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Midnight Madness

Mark Bemenderfer | Tuesday, December 6, 2005

I’m that guy.

You know the one. The guy who can tell you off the top of his head which company created which game. He’s the one who plans his weekends for the next year by video game and movie release dates.

I was there on Sept. 9, 1999 when the Sega Dreamcast was released at midnight. I waited in a line for my chance at obtaining the first of the third-generation of consoles, knowing I would have to be up in less than six hours to get ready for school. “Soul Calibur” made sure that having to get up never occurred.

I was there on March 24, 2005 when the Sony PSP was also released at midnight. I had pre-ordered it months beforehand, fully paying off the system and several games well before they were released and reviewed. Six a.m. came very quickly, as I played that tiny machine until the wee hours of the morning. Getting sick due to lack of sleep was only a minor detail, as it gave me the opportunity to play “Twisted Metal” a little more.

And I was there Nov. 22 for the midnight release of the Microsoft X-Box 360. Excitement was high in the tiny shop as the seconds ticked closer to the time the system could be sold. The first of the next generation, the fabled fourth tier of video-gaming, had my brother and me wide-eyed with anticipation.

But then our enthusiasm began to damper. A number of things led into this, I suppose. Perhaps the first sign was the bill, which totaled well over $500. It is one thing to be aware of what something will cost, but quite another when the time comes to hand the money over.

The second was the rarity of the complimentary hardware. Ever since the arcade games of yore has the value of playing with a friend been realized, and then compounded by games like “Goldeneye” and “Halo.” But as the cashier was ringing up the purchase, there was a conspicuous absence of a specific accessory. So I went home that night with a solitary controller.

But then that is where the real disappointment set in. My brother and I quickly hooked up the X-Box 360 to my television, fervently waiting for what the next generation of gaming was going to bring.

As we started to play through “Perfect Dark Zero,” a feeling of déjà vu began to set in, and not in a positive way. The next generation of gaming felt disturbingly similar to the last one, and for that matter, the one before that. The graphics were prettier, but beyond that, it wasn’t the leap that “Halo” was from “Goldeneye,” or even from “Wolfenstien 3D” to “Doom.”

Maybe I’m just jaded, or perhaps the sad fact is that games are ceasing to impress. The same games are being made that have been made before, but with a dash of new paint.

This then begs the question – why did we do it? Why go out at midnight to spend over half-a-thousand dollars on a product that so far is pure hype with no solid review base?

The same could be said for movies, books and all the other products that get a midnight release. There is a reason people go to extreme lengths to fulfill non-essential pleasures.

There is a thrill on being at the ground floor of an event. Attending the midnight premier of a movie, or going to an event on its opening day, add a special flavor to the action. To say, I was there first, I did that, carries a certain satisfaction.

But in light of my X-Box 360 adventures, perhaps one should be a little more conservative in what we choose to indulge.

Contact Mark Bemenderfer at mbemende@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer