Earlier this week it was announced that Toys R Us could be closing all of its U.S. stores as early as next week. The giant retail toy chain filed for bankruptcy in September of 2017 and already started shutting down stores across the country earlier this year. When Toys R Us is gone, I feel like a large part of my childhood will disappear with it. While I don’t have many memories of going to Toys R Us for the actual toys, there was one unique experience that Toys R Us offered that differs from anything I’ve experienced in this day and age: buying video games.
Kids these days don’t know how easy they have it when it comes to buying video games. Back in my day, if you were lucky enough to convince your parents to buy you a new game, you had to wait until they had time to drive you down to Toys R Us. When you got there, you’d rush straight to the video game aisle, which wasn’t filled with the latest games and consoles. It was one big aisle consisting of pictures of each game, with a little pouch underneath filled with slips of paper. And to a kid trying to buy the latest version of Final Fantasy (nerd!) or Madden, those slips of paper were more valuable than anything in the world.
If you were lucky enough to find one of those slips under your game of choice, it meant the game was in stock. Your parents would give the piece of paper to the cashier, pay for the game, the store clerk would retrieve the physical copy of the game and you went home happy. If fortune was not on your side, and no video game slips were available for your game, you were devastated. Not only because you couldn’t get the game when you wanted it, but because you didn’t know when, or even if, you’d get another chance. Who knows when your parents would be willing to bring you back to the store? “Why don’t you just pick another game,” they ask you, cluelessly. Ugh! Parents just don’t get it! [insert eye roll emoji] “Because, mom, I explained this to you five times on the way. I came here for Mortal Kombat, I’m not going home with fucking Street Fighter, now let’s try the Toys R Us across town before they close!” And now you’re grounded too. Great. The anxiety of not knowing whether or not you’d find that glorious slip of paper with your game listed on it, and the depression of getting all the way there and finding out it was out of stock, are unparalleled in today’s society.
Back then, the only way we knew that a new game was available was if you happened to see it in the weekly Toys R Us ad that came with the paper (“What?! They made a Donky Kong Country 2?!?! Mom! Dad! I’m going to need another advance on my allowance!”). There were no GameSpots or IGNs where you could pop online to get the list of upcoming game releases. Nowadays kids know every release date of every game for the next 10 months. And you just have to check on a store’s website to see if they have it in stock. No more anxiety-filled trips to the store. And hell, if you don’t feel like leaving the house, you can just go to Amazon.com and have the game delivered to you the next day. Or you could hop on the virtual store of your console of choice and just download the game immediately! Kids these days have it so easy. They’ll never know the pain and joy associated with those damn video game slips from Toys R Us. It’s sad, really. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go preorder Black Ops 4.