Earlier this summer, as my roommate and I lounged in the sweltering prison of heat and solitude that was our former place of residence, our boredom reached a peak saturation point and we just couldn’t freaking take it anymore. We needed a video game.
My housemate Kevin, a film buff, had stumbled across a gameplay trailer of L.A. Noire, an action game with Hollywood-caliber voice acting and detective story. The game sells for $60 dollars on the Playstation 3, and we both immediately recognized the gamble of laying down cash for a game that may or may not be a terrible way to spend 25 hours of our lives. (Recently, I had narrowly escaped a Weeds addiction and have since been skeptical of the entertainment industry’s negligence of quality in favor of longevity.) So, like most frugal Americans stumped by the consumer decision making process, we decided to rent the game for a few days at a time until we got the taste for it.
But we couldn’t.
I quickly overcame the disappointment found in my first call to I Luv Video; it’s understandable why the local movie rental favorite opts out on carrying games: they could use the shelf space for porn, and that’s probably more accessible than Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3. But each subsequent call to other entertainment rental places left me with the same surprising response: “I can’t think of anywhere to rent video games in town.”
There’s no store from which to rent video games in Austin, Texas? Some research led me to a sole proprietor, Blockbuster, which had previously wholly encompassed the rental business until last year, when the company filed for bankruptcy and dozens of locations in Austin closed. As a result, the only options for gamers dried up, leaving only a few remaining Blockbusters on the outskirts of town.
My roommate and I finally solved our problem and found our game in one of these Blockbuster locations, but my question is this: why should we have to support an outdated, financially unsound corporation in a city that takes so much pride and fame in its local businesses - especially when so many of these businesses are video game development studios?
There are certainly other options for spendthrift gamers; services like Gamefly mail games to subscribers in a manner similar to Netflix. But this solution still takes a couple of days to receive the disks, and it completely removes the element of human interaction that is such a fascinating part of gamer culture and Austin’s culture in general. I want to be able to go into a store and ramble for hours about which Final Fantasy game has the best battle system, or why Call of Duty is actually poorly designed, or how Earthbound is the best game no one’s ever played.
Fortunately, I have places like Game Over Videogames that encourage gamer dialogue in Austin, but with the cost of games skyrocketing along with the demand for grittier, more realistic technology, buying full games is becoming a less feasable option in this delicate (you guessed it) economy. Certainly I am not alone in my desire to pay just 5 dollars for a few days with a game instead of spending all my grocery money and only playing it once.
Let me know what you think in the comments section. Are there any places other than Blockbuster to rent games in the entire city? Am I alone in my pursuit of cheap electronic entertainment? Is pornography really more popular than Dragon Ball Z: Budokai? Wait, don't answer that one.