Wil buys a new game. It’s super effective!

A pair of twenty-something Bros, dressed and posed in a manner that was such a hilarious cliche, if I described them exactly as I saw them, my editor would have said, "no, that's too cliche," stood near the front of the store, communicating in some kind of Broglish that leaned heavily on the word "fuck" and its many derivatives.

I guess I'm Old Man Wheaton, because I looked around at all the 7 and 8 year-olds in the store and felt mildly offended that these two Bros couldn't be bothered to make an effort to tone it down just a little bit.

But such is the way of The Bro. If they had common sense and a WIS stat higher than d6+2, they probably wouldn't be Bros.

I walked around them, went to the DS games, and felt like a teenager buying his first box of condoms. I felt my face get warm, I caught myself looking around to ensure I wasn't being watched, and I reached for the nearest copy of Pokémon Black Version.

I turned it over in my hand and read the back. "I can't believe I'm actually going to do this," I thought. "I'm 38 years-old, and I'm buying Pokémon for the first time in my life."

The Bros left the store, trailing expletives behind them. Something was, apparently, a lot of fucking bullshit. The precious children I was so concerned about moments earlier didn't seem to notice. Maybe they play a lot of Call of Duty online. Or maybe I'm just an a dad nearing forty.

I nervously drummed my fingers on the game as I replayed the conversation I had with my friend Jerry about two months ago, where he assured me that Pokémon on the DS is a fun RPG that starts anew with each release, and is incredibly fun when you play it with your friends. The last game Jerry recommended to me, Might and Magic Clash of Heroes remains one of the greatest games I've ever played on the DS, so I trust him.

I trust him enough to find myself standing in GameStop*, feeling like I was renting porn, and wanting to ensure that I was getting Big Wet Asses 4, instead of Wet Big Asses 4. I approached the counter.

"Can I help you with anything?" The guy asked me.

"Yes, but you have to promise that you're not going to make fun of me."

The other guy smirked, and the first guy told me that he would not make fun of me.

"Okay," I exhaled and realized that my shoulders were tense. I relaxed them. "Do you have … Pokémon White Version?"

He sort of chuckled. The other guy failed to cover a laugh.

"Hey!" I said, "I can see you judging me!" I said to the other guy.

"No, man. I just thought that was funny. We both play Pokémon," The other guy said.

"Yeah, it's nothing to be embarrassed about; it's a really fun RPG," The first guy said.

"That's what my friend told me," I said, "so here I am at 38 years-old finally buying Pokémon for the first time.

"I am given to understand that they are essentially the same. Is that right?"

The other guy said that I had been correctly informed, and added that it pretty much depended on what box I liked better.

"Well, this thing kind of looks like … a dragon? I guess? Yeah, a dragon … and dragon's are cool, so…"

The first guy typed a few things on his computer. "We have White version, but we only have it used."

"I actually prefer to buy games new, to support the developer and stuff," I said, feeling a little self-conscious, like I had just extolled the virtues of fidelity while standing in a whorehouse, or giving a shit about the middle class while visiting Congress.

"No worries," he said.

"Okay, so I guess I'll take this, and Super Scribblenauts."

He rang me up.

"Hey, I … really like the work you do on Big Bang Theory," he said.

I know this sounds weird, but I often forget that when I'm interacting with strangers, there's a non-zero chance that they know my name and have seen me act. It used to make me feel like I had an arm growing out of my head when it happened, but I've gotten over that, and now it actually makes me happy, because I'm proud of what I do.

"Oh, thanks, man! I like being on Big Bang Theory," I said.

"Did you want a bag for these?" He asked.

"No, I'm good," I said, "I'll carry them out in the open so the whole world can know my shame. Thanks for your help."

I walked out of the store, past another employee who was explaining the differences between a couple of FPS games to a guy who was about my age, and seemed as uncertain about his purchase decision as I was about mine, but not nearly as self-conscious.

*I get it; some of you hate GameStop. That's cool, and you're certainly entitled to your opinion, but I don't need a list of reasons why it sucks, delivered in Broglish. Twitter already accomplished that for me earlier today, thanks.

100 thoughts on “Wil buys a new game. It’s super effective!”

  1. You can buy whatever you want from wherever you want. It’s your choice.
    I worked for GameStop for six years as a manager. Now that I’m free, I would never buy anything them ever again. GameStop has no problem throwing employees under the bus in order to make a buck. I quit when I couldn’t take the corporate shenanigans any longer.
    Enjoy Pokémon. It’s one of the most popular games on the DS. I used to sell it to grandmothers who got hooked after playing their grandkids’ games, so don’t feel bad. Fun for all ages!

  2. I generally believe it’s okay to like whatever you like. For better or worse the things we like are part of what define each of us, and to deny something we like is to deny a part of our own existence. I won’t deny there is a certain social stigma associated with particular likes and dislikes that can be very hard to get past. I do it by understanding that the things I like are a big part of who I am. I don’t worry about what other people think because anyone I would call a friend accepts me for who I am, regardless of any differences in opinion regarding “taste.” More to the point, I don’t worry about anyone who doesn’t like me because of something I happen to like, because it truly doesn’t matter. If I happen to like Big Wet Asses 4, and you can’t get past that, that’s your problem; I’m going home to have a good time, and you can get back to your own life.
    Like what you like folks, and don’t ever feel ashamed for it.

  3. GameStop seems to be a place where children aren’t really children. I had to explain to a mom in front of me in line that she shouldn’t be buying her 9 year old son Read Dead Redemption. I felt pretty old and lame then, too. I thought that kid was going to burn a hole through me with his glare.

  4. I know what you mean. I was in picking up my copy of Mortal Kombat and chatting about Mass Effect 3 with the guy behind the counter. I saw other people coming in so I cut it short and start to leave and the mom with her 8-9 year old asks for their reserved copy of MK for her son. Not just in on a whim, but she preordered it for him. I just lowered my head, did a mental /facepalm and went out the door.

  5. Okay, (deep breath) this is where I say “Wil…I don’t play video games. I don’t even LIKE them.” 😀 That being said, i will occasionally play Wii Sports with my kids because my 8 yr-old daughter likes to bowl with me, and my 5 yr-old daughter likes to punch me out in boxing. “I punched you mommy! I punched you DOWN! Stay down mommy! Stay down!” (it’s a rollicking good time, I tell you.) Anyway, I was unaware that there was some sort of taboo shopping at GameStop? My 8 yr-old got a (much desired) DSI for her birthday and she had GameStop gift cards burning a hole in her pocket. She loved going into the store and picking out several games. She’s so happy.

  6. My 8-year-old son has started us back into the journeys in gamer-land. Game Stop has been nothing but good to me. They have always treated me, and my son, with respect and knowledgeable passion. Like what was mentioned above, they’re like my friends who worked at a bike shop: delighted to get paid for what they love.

  7. Okay, I don’t feel so bad now. You comfort me. Here I am, 47, and my soon-to-be 15 year old daughter is trying her best to lure me into Pokemon. It’s not that I don’t know what they are. I do, actually. I’ve had to learn in self defense! But now that I have a DS, and I’m getting more proficient at it, she now wants me to play Pokemon so… I can trade Pokemon with her. Heaven help me, she’s even gotten me a Pokewalker.
    However… I do enjoy the looks on both of my kids’ friends’ faces when they’re chattering about games, and I pipe up with how I like this character or don’t like that character, and man, doesn’t it really suck when your HP gets drained, and they’re all, “You… you know about… games???
    So I’m a girl, I’m a mom, and a HUGE geek… and they’re surprised??
    Welcome to the crazy world of Pokemon, Wil. Just don’t fight a fire type with a grass type. It isn’t pretty. I still can’t bear the disappointment in my son’s face. “Wow, Mom… you really blew that one, huh?”
    Knife… in… my heart…

  8. I’ll be 38 in just a couple of weeks, and I never played a video game until I learned of Little Big Planet. I *love* it, and now I can share gaming with my husband. =)
    P.S. I don’t hate any gaming store, so no hate here!

  9. I haven't played it, yet, but apparently it fixes the few complaints a lot of us had about the original (which was still a fantastic game, IMHO).

  10. I am so going to use the word “Broglish” now. Thank you for introducing me to this word. My one friend goes to college at OSU in Ohio and I always mess with him and say he goes to BrOSU. Never gets old.

  11. zomg broglish rotflmao
    btw you DO have an extra arm growing out of your head, it’s in the back where you can’t see it in the mirror. I meant to tell you, sorry.

  12. I like GameStop — the one near me at least. They don’t mind if I come in looking like a 40-something suburban mom asking stupid questions about Wii and X-Box games, and they let me take used games home and return them in a few days if I decide that they’re not appropriate for my kids. Of course, I’m still kind of self-conscious about being a n00b with the console games, and have to ask about the latest Blizzard products, as that’s where my <3 is.

  13. I did the same thing a month ago – I’d been avoiding Pokemon for years, even though innumerable adult friends play it and have extolled its RPG virtues to me for years. I tried the card game for the first time during a break in my shift at Origins last year, too. Felt a little silly at 37 sitting around a bunch of 12 year olds and throwing cards down, but it gave me an idea of how cool the mechanics are in both that version and the video game. It turns out after a few hours of play it /is/ a fun RPG, and reminds me of all the old great Phantasy Stars and Final Fantasy serieses of my youth. Hope you enjoy it!

  14. I love how you refer to “your friend Jerry” as if he’s not someone gamers would know. Well played.
    I’d highly recommend Castle Crashers for XBox 360 Arcade if you’re looking for a platformer. My kids and I absolutely love it, and I’m unabashedly 40 and have been into gaming 30+ years. I still remember playing text adventures on my uncle’s Radio Shack CoCo.

  15. Coincidentally enough, I’m thinking about getting into Pokemon myself, at the age of 32. Even though the extent of my Pokemon knowledge is “you catch things” and “Pikachu”. I was at GameStop today myself, although looking for a different game (Okamiden for DS, which they had but which was too pricey for me :( ) I should have seen if they had Black and/or White but I didn’t even think about it.

  16. The timing of this post is oddly delightful. I always considered myself a geek, but there was just something *too* geeky about reading books based on things that weren’t originally books, i.e. Star Trek novels and such…so at the tender age of 36, totally enamored with Mass Effect and starved for more content, I went down to my local bookstore to pick up the novels, and the scene was similar. I lurked in the science fiction section, and when I did not find what I was looking for, I sheepishly approached the counter. Why? Because it’s childish to want to read something based on a video game? Because that makes me a geekier geek? I was actually thinking of writing a blog post on the experience, and how it made me think about my preconceptions of what’s acceptable, cool, or “grown-up”.
    Maybe next week, anyway. Right now I’m reading “Mass Effect: Redemption”. OPENLY. 😛

  17. Cool, Wil! You and I lost our Pokemon virginity within 2 weeks of each other. Awesome.
    Though the way I just said that makes it sound less awesome and more… sticky or fluid-ey

  18. I may not be the first person to say this but it looked like no one else mentioned that Pokemon White has an additional area called the White Forest that is not in Pokemon Black. This gives you access to some additional old school Pokemon like Abra, Machop, Pidgey, and about 20 others. At least thats what I read on the internet, so it’s gotta be right…..
    Here’s the link.

  19. Congrats, Wil! My youngest daughter & all her college-age cronies will be very impressed. She was recently voted in as the President of the Association for Computing Machinery and they held the very 1st Pokemon Tournament at Stetson University early this Spring. You are now among some of the coolest folks I know!

  20. “I’ll carry them out in the open so the whole world can know my shame. Thanks for your help.”
    Cuddos for that, I only played the Pokemon Red and Blue (first gameboy ones) when I was a kid and I remember the hours of fun I had with that.. ever since those I have been to embarrassed to try the newer versions though..
    Maybe I’ll ‘pull a Wheaton’ and pick one up next time I’m in a game store, and if people give me weird looks I’ll just exclaim ‘Don’t be a dick’. And feel proud to be a gamer.

  21. Yesterday I went to buy my first Pokemon game. My son and I wanted the new Pokemon Black & White TCG decks. They were behind the counter and there was a bit of a line. While waiting in line we discussed what deck each would buy and which was better. I didn’t talk like a father buying something his kid likes, I talked like a fellow player because that is what I was. Everyone that listened one knew I bought the Blue Assault because it was my favorite and that I bought it for myself. My son choose Green Tornado. We were both excited.
    When we were home, we played. He beat me but otherwise it was fun 😛

  22. Wil, whenever we fly home to Vermont, we fly to Manchester, NH and drive north. And every time we drive up I-93, our car somehow steers itself towards Weirs Beach. And there, in all its splendor…is the Fun Spot.
    Now imagine being 40+ in a warehouse full of all the games you knew as a kid as you plunked your tokens at your favorite bowling alley/Aladdin/ and the kids asking why there isn’t an A/B button. “We didn’t need no stinking A or B!”
    So I feel you there at Game Stop…enjoy the time.
    A Wheaton-a-thon meet up at Fun Spot would be a very cool event, eh?
    (for those not familiar with Fun Spot in NH, go rent The King of Kong, or go check out http://www.funspotnh.com/)

  23. Castle Crashers is one of my all-time favorites. My son and I played it together all the time on LIVE during his first year away at college. Living in the future is awesome!

  24. The problem with Pokemon is that once you get it in the blood, the sight of a new one will call to you like a siren. Maybe you won’t care when you hear about it; maybe you won’t care when you see it come out in the stores, but sooner or later something will happen and you will snatch it up.
    I was the right age for Pokemon when it came out, so I watched the show and then obviously had to have the game, and while I haven’t picked up literally every Pokemon game, I’ve somehow been drawn in to every truly new one (they’ve done a few remakes).
    So now I’m 26 (not that old, but it feels that way sometimes), and I was going to ignore the new ones because I’m “too old for Pokemon,” but then there’s someone playing one and of course I have to talk to them about it, and of course they let me see it and… BAM! That same day I’m popping around to the games department and picking up a copy of Pokemon Black… and of course I end up loving it.
    So, the whole point of this story, Wil, is pretty much the same point of the story you told; Games are for fun, and there’s no reason any of us should feel ashamed for picking up a game we know we will love (or have had reliable friends tell us we will love).
    Also, it felt kind of weird calling you “Wil” up there. In my brain you’re usually “Wil Wheaton,” or “your friend, Wil Wheaton.”

  25. Um, call me tool if you will, but this mom has no problem telling a group of people to cool it with the language (ok, I do ask nicely). While I can tolerate it, I draw the line at having my son listen to it.
    And, Star Wars Legos is waaay cool and we have so much fun playing it! Much time is wasted by killing each other with lightsabers or starting cantina fights for no reason!
    My kids and i frequently have Rock Band sessions with every role filled! Such a great bonding game!

  26. I don’t play video games-rpg or otherwise, I don’t play poker, can’t stand hockey, am not married, nor have I dated in ten years, I don’t watch television or read comic books.. why the hell do I love your writing so much?
    Nice one, Wil, and BTW the John Lennon version of “Stand By Me” just started playing on Beatles.radio. Very groovy

  27. Well, if it makes you feel any better, I’m 41 and just bought my first LEGO rendition game for my DS — LEGO Harry Potter. Oh, and I picked up Pokemon Black after reading your post. The last one I played was Diamond and I really enjoyed it.

  28. I wouldn’t call you “Old Man Wheaton” just for wishing that those guys would tone it down. I frequently wish the same thing. I have no opposition to profanity whatsoever, but when I hear people who use Carlin’s seven words like they’re some kind of punctuation, I automatically want to deduct about fifty IQ points because it’s quite apparent that they never bothered to cultivate a fucking vocabulary!
    Ironic considering that I’ve been working in professional kitchens my entire working life and we frequently DO use those lovely four letter expletives almost like punctuation, but kitchen patois has nothing to do with the real world and most of us get that.
    Back to the topic at hand. There is absolutely no shame that I can think of in buying a Pokemon title, even at the ripe age of 38, and props to you for taking the plunge and busting your Poke-cherry. I presume by now you’ve played them, and if you like them, awesome. More power to you. The people out there who want to bust your balls about it should be responded to with a nice, cheery, Henry Rollins-style rebuttal: “I like this, and fuck you.”

  29. I can totally get behind this. I’ll be 30 this year and I am totally smitten with pokemon.
    I think that the secret to being a really happy ,lovely adult is to stay a big kid and shamelessly enjoying whatever it is that makes you smile, even if it makes you look goofy :)

  30. I bought my first Pokemon game at 32. I’m now rapidly approaching 45. I love me some RPGs (I just finished Mass Effect after starting it over 3 years ago!). Maybe I’ll borrow a recent Pokemon game from my 9 year old nephew. Gamestop is not my favor place to buy games, unless I’m buying Fallout: New Vegas CE for $30 :)

  31. I, like Thebravetart, am usually the only girl in my local Gamestop because–around here in Hillbilly Hell, PA–the idea of a girl playing games is as alien as the idea of teeth.
    The last time I was in there, I was perusing the Lego games while clasping the last copy of Batman: Arkham Asylum and one of the Bros (Redneck Edition) in there sidled up to me and leered, “So, buying something nice for you kids?” He spotted Batman and added, “And your man?”
    Oh, how I wish for a Taser sometimes.

  32. Pokemon and Lego games are my favorites, haha. And some of my friends’ favorites too, actually. No shame there, Wil. No shame at all.

  33. There is no shame in them at all (the Lego games, that is). I’m proud to admit I’m a 43 year old single man with no kids who happens to own every one of the Lego titles. They are a lot of fun with some subtle bits of humour for the adults who play.
    As for Counter-Strike, you sick bastard! Just kidding, I’m sure they’re fun, I just got tired of getting pwned all the time by kids young enough to be my son.

  34. Something for you to think about the next time you feel like getting something like pokemon:

    Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

    –CS Lewis

  35. I feel about the same, on Xbox though, so I hated dealing with the snotnosed punks on Halo. Actually, the worst part of playing games like that is dealing with the snotnosed punks. I suppose the second worst is remembering the full range of uses for the 11 individual controls on the Xbox controller.
    I’m a lot happier playing relatively simple-to-control games that are cute (Cthulhu Saves the World), cute and somewhat challenging (the Lego series), or simple to control but requiring intelligence (I recently discovered Limbo).
    It’s considerably more pleasant for me to actually enjoy the experience than it is to deal with the opprobrium of online pubescent mouth-breathers, all of whom are truly shoddy ambassadors for the products they claim to like.
    Halo isn’t for wankers – so why do so many wankers play it?

  36. How dare you insult the Wet Big Asses franchise by confusing it with the Big Wet Asses franchise! :O
    Seriously though, as not even a close to empty nester approaching 50 and having to go to Game Stop to purchase Pokemon White (because it has the Black pokemon in it not the black because it has the white pokemon in it) I’m surprised you were embarrassed at all. Think of things this way which, as an actor, should be a bit easier for you than me: pretend you still have a 9 year old desperate for both the next pokemon game and the next episode of River Monsters. Don’t say anything to the guy at the counter; you don’t want to lie. Just pretend.
    Now, has the flushed face gone away?

  37. Pokemon Red was my first entrance into the Pokemon world. I remember grabbing it because my brother and I were going to sit in line at the Mall of America to buy Star Wars tickets and I wanted something to do while we waited. And I was hooked. I was 28 at the time. Now, I am still so very hooked into the Pokemon series and in just a few weeks, I will turn 41. I used to feel weird about getting a ‘kids’ game, but honestly I love the series. It makes me happy, and that is worth a few strange looks from people who just don’t get it.

  38. I was the stereotypical elitist pc gamer up until about 3 years ago…I looked down on anything console, even though it all started with an Atari 2600…I sneered at people and their NES games when I had my C64…laughed when the Snes was all the rage because I had my Amiga 500…then System Shock, Wolfenstein 3d and Ultima Underworld kept me clear of the Playstation.
    All the while my best friend would bug me to try console game “X” or “Y”…it took him 20 years but I finally gave in 3 years ago…Final Fantasy XII and Chrono Trigger. I realized how foolish I had been and now happily embrace all gaming under my video gaming umbrella…even Pokemon 😉

  39. I can totally empathize with this, and it’s a relief when you get over your embarrassment and realize it was no big deal. Particularly for younger people, it’s a shame when embarrassment/insecurity stops someone from enjoying the hobbies they love. It makes me sad to think of someone with less confidence walking in to that same situation and not having the nerve to approach the counter and ask for Pokemon.
    High school probably would have been a lot more fun for me had I proudly proclaimed my love for Pokemon instead of hiding it. Pokemon is so much more fun the more fellow trainers you know, but it’s impossible to find Pokemon friends if no one knows you play it. I never did get Blue exclusives like Vulpix and Sandshrew on my Red cart because I didn’t have anyone to trade with… sadness.
    There just came a point where I told myself, “part of being mature is not feeling embarrassment over the hobbies I enjoy,” and kind of used that as my mantra to get over insecurity. And I also tell myself that anyone who makes fun of me for liking Pokemon is probably just jealous that I have a cool interest and self-confidence. =P

  40. I can honestly say I Have spent countless hours and weeks and moths and years playing pokemon. it was an awfully good addiction. I haven’t been able to play the new pokemon game though due to lack of DS… I only have the GBA 😛

  41. I always felt slightly embarrassed for playing Pokemon Snap when it came out on N64. It wasn’t the playing the game itself that always embarrassed me, it was playing and doing so horribly at taking the damn pictures.

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