"Now son, are you sure this will work on your PC?" Mam, it's an Xbox game...
I like restaurants when they're quiet, like when you've left a movie at 11 pm and you slip in for a plate of chips (fries, yank.) But I absolutely, completely and utterly, unequivocally, bloody well hate them during peak times, such as during lunch. Particularly during the hot and humid summer months when disgruntled children are present; little people made all the louder by the heat combined with the dreaded clothes shopping.
Unfortunately for me I had to do some banking today, which necessitated eating out in one of these headache inducing places. The children were loud, and their increasingly edgy guardians even louder at times. But if there's one thing this experience is good for, it's social commentary. As I'm sat there I notice a young lad with a newly-bought game in his hands; an Xbox 360 game worth about 75 Euro (about $95) over here.
He's sat there reading the blurb, and his mother says (clearly, through the cacophony, which was an achievement) "Now, are you sure that will work on your computer?"
"Computer?" the boy exclaims. "Ma, this is for an Xbox!" She looks puzzled and returns to cooing a pram-bound baby.
This is not a fatal incident of mother-and-son-mix-up-gaming-platforms, but I've often been in video game retail stores to watch, helplessly (well, not helplessly... I've helped out once or twice, and now I just prefer to pretend I'm helpless, or unable to provide help, or whatever adjective you want to use there) as somebody buys a game their PC won't run, or mistakes a Playstation game for an Xbox one.
Yes, yes, I know dear reader. How could they ever make such a mistake?! Well, to me and you it is simple logic, as we associate PS2 and Xbox 360, and CD and DVD for that matter, with several different pieces of hardware. But what of the parents and innocent children? All the average 40-something parent, unlearned in the ways of game, and your excited ten year old are going to see is, in order, another video game, and a really really really really really cool box.
So, children spend their hard won allowance on things which will not work, or games which will work but which are completely crap - how many little boys and girls have been roped in by innocent, fun and decent looking Pixar movie tie-ins? You know, the type of game that makes grown gamers want to rip out their hair and choke on it?
Where, pray tell, are the shop assistants, the 20-something gamers themselves, in all of this? Perhaps, if one were to be cynical, one might think that it is their policy not to bother saving children their money, or their sanity, by pointing them away from a particular title, even suggesting another, far more worthy one, for the tots to buy.
Or perhaps they are just so ambivalent towards their jobs, inspired by gaming but torn down by the work, that they just don't care to involve themselves. Whatever the reason, kids (and their utterly confused parents) are leaving shops with games which will not satisfy them, if they will work at all.
Really and truly, the retailers should move to help young and inexperienced gamers, perhaps offering in-store advice or a link-up to Rotten Tomatoes or similar. Sure they'll have a harder time shifting stock of Barbie Riding Club XXIV, but they will garner far more satisfied customers for the sacrifice. I know that I personally sometimes hold off buying a game in a shop because I'm not sure how it has fared under the reviewers lenses. Once I've checked this I then usually buy said game, if it is worthy, from an online retailer. Boo hoo checkout sales.
So, bottom line: Let's help kids in the war on mediocrity in video gaming, and let's help grown game critics overcome their senility in the effort towards buying new (good) games.