In my youth the High Street had an abundance of shops trying to sell you videogame wares. WH Smiths, Woolworths, ePlay, Dixons, the supermarkets, Curry’s, and probably more that the passing of time has caused to fade from memory. Today, with many having closed their doors forever, others refocusing their lines, and those remaining moving to out of town retail parks, the centre of town is usually left with a GAME or Gamestation as the flagships for our hobby.
Though both may be owned by the same company, each has their own distinct image. Adverts for Gamestation feature the alternative, cooler young men and women, decked out in black with a smattering of tattoos and piercings. GAME, on the other hand, have those lovely, smartly dressed people in their pinky-purple uniforms; non-threatening and perfect for apprehensive parents and grandparents alike as they seek out the perfect game for Little Johnny’s Christmas present. Strip away this veneer and all may be identical, from range through to price, but the two vastly contrasting aspirational audiences is something that is good for us all in the long run.
Most people, savvy with the pounds in their pockets, will no doubt shop online, knowing that the discounts offered by Amazon, Play and alike cannot generally be matched by brick and mortar stores. Their mere presence on the High Street adding overheads that are easily lost by working out of a large warehouse somewhere in Guildford. But there’s always something to be said for browsing, and I always fall into that cliché of being drawn to Gamestation over GAME. Subconsciously I somehow feel somewhat more at home surrounded by the darker colours and staff that just because they’re wearing similar dark hues must know more than those donned in that ridiculous purple just down the road.
Conversely however knowing that clueless relatives can feel confident about wandering into GAME and be taken through just what you need to hook up a PlayStation 3 to a telly, or quite what this new Pokemonster thing is their son was whittering on about, is a reassuring state of affairs.
Both are two halves of a company that is currently seeing that our pastime still has a very evident footprint in the shopping centres of our nations towns, and one of the main reasons, to my mind, that the industry has seen such a growth over the last decade. Without such visibility it is questionable whether we would have the level of acceptance that we do – discounting the Daily Mail – and why we all should worry for the long term implications if the GAME group’s financial difficulties become terminal.
Anyone thinking the online sector will simply pick up the slack I believe is fooling themselves. If the brightly coloured shutters slam down on GAME for a final time, overnight the second-hand market will be vastly reduced and those unsure of the world of Nintendo won’t have an easy one stop shop to unravel what can only be a confusing world for the outsider. To you and I they may seem moot points, but think that we’ve all had to start somewhere. Either with a kindly grandparent buying you your first console for Christmas, or you scraping together your pocket money and tired old games to trade-in for the latest and greatest.
You may be able to do without GAME now. But what will we do without GAME in the future?