I have a dirty little secret. One that takes a little bit of courage to admit to my gaming peers publicly. My secret is that I frequently take advantage of my local Gamestop's buy back policy.
Actually, taking advantage doesn't really describe my actions. It's more like I ravenously pour through all of my games and movies on a weekly basis to find anything that I can part with, and since the purchase of an Xbox 360 this ritual has only gotten worse.
The games got more expensive but my employers didn't come through in raising my pay rate to compensate for it. The result is me finding anything that will cut the bitter taste of a full priced game down to a manageable level. I am constantly evaluating my collection of media and ordering them in my head by potential sell back value. I even have one of their little "More Cards" which adds ten percent to sold items and takes ten percent off used items. At least, that was what was written on the contract for my soul.
The other day I saw that they were having a special for pre-ordering Gears of War and that they'd add an extra twenty percent onto the buy back rate if you traded something in. I managed to bring in enough swag to buy a used copy of G.R.A.W. and almost pay off the new Tony Hawk as a reserve. That means I traded something in, purchased a used game, and reserved a new one all because they were having an advertised sale. All I was missing was a warranty and a strategy guide.
You see, I not only detest the existence of their system that rips me off and sells me overpriced merchandise for their own profit, but I also milk it for everything it's worth. I am the oil that keeps their perverse gears turning and despite knowing I'm part of the problem that faces the gaming public, my guilt hasn't yet reached a level that will cause me to stop my life of trade-ins and used games. That doesn't mean, however, that the guilt isn't still very real and always growing.
Through this emotional rollercoaster of game shame there is one thing that keeps me sane, and therefore keeps me coming back to Gamestop. It's an analogy that has been in my head since the day I sold all of my SNES games over to Toys R Us so that I could get 100 dollars off of a new Playstation. The idea is that the act of buying high and selling low is illustrated in nearly every traditional RPG ever made.
To help me explain picture this: You go out and work hard all day to earn your precious currency. You find a local shop to spend your currency in exchange for items you desire. Soon you get to a point where you realize said items have become inferior to new items sold at the local shop. You then bring your old items into the shop, sell them for what you can, and purchase new shiny items for your inventory.
Was I describing Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger or Breath of Fire? No, I was describing my own actions on a near-monthly basis. In my head the two scenarios have become one. I even picture the interior of the store in 2D, Isometric angles as I walk around and scan my eyes over their wares.
My young gamer-education of fantasy economics has become the ultimate justification for my young-adult denial of real life economics. I'm running on a bartering system developed by a small room of Japanese people almost 20 years ago, which, unfortunately for me, happens to coincide with the business practices of the very companies that sell me my games.
Now, I don't for a second think that the evil druid brains residing in the heads of the mighty gorillas that run Gamestop actually realize the parallels between their system and that of most RPGs. If that were the case I think I could resist it. At that point it would become an evil scheme on their part and I could just give them the finger and walk away, but the justification is coming from within me and my sensibilities and values don't stand a chance.
I walk up to the counter and set my sellables down next to my buyables and involuntarily the smooth blue Formica counter becomes a rich and time worn oak. The racks of games fade to smooth grey and white stones lining the interior of the humble establishment. The clear plastic decals in the windows morph into a stained glass homage to our Mana Tree mother, and the tired clerk behind the register remains part fish, part ox.
I know it's not common for an "adult" to pretend like that while shopping, but in my defense I am in a game store. I've devoted a portion of my life to pretending I'm in a fantasy land and what more appropriate place for the lines to blur than where I purchase my fantasies from?
Another thing I've noticed is that the game store is the only store where this make-believe world clouds my mind. There is no romanticized Walgreen's or Stop 'N Go. That further proves to me that it is a defense mechanism against the mounting shame I feel when conducting business with Gamestop.
I know this is a sign that I should stop being so hard on myself and stop worrying about what will happen if people find out that I am a "trader inner." Not to say I should just stop caring what other people think altogether. Caring what people think is a big part of being human and in some aspects of life it is essential. If my waitress thinks I'm cheap then the service will suffer, if my customers think I'm rude then my business will suffer, and if my readers think I'm a sell out then my credibility will suffer.
It is time for me admit that it is ok that I go into my local Gamestop and give them my old games and movies, because I have other responsibilities in my life that take priority over gaming. I can't decide not to save for the future of my family just because Gears of War is coming out, nor should I feel shame from my peers just because I found a quick and easy way to make Gears of War possible without sacrificing what's important.
I didn't feel guilty about beating up Gato for over an hour to raise enough silver points for a samurai sword, and I'll be damned if I feel guilty about selling Short Circuit back to Gamestop so that I could buy Tony Hawk.