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The interstate bleeds out of the city and puddles here, dripping unfriendliness longitudinally. Along the route: a strip of drive-thrus, car dealerships, and shopping centers. The winter sun climbs down the road, finding me some ten miles from where I was born, igniting the saturated sky, and dully reflecting off of fenders, barely glaring off the plate glass strip mall horizon.
“Gamestop said sixty dollars cash. I’m sure I could get one of these pawn brokers to cut me back a little bit of the twenty percent I’m getting shafted on.”
“Yeah” P says reassuringly, climbing out of his car as we head to the pawn shop, trying to save myself from the depreciating value of the 3DS in my pocket.
Scattered about the pawn shop are the disinherited, objects sold off in times of desperation: tools, guitars, katanas, a small stack of bright green X-box cases shine from underneath the smooth glass countertops. Collections and potential livelihoods traded in for cash, most things worth more for their weight in copper. Around the shop, some heads are gathered investigating the stock, locals who like to watch along: seeing as the sellers barter, better than reality TV.
“What’ve you got?” the man with the pistol on his waist asks me, standing in contrast to the lanyard wearing, named and tagged cashier at Gamestop. I lay the 3DS, a copy of Animal Crossing in it’s box, and a loose copy of Super Mario 3D Land on the counter between us. I name the items respectfully as the broker begins to thumb about with the 3DS, a flat screen TV above his head plays a Pawn Stars rerun, a man behind me unsheathes a hilt-less sword, here in the pawn shop what is odd sells, what is useful sells, there isn’t a lot of room for specific knowledge when, as the history channel has taught us, anything could walk through that door.
“Let me call my buddy from the Clark County museum and we’ll find out how much this is worth.” The TV familiarly reports as the broker returns his attention to me, “How much were you looking to get?” He repeats the rehearsed line, already prepared to turn down my initial bid of 90 dollars.
“Are you crazy? I can’t do that” he says in time “I take and flip these things for nothing” he adds.
I know the resell value, the lot could net a solid $120, more or less, on ebay. I know my initial asking price was out there, but I let the broker carry on, “What was Gamestop offering you?”
“80” I say, realizing late that I am low balling myself.
“See, and that was probably store credit” he says “I would give you maybe 40 dollars for the lot. At gamestop that’s all they deal with, I don’t know anything about it.”
He’s right, we all know that Gamestop has monopolized the buying and selling of used games, we’ve all been exposed to the effects of their unabashedly shifty business practices through the implementation of codes for online multiplayer, and the industry’s increasing move towards digital distribution.
In this age of instant nostalgia, our collector’s editions and limited releases are born with sentiment. Sentiment that is only disenfranchised by overstocked poly-resin sculptures, and art books destined to return to pulp and be recycled. While the collector’s market for games is as strong as ever, in the main vein of a pawn shop that special market value has no sway, the fact that all the kids are looking for a 3DS to play the latest Pokemon doesn’t even register with the pawn broker who’s mind rests a bit above the bottom line with a finger tickling the trigger of his .45.
With consumption on the rise and a market saturated, as the sky, with a seemingly boundless selection of stimulating media, video games are subject to their own laws, a marketplace destroyed by piracy and reissuing, everything is outmoded once the plastic wrapping is torn, all of these games will be passed over with increasing rapidity as the ceaseless generations call solely for what bleeds along the cutting edge. Backlogged RPGs cling desperately to their pristine price points on our shelves, fearing being played, fearing being rereleased, and fearing most of all being made available somewhere in the cloud, being robbed of exclusivity, and relegating Cloud Strife to cherished jewel case sentimentality.
“I’m gonna have to walk” I say, stinging with the sixty dollars my desperation have forced me to accept. Knowing that the story will not change, that I’m pawning off a couple toys, already old and undesirable, traded in for cigarettes and French fries along the road.