Don’t buy videogames on Black Friday. In fact, don’t buy anything on Black Friday. Don’t leave the house. And if you have to go outside, stay far away from malls and big-box retailers. In fact, you should probably stay away from your computer too. Finish reading this story, close the browser and power down your PC.
I don’t think it is hypocritical for somebody who wallows in the marketing, making and playing of games all year long to advise a boycott today. The people who make and sell videogames earn our money year round. They get monthly subscription fees, regular $60 windfalls for the price of brand-new games and a mountain of nickels and dimes for in-game content and DLC. Let’s make this day, the unholiest of unholy days, the day that we take a break from rampant consumerism.
Let’s make this day, the unholiest of unholy days, the day that we take a break from rampant consumerism.
You may think I’m one of those Occupy Wall Street hippies. You’re half right. I don’t know about you, but I have way more shit than I need. My shelves are full of games and comics and books. If the bombs fell tomorrow I’d have enough entertainment to last me until the cockroaches come to take me as a slave for their garbage mines.
But my protest is about more than sticking it to the proverbial man or whatever. It is about sending a message as a consumer. Today is the biggest shopping day of the year. Game-makers pin everything on the holiday shopping season and Black Friday is D-day. Chances are that a game you loved was rushed to make it on time for the Christmas consumer free-for-all. It is likely that features were dropped, shortcuts were cut and designers were worked ragged so that a game you like could be on store shelves when the winter hordes were unleashed. Tears are spilled so soccer moms will find a full-priced copy of Call of Duty at Wal-Mart today. Wouldn’t it be nice if great games came out year round? Wouldn’t it be rad if studios didn’t risk everything and die on the offhand chance that they’ll sell zillions on Christmas? None of this will change. But that doesn’t mean we have to happy about it.
The fact is that we’ll never live in a world where people don’t spend copious amounts of money on manufactured goods to celebrate the hijacking of the pagan’s winter solstice by a death cult. We’re stuck with this damned culture. Hell, even long-haired Satan-worshipers like myself can see the upsides of Christmas morning, giving, charity and all that jazz. But the orgy of Black Friday spending is distasteful at best, abhorrent and embarrassing at worst.
I know the temptation to cash in on door-buster deals is great. Geeks can’t help it. We’re collectors and consumers. I’ve flipped through the sale flyers and clicked on the Amazon promos. But all I saw was more stuff I don’t really need. More Blu-rays of stuff I can eventually watch on Netflix. More games that I can grab used when I finally get through all the wrapped stuff on my bookshelf. Maybe I’m getting old or losing the hoarding bug. But I’m coming to realize that I don’t need any of this shit.
That’s why today I’m going to give some of it away. And it’s not going to be the crap I don’t want any more. I’m going to pack up three or four things I adore — a copy of Watchmen, a DVD of Shaun of the Dead and the PSP game Tactics Ogre. I’m gonna take precious stuff to Goodwill. Hopefully a working mom will find my leavings and give them to their geeky kid. Or, even better, perhaps some uncultured kid will wander in and grab the movie or comic or game for a couple of bucks and have his mind blown.
Yesterday we gave thanks for everything we have. And though shit is fucked up right now, we’re lucky to live in an era when belt-tightening is a metaphor for most. Today, I plan to make somebody thankful and it’s not going to be Bobby Kotick.
Pretension +1 is a weekly column about the culture of videogames. It is true, gaming and politics do mix. They have to. Follow Gus Mastrapa on Twitter @triphibian.