Grabbing Destiny By The Horns: A GameStop Revolution Tale

I live just a couple of blocks from the historic Park Street Church, in Downtown Boston. If you’ve ever gotten off of Boston’s subway, the T, at Boston Common, you were within sight of the tiny house in the sky I call home. What you may not have known is that you were also within a few steps of a veritable stronghold of capitalism, the sword-bearer of a new generation of wealth creation, the seed of a million entrepreneurial dreams. Last night I went for a post-prandial stroll and almost walked right by it. I looked up briefly to wipe some of the falling snow from my eyelashes, and there it was, as imposing as the Colossus of Rhodes must have seemed to Chares of Lindos: GameStop #6306, on 40 Winter Street in Downtown Crossing.

For a moment, I almost panicked! I had walked by this holy shrine — this Angkor Wat of the day trader — perhaps, too soon. I wasn’t ready. For the first time in years, I had desire, but no *plan*. I stared at its plate glass windows for a good five minutes, snow accumulating on my forehead, my reassuringly snug N95 mask seated squarely over my mouth AND nose, and screwed my courage to the sticking place. I would not fail.

Confidently, I strode in, past the Funko Iron Man dolls and the full-size Master Chief helmet until I reached the golden apples — the XBox game section. I had to make my choice very carefully. Certainly, I was well aware that my place in history was not assured. The revolution had started without me. It could fairly be said that I was but one more laggard clinging to the coattails of history, and me without that Sega Dreamcast I had been meaning to trade in. But history is still being written, friends, and when I tell the story of this day, this gleaming moment in our history, to my own son — I would tell the tale of a participant — a tale of agency. I will not be forgotten.

I selected my offering to the altar of Benjamin Graham with great delicacy — like a boy in the checkout line at the Stop and Shop who has been told he can have ANY candy bar, but only ONE. I was that boy, comparing the size of a Charleston Chew with the Chunky Bar and wondering why Chunky even bothered. My actual selection, of course, was as emblematic of this time as GameStop itself: a shrinkwrapped copy of Cyberpunk 2077, for my XBox One, list price of $59.99. I snorted.

In that moment, the limbic brain took over. I had deferred destiny long enough. There was no one in line. Within seconds I was there, at the plexiglass-encased counter, my brief chapter to be written. I slid Cyberpunk 2077 across the counter.

“$63.74,” my enabler coughed, crumbs on his stained Akira tee-shirt. I nearly laughed out loud, but didn’t want to soil the solemninty of this, my one brief charge into the breach of a new revolution in wealth creation.

“I don’t think so,” I deadpanned, pulling two, crips $100 bills out of my Mont Blanc wallet. “You’ll take $200, or I am not walking out of here, this day.”

“What am I supposed to do with the change?” queried my handler. “We aren’t supposed to do this.”

“History is never made by doing what we are ‘supposed to do,’ my good man. Make it $300!”

I slapped the bills on the counter. Enough talk. I grabbed my copy of Cyberpunk 2077, eager to celebrate its glacial frame rate, randomly flying pedestrians, and body-severing clipping errors on my last-gen XBox, yes, but fueled by the surety that I had done the thing. I had — maybe for the first time in my life — really stuck it to the man.

I wheeled about and made for the exit. The snow was intensifying. I pulled my hood over my head, shoved my hands into my coat pockets, and turned, almost stridently onto Winter Street. $300 lighter, yes, but nothing compared to the lightness in my soul as I cut my way through the mean streets of this, the toughest city in Massachussetts, and into what lay before me and before us all. Destiny. Shit, I should have bought Destiny 2.

SVP, Edison Research. Co-author of The Infinite Dial, The Podcast Consumer, The Social Habit, and other widely cited studies. Newsletter http://ihearthin.gs