COMMENTARY-- Some of you may have preordered your GameCube or Xbox and will simply have to wake up, hop in the car, cruise down to your local game retailer, and pick up your console. But for those who may have procrastinated or thought that Nintendo and Microsoft would never force gamers to camp out for a console like Sony did, I've put together this survival guide to make sure you get the most out of your experience. Camping out with a bunch of fellow vidiots can either be the best or worst time of your life, and it all comes down to how prepared you are.
Perhaps the most important thing to do when trying to score a console at launch without a preorder is to scope out the terrain. Stop at all the video game retailers in your immediate vicinity and try to find the store that will have the most consoles and will be the least populated with people. For instance, there's a KB Toys store near my home that is tucked away inside the bowels of a strip mall. Sure, the local yokels know about the store, but it's not going to get any traffic from people spotting it off the highway, so it's a safe bet.
Another good thing to do is get in good with the salespeople at a local store. That way you can get inside information such as how many units the store will be receiving, what time they will be opening, and in the GameCube's case, whether you'll be able to score the color of choice. You can also ask the sales associates to give you a call and tip you off as to when the line is starting to form outside the store. There's nothing worse than being the first and only guy in line for several hours. Sure, you know you're getting a console, but it's frustrating to know that you could have spent an extra four hours in the comfort of your home instead of sitting on a slab of gum-covered concrete.
Once you've decided which store you want to set up shop outside of, it's time to prepare for the night. There are two things that are an absolute necessity when camping out for a console: a rainproof smock and toilet paper. Of course, without the rainproof smock, the toilet paper is rendered useless, so it must be a combination of the two. When I say smock, I mean a full-on cover-you-to-your-toes poncho. A hooded pullover will keep your top half dry for the first couple of hours, but what happens when you finally decide to make like a hobo and sit on the ground? With a poncho, not only will your legs be covered while standing, but also if you sit down you can drape it over your entire body until you look like a Hershey's Kiss.
It's also a good idea to get a poncho with a big pocket or two to hold the coveted TP. Toilet paper is important for obvious reasons, and before I go on, I thought I'd mention that it also might be a good idea to scope out "private" areas before deciding which store to camp out in front of. Not only is the toilet paper essential to having a comfortable evening, but it can also make you some new friends who will be glad to hold your place in line while you relieve yourself throughout the night. If it begins to rain, toilet paper can also come in handy for blowing your nose or wiping the water off your face. Oh, and don't forget your wallet.
The following items are by no means necessary, but they will increase the enjoyment of your camping considerably. The first luxury item is a tent. Yes, that's right. A tent. If you're one of the people who laughed at the true campers during the PlayStation 2 launch, you're just jealous that you were out in the cold while they were in the tent doing who knows what. Not only does a tent provide shelter without the need to wear bulky clothes, but it also basically guarantees your spot in line. Once you've pitched the tent and put all your stuff inside, no one is going to move it. It can also be a nice place to escape to when you're tired of listening to people talk about topics you have no interest in or are sick of hearing kids whine because it's past their bedtime.
Also, if you're the drinking type (and of age), why not bring a cooler full of your favorite beverage, kick back, and relax. If you're smart enough to bring a foam pad (concrete gets hard fast) and an alarm clock, you can simply sleep until the store's doors open. You won't make many friends--OK, don't blame us if people are mean to you when you wake up--but you'll be good and rested so that you'll have the energy to play your new console when you get home.
Another nice addition to your camping repertoire is a Game Boy Advance. Much like the toilet paper, a GBA can be a valuable ally when standing in line all night. But be sure to check out the lighting at the store you plan on loitering outside of so you can bring your GBA light along if it's needed. It's also a good idea to bring at least one new set of batteries and a link cable. Never underestimate the power of loaning your GBA to another line stander for an hour or two, either. It could pay huge dividends later when nature calls.
If you're one of our younger readers, the best advice I can give you is to get your parents involved. If your parents come with you to camp out, by the time the store opens in the morning, they will have become one with the spirit of the console launch and will be more likely to spend money. I personally watched a kid work this angle during the PS2 launch, and he ended up walking out with an extra two games. It's definitely worth a shot. But most importantly, do not be embarrassed. The ultimate goal is to score a console, so who cares if some kid from another county thinks you're a dork for building a temporary home out of milk crates and big-screen TV boxes? You'll likely never see those people again in your life, so go for yours and try to have a good time if possible. Good luck to you all, and maybe I'll see you outside stores on November 15 and 18.