You walk into a retail store. You know what you want to buy. It’s behind the counter. There is a line of five people, so up you queue. The line isn’t moving, but you’re not in a hurry, so you start to notice some details about the store. There are three cash registers, and four employees in the store, but only one person is working. The other three seem to be doing very little, or are on their way to do very little, or are on their way from doing very little. They never look – they avoid looking – at the line. An HD screen above blares promotional material that is not even tenuously related to the product you wish to buy. A half hour passes. You are third in line. Now you are annoyed. You do not understand why the other registers cannot be used to purchase items, but you are assured that they cannot. A woman is selling back fifty things, one by one, in front of you, at the register. The store, you have started to notice, does not smell good. When you arrive at the counter, the cashier attempts to sell you things you do not want. You already know what you want. After forty-five minutes, you finally emerge with your purchase, trembling with childlike rage, requiring a drink.
Imagine this happening in any store except GameStop. You can’t. It wouldn’t happen. But this is the GameStop experience and it will be familiar to anyone who still buys games in a physical store.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We here at Kill Screen remember a time when going to the store to buy a game was a good thing, fun, exciting, an outing, a promise of enjoyment to come. Here are our five suggestions for making GameStop into a place we want to go to, not just a place we deal with.
1. Aesthetics and layout. GameStop should not remind gamers of the basement, even if that is where they play their games. Tear up the carpet. Take the crusty old Dreamcast game boxes off of the wall and put up art. Remove the giant ads plastered over the front windows to let some light; gamers already know when the games they want to buy are coming out. Set up play stations (as opposed to Playstations) on tables spaced throughout the store. Not just one, as this will inevitably be commandeered by preteens. There should be five, six, seven places to play. Make GameStop a communal space where people come to test out games and tech, not a solitary space where people scuttle in and out like winos.
2. Be sensible about the line. If someone is selling back every game and game peripheral they have ever owned, allow a customer who wants to purchase a single item to bypass them. GameStop should not feel like an East German grocery store circa 1975.
3. Stop selling used and unwanted stuff in buckets around the store. Buckets are not a good look, and neither are fifty copies of the Beethoven 2 DVD. GameStop should not feel like a flea market.
4. Don’t try to sell me anything other than the game I came to buy, unless I ask. I’m already spending money I don’t have on an activity I may have ambivalent feelings about. I don’t want a strategy guide and I don’t want to reserve a copy of Medal of Duty 16. Please treat me like an adult, if I am one.
5. Customer service. Put a few employees in charge of roaming the room, asking people if they need help. Have these employees guide the customer from floor to cashier.
5.5. Please, no more ten-foot-long receipts.