Way back in 2008, at the young age of 18, I traipsed into my town’s flagship GAME store dressed in my Sunday best, shaking at the prospect of what was, at the time, only my second job interview. Despite playing games for the majority of my life and thus amassing a decent knowledge of the medium, I was incredibly nervous and absolutely positive that I’d be laughed out of the building within five minutes. Thankfully, I’d somehow managed to convince the manager that I could sell games, and sell them well. I couldn’t, believe me. I could barely engage a customer in basic conversation, let alone do that and operate a till at the same time.
Nevertheless, I’d kept up a facade of confidence and plodded on for another four years. My role was limited to weekend shifts to accommodate my education, but during those four years, I’d seen the Xbox 360 and PS3 grow into awesome gaming behemoths, witnessed the slow decline of the Nintendo Wii and the early promise of the PS Vita. Shortly after the Vita launch, GAME (then known collectively as GAME Group) entered administration, and our store was one of 277 facing immediate closure. It was a tough time for my colleagues and myself – not only were we losing our jobs, but in the lead up to the store closure, we had to deal with rabid customers furious that we weren’t going to be stocking Mass Effect 3, among other titles.
So I lost my job at GAME, and for the next year and a half I dabbled in other part time jobs whilst concentrating on my studies. Towards the end of 2013, I bagged a temporary Christmas position at the second GAME store in my local town – this was once known as GameStation for many years, but being a subsidiary of the newly created GAME Digital plc, the company decided to unify the ‘GAME’ brand. Thanks to my previous experience in the role, I was kept on permanently, and in the years since promoted to the Senior Sales role. It was here that I really came out of my shell. I met staff members who have since become friends for life, and customers who… well, I probably won’t see them after next week, but a lot of patrons were simply a delight to talk to about games.
In the last few months, GAME have implemented a new strategy with their flagship stores called ‘Beyond’. These stores have been completely revamped to form a retail/gaming arena hybrid, where customers can sample the newest games and take part in tournaments with their fellow gamers, for a fee of course. Meanwhile, part of the establishment will carry on as a traditional GAME retail store, selling everything from the latest releases to consoles and merchandise. It’s a bold new direction, but with the popularity of gaming events such as EGX and Insomnia, I’m confident it will prove to be a success for the company.
Sadly, my tiny high street store has no place in the bigger picture that GAME are now seeking. Since the town already has a bigger, well placed flagship store right in the middle of an Intu shopping centre, I don’t blame them for wanting to focus on that. My store is located in an area of town that is rapidly suffering from an influx of homeless people, many of whom are intimidating and disruptive towards the general public. As such, stores such as Argos, KFC and the town’s independent book store have all either moved location, or closed entirely. We are simply following in their footsteps. The writing has been on the wall for a while with footfall dropping drastically on a YOY basis. Again, I have no bad blood over the closure; it was entirely necessary.
I am sad to see the shop go, however. Over the past couple of weeks, the staff have slowly but surely gotten rid of much of the store’s overstock. The shop floor looks as healthy as ever, but stepping into the stockroom will show just how empty the place has gotten. To make matters worse, contractors arrived a full ten days prior to the closure to rip out the store’s heating appliance, rendering the environment horrifically cold, just to add to our despair. But despite the current dismal situation, it won’t abate my fondness for the job, the staff and the customers. I’ll miss it dearly – talking about games to folks both young and old is a job that many people would be thrilled to experience. Hopefully it’s one I can continue well into the future in written form.
There are certainly aspects of the job that I’ve questioned in the past – people or policies that I don’t particularly agree with – but that’s not for discussion here. The people who have supported me within my role have been irreplaceable, and I have to commend the company on how helpful and reassuring they’ve been during the redundancy process. Most of all though, I want to give a huge shout out to my colleagues who have been through thick and thin with me. We’ve dressed up together, won various games/merchandise, been assaulted by drunkards and many other moments I’ll never forget. Oh, and one other note – my colleagues have some of the most impressive gaming knowledge I’ve ever known. GAME staff have an entirely false reputation on the internet for being gaming illiterate, but everyone I’ve worked with has shown nothing but the utmost passion and dedication to the industry as a whole.
Retail, for the most part, sucks for a lot of people. It’s exhausting and can frequently kill your faith in humanity – never mind what that pillock Trump is doing in the US. But working at GAME has been an experience like no other, and I’ll appreciate the time I spend there – it has giving me skills and knowledge that I will carry with me for the rest of my days.
For now, here’s to the future!