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PHOTO: Chris Shields


It may be raining, but for the gamers waiting three days on line for Sony’s PlayStation 3, the rainbow might just be on eBay

By David King

What are these people thinking? Sure I guess you could call them “brave,” all 50 or so cuddled up under wavering plastic tents, battered by the wind and rain that had felled trees and knocked cars into ditches elsewhere in the state last Thursday night. Yes they are organized, keeping lists of who is technically still entrenched. They are patient, giving up three days to dedicate to the pursuit of their most vaunted prize. They are selfless and self-sacrificing, giving up heat, the comforts of home, and most of all their dignity. They are also behaving much like rats in a maze, cramming up against the small entryway for one tiny bit of cheese.

And so I ask, “What the fuck?”

They aren’t just in front of Crossgates; they are in front of Wal-Marts and Targets all over the Capital Region, and stores across the nation, dressed in backwards baseball caps, pristine white sneakers and oversized hoodies, full of the hi-tech bloodlust that has gripped the geek community.

In Connecticut, some poor souls brave gunfire. Elsewhere, a man is trampled by charging crowds. A crowd in Virginia is subdued with rubber bullets and pepper spray. There are riots in California and Ohio. The police shut down several Super Wal-Marts and malls across the country due to riots; and the ill-behaved queue formers have the media riding their jocks all the way. They give them blogs, press microphones to their faces, give them TV time, like just maybe they have something important to say. Like during the brain-dead time spent in front of the Mecca of materialism they might have some sort of epiphany: “Well gee, Mark, I was online to buy a man-toy and then it hit me—I know the formula for world peace!”

None of them has a noble cause, no charity to work for, no life to be saved by their obsessive compulsion to sit in front of a store. All they want is the sleek black contour of a PlayStation 3 pressed against their chest. And Sony bigwigs will get what they want: more press for their overpriced, half-ready, underdeveloped toy. Best Buy gets what it wants, too: more press for its Music Shack-devouring store. And the schmucks in the line get something they didn’t know they wanted: attention and praise for doing something so obsessive and pathetic that Dr. Phil wouldn’t be able to help them overcome their neurosis.

So really, what would possess someone to spend days of their lives in front of a mall? Some want to play it—to shell out $600 for the system and another $60 for a game to mindlessly amuse themselves after a hard day at work. But as The New York Times and NPR found out, about four out of five people on line intend to sell their PS3s on eBay or to the insidious businessmen who occasionally drive past making offers like Johns to a street community of soaking-wet hookers. Taco Bell even got in on the act this week, offering a lifetime supply of tacos for a PS3. I personally would have stuck with the thousands of dollars the PS3 is going for on eBay (some are selling for more than $2,000 at the online auction site)—but for some of the more herbally minded gamers, the tacos might be a good investment.

I pose my “What the fuck?” question to a friend over coffee. “Wouldn’t you wait in line with a bunch of doofuses for a couple days to make a couple thou?” he asks. “I’m a gamer,” I reply. “I wouldn’t spend one day in line with, you know, real people.”

On Sunday, smaller lines start for the more modestly priced Nintendo Wii. The Wii purchasers I speak to actually plan on playing the system, or at least giving it to a child who would. As it turns out, the PS3 has turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, with The New York Times and a number of gaming blogs calling the system unfinished.

A friend of mine who is less-than-video-game-savvy encounters the PS3 wretches while walking by a Wal-Mart, and inquires what the line is for. “We’re waiting for Sinatra tickets!” replies one deadly clever queue person. “Getting rich!” shouts another. “Oh, burn!” declares still another. My friend continues on his way, and buys a gallon of milk. A gallon of milk he plans to drink—no, you won’t be able to bid for it on eBay.

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