When I was a kid, I was terrified of trading in a used game. I remember checking and double-checking that flaming cartridge or disc to make sure it was suitable to sell on to another keen gamer. For an N64 cartridge, I’d blow the hell out of the thing until there was nothing but the sweet smell of success rebounding into my face; for a PlayStation disc, I was inclined to shine that baby up until my heart was content, safe in the knowledge that my reflection was clear to smile back at me, free from the obstruction of any blemish or scratch.
Booklets were another matter entirely. Boy oh boy, we’ve all been in a position whereby we lift a game’s box up and, realising it feels a little light, frantically open it to reveal nothing but a needless white piece of paper with some kind of health & safety message pissing in the wind about how we should go about loading this game up, as opposed to the way we have countless others we’ve owned. They may have said something entirely different by I, like you, never ever read them. Evetually the booklets would turn up, stuck between a couple of VHS tapes – of course, the last place you’d checked.
I’d take my time to browse the walkthrough guides in the queue at Electronics Boutique, staring blankly at a page telling me the best way to venture Turok‘s opening level, even though I could have probably traversed that with my eyes shut. But like I say, I’m staring blankly through the page, my senses focused entirely on telling me when that half-friendly looking worker is available to get pounced on - more often than not they’d be furthest from any of the managers who, in my mind, would be hawking me like some devious fiend, eager to score something that I had no right to.
Of course, all would be well in the end. My paranoia in such situations would be blown sky high the moment the game and booklet had been skimmed over by the employee before me. However, while signing my name and address, I became distinctly aware – falsely, it may actually turn out – that, once “out the back”, my cartridge/disc would be processed and studied under intense scrutiny. In turn, I would be contacted – possibly via a stern knock at my front door – and informed that I had provided the store with a dodgy copy, complete with a ripped page in the manual to boot. My newly found conquest would be cut short, the game whipped away and replaced with a note informing me that my name would be black-listed in the Big Book of Video Game Traders.
Oh, how my greatly upsetting yet strangely comforting illusions have been shattered now.
Last week it was reported that a couple had bought a used copy of GTA IV at Gamestation and found two ecstasy tablets wrapped up and hidden behind the booklet. In the process, their twelve year-old boy’s welfare was put into jeopardy and their nerves pulled to shreds. The ex-owner of the game had almost instantly regretted his ironic and comedic choice of hiding place, his Friday night probably halved in the process.
I was worried about leaving a hair between one of the pages of a used booklet and somebody has gone and got away with using a video game retailer as a middle-man for an elaborate drug deal?! Really? All those years I was shitting myself at the thought of that guy behind the counter’s face turning to doubt as he twisted Ridge Racer around in the light enough to attempt to find any hint of a sign that I was trying to fool him. I’d have to keep a straight face and make sure to look him in the eyes with an expression that said: “I’m glad you’re checking that, but I’ve checked it a few times myself… I wouldn’t bring it here if I thought it wasn’t any good”.
At the time of writing, there has been no confirmation as to whether or not the PSP bought at Walmart containing a naked woman as its wallpaper and a memory card full of filth was a pre-owned device — if it wasn’t then the implication for Sony would be less than good. As it stands, I’m assuming that somebody has got home from the store and suffered from cold sweats that would have made my fixation with trade-in comeuppance pale in comparison.
But how can so much complacency from a trader be matched only by the Walmart employee? Or is that a silly question? I guess we may never know exactly what went on there, but it has certainly raised some very interesting questions as the whether or not any company’s returns or trade-in policy should be able to stand as it is without a serious overhaul and stricter regime put into place.
The possibilities for what can occur are endless here. What next? A copy of Henry Hatsworth with a free mouldy tea bag to play with? Or how’s about a Rainbow Six Vegas 2 special edition box accompanied by a loaded silenced pistol? Yeah, that ought to do it. Whatever is to come, we can expect a heavy amount of fuel being added to the flames of arguments from those who believe that trade-in culture is a negative for the industry as a whole. It may be a new take on the matter, as opposed to the financial implications we’ve heard all too much of late, but it’s certainly a more viable one.
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