Recently, it came to my attention that Gamefly is closing up shop. While this is just one of many nails in the coffin of my childhood, it put me in a mood of contemplation and reflection. Gamefly was not my primary way of renting games; that was Blockbuster. However, the Blockbuster where I spent most of my youth has now been converted into a discount sandwich shop which I am pretty sure is a front for the mob. Along with my Blockbuster, every single store has been closed, save for one lone Blockbuster. So, I thought about Hollywood Video, the place where I first rented and fell in love with Super Smash Brothers Melee. That as well was shut down, as the company had filed for bankruptcy back in 2010. I thought about Gamestop and, even though I couldn’t rent games, I could still buy used games at low prices. Even that is gone. Now Gamestop really only sells the newest 60 dollar games on the market. This brought me to two conclusions: one was that my childhood was thoroughly dead, and the second was that I was out of places to rent video games.
Really, this isn’t a surprise thinking back on it. We live in a digital world, where every video game, song, and movie is available from the comfort of our home. Take Netflix for example. It was a video rental service that changed into a paid online subscription service that moved from physical to virtual distribution. This has been the same with video games, as the fall of Blockbuster and other such stores coincided with the rise of Steam and other digital storefronts for games. This was done in most part for us, the consumer. Going to the store to rent a movie or game, while easy, is not as easy as summoning the game from the internet. It makes a lot of sense, as being able to get the newest video game from the comfort of my home is fantastic. However, it had the unintended consequence of putting physical distribution centers in a bad place, ultimately forcing them to extinction. With the ability to rent games gone, there is no reliable way for a consumer to consistently try out new video games. Which, if you have been paying attention to the burning car fire of the Triple-A industry, is detrimental to the consumer.
Many games this year alone have launched either broken, incomplete, awful, or some combination of the three. Aliens: Colonial Marines is a great terrible example of this phenomenon. The game was widely anticipated, yet launched with a technically mechanically broken cash grab disguised as a video game. No one, however, had the opportunity to try out the game. Instead, they had to shell out 60 dollars to have a terrible time for 12 hours. While you never truly knew whether a game would be worth the money you paid for it, you could get a general sense of if a game was for you or not. Now, the consumer is expected to throw 60 dollars on a hope and a prayer that the game will work or that a day one patch can fix all of the things the developers couldn’t be bothered to fix before shipping.
That is why we as the consumers must do something drastic; actually leave our houses and rent video games. I know, it’s a tall order. The world is full of scary people and noises, and we are safe and secure behind the screens of our monitors. Even though it might be inconvenient, it must be done. Rental services allow us to try out games before we throw massive amounts of money at things that may disappoint us. Redbox is an excellent example of this, as it personally saved me 53 dollars from buying Far Cry 5. For 7 dollars, I tried a game I thought I would like, and found out it wasn’t for me. Redbox isn’t the only one, as I know there are still a few off-brand rental stores scattered across America. While it may be slightly inconvenient to us, rental services are imperative for consumer security. So next time the newest Call of Duty comes out, don’t feel you have to shell out 60 dollars to try it. Instead, go inconvenience yourself for the betterment of the gaming community.