It started, as perhaps many ignoble things do, innocently enough. I walked into my local Software Etc. - as it was widely known before becoming Gamestop, Babbages, NeoStar, or whatever the hell they call it - with every intention of getting back the money from my Star Wars Galaxies pre-reserve.
I would say, "Hello. I have a pre-reserve for Star Wars Galaxies." At this point IÃ‚'d show them my pre-reserve ticket, so the ever vigilant sales associate would see that I was on the up-and-up. IÃ‚'d continue, "after some careful consideration IÃ‚'ve decided not to purchase the game at this time. I was in the beta, you see, and while Galaxies has many strengths, I just donÃ‚'t feel that itÃ‚'s worth my hard earned money yet. Perhaps later, once some more content has been added, and some of the more engaging features implemented, I shall return and with a sense of pride and confidence purchase this product from you. But, sadly, not today." We would then give each other a knowing glance, a sense of understanding would be fostered between us, and I would walk out of the store with my head held high, and possessed of a certainty that IÃ‚'d done the right thing.
The sales associate did not appear to be particularly interested in my cogent thoughts on GalaxiesÃ‚' beta. In fact, she seemed in something of a hurry, as a myriad of over-stimulated gamers milled about with their own slips of white paper, the word Galaxies scrawled on them, which they clutched like the most holy grail itself. She turned to her big box of Star Wars Galaxies, and said sharply, "Name?"
I decided that she was going to have to get my receipt off the box anyway before giving me my refund, so I answered her question. But, I began to feel a nagging sense of something slipping away, something I held tenuously at best to begin with and which was now barely clasped at the edge of some unseen grip, something terribly terribly slippery.
"CollectorÃ‚'s edition or regular?" She asked.
"Regular," I answered meekly.
Next to me a waif of a manboy stood with the contrast between his black t-shirt and pasty white skin equaled only by that of the full moon framed by a dark winter night. Behind thick glasses he passed judgment on me through a condescending glance at my mention that I was only interested in the standard version. Despite his entire existence as a walking cliche, having just won a well considered argument with his friend about why a Transdoshan just makes a better combat character than a Wookie, his disdain was clear. Poser, he seemed to say to me. I felt unusually small.
And then I held it, Galaxies in its thick black box that seemed to just fit into my large, greedy, now sweating hands. The tired sales associate glared at me with the same sort of contempt one might have for cat vomit. She said something about a strategy guide and a discount, something that I had once said to customers when I managed a Software Etc. years before, and she clearly had only a passing interest in my response. No, I told her, I didnÃ‚'t need the strategy guide.
IÃ‚'m not buying the game, is the reason I should have given for eschewing PrimaÃ‚'s Galaxies Compendium of the Painfully Obvious. Instead, I said, "I was in the beta." I meant this as a fine representation of how in-the-know I was on the whole Galaxies milieu. It was supposed to be really impressive.
"Wow," she said making it entirely clear that her actual opinion was the opposite of wow. The cliche was equally unimpressed. I smiled in way that can only be termed pathetic, "I wasnÃ‚'t trying to brag or anything. I mean, lots of people were in the beta, IÃ‚'m just saying I donÃ‚'t really need the guide." I stopped talking before I could explain that such experience also meant I didnÃ‚'t actually want the game.
"Huh?" I realized I was still holding the Star Wars Galaxies box. I considered it the way I might consider the formula for cold fusion.
"You still owe forty-eight twenty four."
Now I was holding my billfold, and that also seemed pretty unusual. Nowhere in the process I had anticipated did holding a billfold factor. In fact, that was kind of the whole point, avoiding a purchase. But it was too late, I was somehow committed to the process and besides she had my credit card. I could only assume IÃ‚'d given it to her.
Have you ever seen the move A Christmas Story with Peter Billingsley? Do you remember when Ralphie is making his way toward Santa? When he arrives on the Jolly OneÃ‚'s lap he is so entirely befuddled by the experience that he can only stare into SantaÃ‚'s eyes, incapable of pointing out that what he really wants is an official Red Ryder carbine-action two-hundred-shot range model air rifle. He just sits there wearing the same expression youÃ‚'d expect from a chicken if youÃ‚'d just told it a joke. I was having that moment.
Outside the store I wondered why my head was not high, and my confidence not swollen. The plastic bag in my hand reminded me that IÃ‚'d just paid fifty dollars for a game I didnÃ‚'t actually want. I stood there for a moment, breathed what I think may have been a Ã‚"˜cleansing breathÃ‚', and then proceeded toward the exit as if IÃ‚'d done precisely what I wanted. And who knows, perhaps I had? Maybe subconsciously IÃ‚'d wanted to be tricked into buying Galaxies all along. Besides, I told myself, Software Etc. still accepts returns, and the first month of Galaxies is free, so I can still walk away a winner here. By the time IÃ‚'d reached the car, IÃ‚'d convinced myself that things were going exactly to plan.
So IÃ‚'d take a few days, see Galaxies again for exactly what it was, and return it with no one the wiser to my indiscretion. All I need do is really sell people on the idea that I wasnÃ‚'t playing Galaxies. After all, IÃ‚'d made some pretty specific statements to that fact, and people (by people, I mean Certis) can be very judgmental about my trend toward impulse purchases.
Hey, I know IÃ‚'m weak. YouÃ‚'re not opening some unexplored psychological doorway by cluing me in to that fact. I think my weakness is best exemplified by this Penny-Arcade strip which is odd because Certis and I agreed long ago that if they had a Penny-Arcade movie and called on us to star he would be Tycho and I would be Gabe. There are a variety of unspoken reasons for this, all of which are ultimately irrelevant. What is important is that IÃ‚'m Weak.
The fiasco with Galaxies that followed is best saved for the review I plan to write as both validation for my purchase and penance. I donÃ‚'t want to spoil the judgements IÃ‚'ve made on the game as they still need to be more finely crafted, much like the Bone Armor chest plate IÃ‚'ve recently taken to selling on the Bazaar (... when it works ...) on the Starsider server (... when it works). But, I know in a dark place that I will never get around to returning Galaxies, that IÃ‚'m just not capable of giving up on what I think the game can be. Besides, that sales girl kinda scared me.