- [Tom Kim heads up the Gamasutra podcast for our sister site, and every now and again sends out group emails such as this one, which we thought was worth reprinting here. Again, Tom and GSW aren't saying that all U.S. game retail employees suck. But it looks like these guys kinda, uh, did.]

This ever happen to you?

I mean, We've all seen gaming retail employees lampooned in Penny-Arcade. And every gamer seems to have heard a story about know-nothing store managers. But to date, my experience with most of them have been pretty good. Many of them seemed to know their product, and most have treated me with politeness and decency. In fact, the two store managers at this location, Mark and Monica treated me very well. Alas, they have since left for better paying jobs and have been replaced by these chuckleheads. I don't know... It's enough to make all of the apocryphal stories seem true.

-Tom

P.S. Some background: The following is very close to how things really went down. I haven't substantially changed anything. In hindsight, it is pretty funny. But when I walked out of the store, I was pretty upset. Enough to vent to my wife about it for 10 minutes. Gah! The only reason I was hanging around for that long was because my wife and I were going out to dinner, and she agreed to meet me at the EB beforehand. Otherwise, I would've been out of there pretty quickly... As you'll see, things were pretty uncomfortable.

---------- The Wisdom of EB Employees: A Play in One Act ----------

Players: Me, EB Manager, EB Lackey
Time: Around 6:30pm on a Tuesday evening
Place: A strip-mall Electronics Boutique somewhere north of Chicago

(SFX: Electronic *ding* as door opens)

EB Manager: Welcome to EB. I can help you with anything you want, except getting a Wii. We don't have any so don't even bother asking. (Note: I kid you not -- this was the greeting I got when walking in the door.)

Me: I'm good. I already got one.

EB Manager: You did? Where'd you get it?

Me: Here. I pre-ordered for launch. Actually, I was able to get four of them.

EB Manager: (Conspiratorially) eBay?

Me: No. I had my wife pre-order one at another store. And I got another couple from a friend.

EB Manager: Did you eBay those?

Me: No. I kept one for myself and a friend of mine got the other one. And I sold one at cost to the 1UP network for their holiday giveaway, and the other to the Evil Avatar online community for their holiday giveaway.

EB Manager: Where?

Me: Have you heard of 1UP.com? It's a big gaming news website... And Evil Avatar is a pretty established gaming community site.

EB Manger: Nope.

Me: (Walking up to the counter to look at their new inventory.) That's cool.

EB Lackey: Can I help you find anything?

Me: Yeah. I'm looking for Hotel Dusk. It's a DS title.

EB Lackey: (Blank stare -- doesn't even check the shelf.) What?

EB Manager: Never heard of it. What was it called, again?

Me: Hotel Dusk. It's a point-and-click adventure for the DS. It should have come out yesterday. But I wouldn't be surprised if you're sold out.

EB Manager: (Gives me a funny look.) Are you sure that's what it's called?

(I spot some empty display packages of Hotel Dusk sitting on a shelf right below the front counter)

Me: (Picking up a preview package and holding it up to the manager) Pretty sure.

EB Manager: (Now displeased with me -- doesn't even bother to turn around and check the shelves) No. We don't.

Me: Can you check your inventory?

EB Manager: (turns head to monitor without typing anything on the keyboard) No. We don't.

Me: Okayyy... Thanks. I'm gonna look around a little bit.

(EB employees ignore me. I wander over to the used games section. Meanwhile, another customer walks in.)

EB Manager: Welcome to EB. I can help you with anything you want, except getting a Wii. We don't have any so don't even bother asking.

Customer: Can you tell me when you're getting more?

EB Manager: I don't know. Can I help you find anything else?

Customer: When does Halo 3 come out?

EB Manager: This summer, I think. But if you pre-order Crackdown, you get a Halo 3 demo with it.

Me: (Turning to customer.) You don't actually get a demo. You can get a chance to enter the Halo 3 multi-player beta test. Still, there's no guarantee you'll get on the beta list. You just get an invitation to register.

EB Manager: You sure? The box says that it comes with a Halo 3 demo.

Me: I'm pretty sure.

EB Manager: (Checks the display box.) Yeah, you're right.

Customer: (Addressing the question to me.) Can you play that on Xbox?

Me: Halo 3 is only for the 360. Do you own a 360?

Customer: No. I got Xbox 1.

EB Manager: You should pick up a 360. Especially if you like Halo. It's backwards compatible, so you can play all of your Xbox games on it.

Me: Uh, not all of them. But it'll definitely play Halo and Halo 2.

Customer: You got any 360s?

EB Manager: Yes. We have the Core Version, which doesn't come with a hard drive and the deluxe version. I'd recommend you go with the deluxe one. You can download hi-def TV shows and movies on it.

Customer: Does it come with BluRay?

EB Manager: You can play HD-DVD on it.

Me: Um, to do that, you have to buy a separate player that plugs into the 360. The stock console will play standard def DVDs, but not HD. Though, like he said, you can download HD programming.

Customer: (Addressing me again.) How much is that?

Me: I think the HD-DVD add-on runs a couple hundred bucks.

Customer: What's the difference between the Core and the deluxe?

Me: Well, essentially he's right. The Core Version costs $299. It doesn't come with a hard drive. For another hundred bucks, you can get the Standard Edition which includes a wireless controller, an Xbox Live headset, an ethernet cable, and a component video cable. Along with the 20GB hard drive. You can buy all of the same stuff separately, but if you plan on eventually buying all of that anyway, you'll save some if you get the Standard Edition. If you're gonna buy a 360, I'd get the Standard Edition. The hard drive is important if you want to download content and some Xbox Live Arcade games. Do you have an HDTV?

Customer: No, but I'm gonna get one soon. You seem to know a lot about this stuff.

Me: I used to make games. I also do some work for a gaming news website. You ever heard of Gamasutra?

Customer: No.

Me: Gamasutra is more about the business of making games. If you're interested in the game industry, you should check it out.

Customer: Thanks, man. I'll check it out. (Leaves the store -- without a 360.)

EB Manager: What's that website again?

Me: Gamasutra.com. I also produce their podcast.

EB Manager: Never heard of it. No sir.

(Phone rings.)

EB Lackey: Thank you for calling EB Games where you can buy, sell and trade used games. This is Jeff. Can I help you?

(Listens for a while.)

EB Employee #2: (Looks puzzled.) What do you mean? (Listens some more. Covers phone receiver and turns to Manager.) This guy wants to know if there are any Wii games that don't require "line-of-sight."

EB Manager: (Gestures for employee to hand over the phone.) Hi. This is Mike. Can I help you?

(Listens for a while.) Well, there are some Wii games that don't require that you point at the screen. Some of the games just work by sensing the movement of the controller.

(Listens.) Uh, like some of the driving games, like Excite Truck. And some mini games on Super Monkey Ball and Rayman.

(Listens.) You want to have four Wiis in the same room?

EB Lackey: Why the heck would he need four Wiis? (Manager ignores him.)

EB Manager: I think you can do that. But you might want to pick up a PS3 instead. You can have up to seven wireless controllers all on the same console.

(Listens.) Yes, the PS3 has wireless controllers. And they're motion-sensitive, exactly like the Wii.

(Listens.) Yes sir. They work just like the Wii. And, you can download full games on the PS3 if you have Internet. They have, like 10 on there already. Plus old classic games like Crash Bandicoot. The PS3'll also play all of the Sony games going all the way back to original PlayStation one.

(Listens.) Yes. You can download them right now. You just need Internet.

(Listens.) Okay. Thanks. And I'll definitely be switching my dentist to you.

(Listens.) Yeah, I got a dentist, but I'm gonna be switching to sign up with you, man! (Gives "thumbs up" sign to me and Lackey.) Okay. Bye.

Me: A dentist's office? That's a cool idea.

EB Manager: Yeah. He wants to let his patients play Wii or PS3 in his waiting room or even during procedures.

Me: That's cool. But it probably wouldn't be possible for them to play the Wii while undergoing a procedure. Plus, you might want to tell him if he comes in that you'll still need line-of-site to operate the console's interface. Not to mention in-game menus. Also, for the cost of one PS3 and one game, he can pick up close to three Wiis, each with Wii Sports included. And the Wii games would probably suit a family-based practice better.

EB Manager: Uh, yeah.

EB Lackey: You used to program games?

Me: A little bit. But I worked as a producer and designer, so I didn't do a ton of programming. Mostly, I managed the artists and programmers making the game.

EB Manager: What games did you work on?

Me: Uh, some licensed-property tie-ins to some Disney movies, and a few other titles you probably haven't heard of...

EB Manager: (Chuckles and crosses arms.) Disney games? So you didn't work on PlayStation?

Me: Uh, no. But I used to help Bungie out with their marketing and advertising before they moved to Seattle.

EB Manager: Who?

Me: Bungie Software. They make Halo.

EB Manager: I thought Microsoft made Halo.

Me: Bungie's the developer. They're a first-party dev for Microsoft.

EB Manager: What?

Me: Never mind. You're right. Microsoft made Halo.

(EB Manager gives me the "stink eye." By now, I'm thinking, plans be damned. I don't want to wait in the store any longer.)

Me: (Dial my wife on my mobile phone.) Hey there. They don't have the game I'm looking for. Can you meet me at BestBuy? Yes? Great! See you there. Love you, too.

(As I'm leaving the store.) Okay. Thanks guys.

(The two employees completely ignore me.)