderly. No pushing or shoving or even harsh language. I was especially disappointed when no one held their game up like the child at the beginning of The Beastmaster or Arthur drawing Excalibur from the stone screaming in triumph.
I was really looking forward to getting a picture of that.
So was my "undercover" operation a success? I'd say so. I wasn't all that much undercover as I was really looking forward to the game. I did have one of the Gamestop staff tell me that I looked embarrassed to be there which almost blew my cover until I replied that I only looked subdued compared to Twitchy and Happy. That seemed to placate him. When one of the conversations turned to whether or not HDMI would carry 5.1, I started talking and two minutes later I realized that I had almost revealed myself as the wrong kind of geek by the looks of confusion on the faces around me. Of course when Twitchy, who had made his own GOW2 wallpaper and screensaver for his cellphone, started making fun of the guys that knew all the characters' last names, I realized that it is all a matter of degrees. Everyone has their line that they draw in the sand and declares that everyone on the other side of it is too hardcore. "Not me," they say, "I've got a life."
At this point you are probably wondering how I like game. I walked in the door of my house at 12:17 (I mentioned the distribution was orderly - It was also quick) but Clint DeBoer (my GOW wingman and general meat shield) ordered from Amazon to arrive today so he made me promise not to play it until he got his copy.
<<< ... >>>
Yeah, right. So, so far it is pretty good. Twitchy had already added me as a friend so I look forward to playing the 5 player co-op Horde Mode with him in the future. I played the first couple of checkpoints (only died once) and there is definitely more color (the first GOW was very drab) and more character to the characters. Of course, any story over what they showed in the first would be a huge improvement. The gore and blood is better, the death is better, and the locations seem better (or at least more interesting). The gameplay is very familiar to those that have played the first though the controls feel a little tighter. I'm sure I'll have more to say on that later when Clint FINALLY gets his game. And yes, I'm writing this just to kill time for UPS to show up at his house. COME ON ALREADY.
Oops... maybe I wasn't undercover at all...
I found your geekfest observations interesting. I did a similar scout of the GTAIV release up here in Canada and I was surprised.
I expected to see throngs of baggy trousered, nerd-wanna-be gangstas in desperate need of suspenders.
Instead there were a lot of what I'd call regular people. I was in line outside a Future Shop in the minutes before midnight and people near me in line were talking about anticipating a tough day at work the next day because it's likely they'll get no sleep. Another discussion was about parenting and the high cost of kids sports.
PARENTING!! Excuse me but this is the GTA IV line and you guys obviously have it mistaken for Wiggles on Ice.
I was tempted to pull off a carjacking right then and there just to show these kids how we rock it old school.
Then I realized… It ME that was becoming the geeky wanna-be-gangsta. So I calmed down and bought my copy of GTA IV. I've been playing it steady ever since.
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