Given the nearly unquantifiable level of anticipation building up to the midnight unveiling of Rockstar's opus, it seemed prudent to roll up to the local Broken Arrow, OK Gamestop well in advance of the game's release. All of the preparation went for naught, however, as the store kept its doors open all night as enthusiasts congregated inside, joked in the secret language that only we nerds can appreciate, and not-so-quietly chatted about the game they would very soon be playing.
Even for Oklahoma, which isn't a video game mecca by any stretch of the imagination, the event showed the popularity of a game like Grand Theft Auto and its reach across all demographics. By 11:00 PM, the store had seen pre-purchases by an off-duty police officer, an elderly father purchasing the game for his underage son and equally youthful pal, and an older man obviously buying the game for a child waiting gingerly outside for the opportunity to run over prostitutes in glorious, high definition.
Things began to take a turn for the strange by 11:45 pm, when the loitering mass of thugs-to-be were ushered outside the store to form an "orderly line." By now the headcount was 80 strong and growing, with the majority having showed up tonight to purchase the game -- only a very small handful of those in attendance had pre-ordered the game beforehand, a reality that made the fact that they were asked to wait outside for the last 15 minutes in the wind and cold after hanging out in the store all the more surreal.
I like to think that the time passed for the employees inside even slower than it did for us in the night air as they found themselves without the conversation partners they had enjoyed for the last two or so hours.
As both the big hand and little hand on the clock nestled together on the 12, small groups of those in line were permitted entrance into the store, where two lines were quickly formed, pre-purchase receipts and photo IDs checked, and games handed over. As launch events go, it was certainly one of the most orderly and least abrasive that I've had the pleasure of being a part of -- a comical contrast to the game that inspired the gathering in the first place. As someone was overheard as a group of us filed out of the Gamestop, "Life, it was nice knowing you ... I'll see you again in a week."