Chad: So, if I don’t get any work for Monday, I’d like to stand in line for the chance to pre-order a Nintendo Wii.

Michelle: . . .

Chad: <nervous smile>

Michelle: Please explain to me the logic in spending money as a consolation for not working, and thereby not generating income.

Chad: <nervous smile of simian deference>

Yes, it’s October 16, and–here in Canada, at least–that means it’s pre-order day for the next-generation video-game consoles from Nintendo and Sony. What does that mean? Well, all across our fine country today, geeks did what they do best: stand in line.

I’ve yet to queue up with my own kind and not have a good time, and today was no different. Despite arriving at the mall before 7:00 AM, I was preceded by about thirty die-hards, many of whom had spent a sleepless night in Vancouver drizzle. Much to my surprise, order had been established by means of an ordered list; though I didn’t hold out much hope for my position as 12th in line for a Wii, my hope in humanity was buoyed by the thought that the upcoming example of supply v. demand might actually be civil. Waiting for the doors to open, Nintendo and Sony fans self-sorted into cliques, coming together for boisterous wireless-DS play and awkwardly milling about, respectively. After several Mario Kart races and even more tracks of some strange rhythm game (a Japanese import whose name I have no hope of pronouncing), security decided to open the doors.

Queue chaos.

From almost the start of the mad dash from the mall entrance to the stanchions outside of EB Games, it was clear that my faith in humanity had been presumptuous. Others had negotiated some sort of early entrance. Others had prime position right outside the store. They were not on The List, and what’s more, they were not moving.

Given that PS3 are selling for US$2000.00 and up on eBay, I can sort of understand why people were upset. Sort of. But not really. At all. Complaints were voiced, arguments ensued, security took up positions, further complaints were voiced, names were taken down, back-up security was called in, angry phone calls to “headquarters” were placed. All this for things that won’t even be real for more than a month. Things that are–in fact–games.

Now, true to their word, everyone who had waited patiently outside re-arranged themselves according to The List. Not surprisingly, however, none of their aggro changed the fact that even the first person on The List had now been bumped to a spot where the possibility of their pre-order was called into very real question. One at a time, they entered the store, security locking the doors behind them. Once they’d provided a several hundred dollar deposit, they were let back out again, and the manager announced whether or not there was a system for the next person in line. It was a slow and suspensful process. In all, the store was able to accept pre-orders on perhaps 10 PS3 and 15 or 16 Wii, so… again with the wailing and gnashing of teeth when it was announced that a respective system had sold out.

Even without the drama, events like this always have value as ethnographic spectacle, and I definitely regret not having a camera on hand to preserve and share some of the characters with you. I’ll try to do better next time I have the opportunity for such an event. Provided I’m not too busy playing Twilight Princess on the very, truly, totally, absolutely last Wii that Lougheed EB had available for pre-sale.


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