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An open letter to gaming stores

Dear gaming stores not named Datablitz or iTech:

I love gaming. I have been a gamer longer than I can remember.

It was, well… an ordinary afternoon when I was a little kid taking a nap with my favorite auntie who was rocking me to sleep. I don’t quite remember what it was, but for some reason, I had an urge to get up, walk to the other room where I found my siblings and my parents playing with a newly bought multi-tap my dad got for our Super NES.

It was the first time my siblings and I played together, and it was punctuated by the fact that we were playing a Tiny Tunes party game.

Back then, I had no control over what games we got. My dad used to get us cartridge after cartridge for our Family Computer before it finally gave out. Since Tony Commercial (our old store) was just in front of the old Divisoria Mall he bought games from the stores there and brought home titles like “1000 in 1”, “50 in 1”, “Rickey House” etc.

Yes, they were filled to the brim with ROMs of Contra, Mappy, Battle City and what not, but you know what, stores that sell video games? The times have changed but you sure haven’t.

Needless to say my dad doesn’t buy me games anymore. Even if he wanted to, the seedy stalls of Divisoria aren’t there anymore and the prices of games these days are too steep to take uncalculated risks on.

So if you were my dad and wanted to buy games, where would you go?

Why, to the “video games” section of every department store of course!

Yes you, Toy Kingdom or Toys R Us inside the SM Store or Robinsons Department Store. I know your attendants haven’t been there very long. Those short term contracts you offered them bite you in the back when they need to read the labels just to know the features of the items they are selling. But that’s okay, gamers like myself know to steer clear of you and your overpriced games.

But for the love of all things decent, please don’t have your sales persons recommend Grand Theft Auto to a mom shopping for her 9 year old kid. Also, please let them tinker around with the merchandise enough to know the differences between Pokemon Black and Pokemon White aside from their colors.

We get it, we aren’t your target market. We are not the people you want to sell to. You’re aiming for the likes of my dad – not exactly clueless but not invested enough to search elsewhere.

Sky high prices give parents a reason to scold their children about how expensive those games are. Knock-off consoles next to the real ones give them a “cheap” alternative to the ones that people actually want. They’ll probably never go back after realizing that they’ve been milked or that they’ve been duped, and they may hate gaming and gaming culture even more because of it. But of course you don’t care. They bought from you and you earned a quick buck anyway.

Oh, and pseudo gaming stores? I haven’t forgotten about you.

Please don’t add the word “Games" to your store if your inventory is mostly karaoke machines with a few overpriced video games for decoration. That PlayStation 3 bundle has been on sale for maybe 3 or 4 years now? At Php15,000 no matter what bundles you throw in with it, it’s hardly a sale price. Oh, that’s right, your game consoles stopped selling ever since you were forced to stop offering jailbreak services.

Greenhills and maybe Divisoria or 168 Mall are where people expect to buy knock offs or get piracy hacks, not Robinson’s Place, one of the country’s biggest malls (and recently tourist hotspot apparently). But that’s how you view gaming, isn’t it? Not worth spending the money to buy new games for.

Yes, back in the Playstation 2 era I was buying pirated games too. I bought the cheap discs that worked on my console simply because I didn’t know any better. Oftentimes I ended up with games that glitched and froze, but for P100 each, who would complain?

You see, stores that sell games, I don’t particularly dislike you. In fact, I probably have you to thank for making Datablitz’ prices easier to swallow. Then again, even when I was buying those pirated games from AstroVision and DataVenture way back when, that little yellow store was always there, a few stalls before Headway.

It always sold legitimate copies of games, and has not sold pirated games or offered jailbreaking services. Their 100% genuine guarantee has yet to be broken despite immense market pressure.

We bought our first PC game there, Age of Empires. It came in a rather big box with a rather big manual with some rather interesting art books. Had it not been for Datablitz, we may have never known what licensed software looked like.

So when a few years back news broke out that the CIDG had raided Datablitz stores for “pirated software” you could understand all the raised eyebrows anyone familiar with the gaming scene would have had at the time. Any other store and we may have believed it, but not Datablitz, one of the few stores that actually treated gamers like us with respect.

In the early 2000's I was hard pressed to find a working copy of The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages for the GameBoy Color. I didn't know where legitimate copies could be found or what they looked like. Mixed up with non-genuine cartridges 10-year old me couldn't tell the difference, and had it not been for the few stores that guaranteed us genuine copies, I would probably be too skeptical of doling out the thousands of pesos that today's games cost.

In short, gaming stores, while the gaming industry has evolved far beyond the old models of the 1990s, your business practices haven’t and they continue to hurt gaming and the industry alike. The only reason I can think of allowing you to exist is to make Datablitz and other legit gaming stores look good. Everything from your pricing, your inventory and the people who we meet in the stores says a lot about who you are marketing them to. As of now, you aren’t marketing them to gamers, and that’s fine, but don’t prey on ignorance and naiveté just to score a quick buck at the expense of tarnishing the gaming experience for everyone. –

Toby Pavon is a struggling law student at Adamson University by night, and a video game chronicler and blogger by day.

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