TAKING THE "FUN" OUT OF FUNCOLAND

Chances are, if you happen to be between the ages of 25 and 40, you remember, and probably at one point lived within close proximity to, a store called FuncoLand.  The short version of FuncoLand’s history includes the fact that it sold used and new video games, allowed customers to sell their previously owned games for cash or store credit, and eventually merged with the nationwide chain of GameStop™.  The longer version includes more words.

What separated FuncoLand from other used video game stores of the 1990s (a time when such stores were as commonplace as a much sought-after variety pack of Kool-Aid Kool Bursts) were two factors-your initial excitement upon entering the store, and your eventual disappointment.  I’ll address the latter in a bit.  

Upon entering any of FuncoLand’s franchise locations (usually found nestled between a Men’s Wearhouse and Einstein Brothers Bagels in any nondescript strip shopping mall) the average customer would be drawn to the countless game boxes gracing the store walls, but the savvy customer knew to instead head over to the front counter, where a pile of newspaper-looking pamphlets lay waiting.  This was your price list, showing literally EVERY game available for EVERY major system at the time (my era included the NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, Turbografix-16, Neo-Geo, Game Boy and Game Gear).  The best part?  The prices were FAR more affordable than that nasty ol’ Best Buy down the street.  PLUS, the selection of games was much more vast and all-encompassing than that nasty ol’ Best Buy, still down the street.  Cue the excitement, Mr.  Holland!

 That's Mr.  Holland.  He's excited.

That's Mr.  Holland.  He's excited.

If you knew what you were looking for, you could then take your list up to the clerk and ask if the game is available.  At this point, much like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, you can then skip ahead to the next paragraph, but unlike a Choose Your Own Adventure book, your other choice does not include falling down a cavernous abyss or getting abducted by aliens.  If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you would then simply fold up the list, stick it in the front pocket of your carpenter jeans and head home, where you would spend HOURS pouring over every game on the list.  Notes would be taken.  Prices would be compared. 

 The bible.

The bible.

As a youth, I can recall counting my money time and time again to see which games would fall into my price range, which unfortunately meant I’d have to settle for Milon’s Secret Castle or the Sega Genesis adaptation of 1992’s sci-fi actioner The Lawnmower Man.  Nevertheless, I (or in this case, you) would take your list back to FuncoLand sometime later, ready to buy a game and go home happier than someone who had to settle for Milon’s Secret Castle or the Sega Genesis adaptation of 1992’s sci-fi actioner The Lawnmower Man.

Remember those game boxes I mentioned?  The ones attached to the wall like crudely painted cardboard wallpaper?  Well, these particular boxes did not house any games-in fact, the likelihood that these particular games were even available is/was pretty slim.  You couldn’t just take a box up to the counter to complete your transaction-in fact, ignore those boxes altogether.  They’re just for show, though I’m not sure what show they’re promoting.  Head over to the cashier and take out your list.  Start with the first game you checked off.  Ask if it’s available.

9 times out of 10, the answer with probably be a snotty, “No. “ With the wind now firmly out of your sails (the first game you mentioned is probably the one you wanted most), you’ll move down the list, asking if the next several games are also in stock.  Which they’re probably not.  Keep in mind, this is a used video game store, and this particular location is always at the mercy of its patrons to keep the supply of used games plentiful, but c’mon, 25 copies of Super Mario Bros. 2, 30 copies of The Legend Of Zelda and not ONE copy of Milon’s Secret Castle or the Sega Genesis adaptation of 1992’s sci-fi actioner The Lawnmower Man?

By now, the bespectacled clerk is anxiously waiting for you to finish so he can complete a sale and get back to his game of Faxanadu.  Eventually, you’ll settle on some game, one that may or may not even be on your list, and wait for the clerk to hand it over.  Now the excitement starts to build up again-you now have a new (used) game in your possession that you can’t wait to blow into the connecting end no less than 70 times so as to play it on your battered Nintendo Entertainment System.

As if he’s reading your mind, the clerk will now attempt the classic FuncoLand process of trying to upsell you into buying a bottle of video game cleaning fluid and an NES cleaning cartridge (known as The Eliminator™, which was its actual name).  Maybe you’ll buy it, maybe you won’t-truth be told, this fluid actually worked well until you learned that a 50/50 mix of isopropyl alcohol and water does the exact same thing.  Sigh!

Furthermore, the acne-scarred clerk will also try pushing a subscription to Game Informer, a magazine Destructoid.com once labeled, “complete shit. “ Again, you might subscribe, you might not.  Either way, by this point you’ve spent far more time in the store than you would like, are feeling frustrated and hungry, and regretting ever buying this game you really didn’t want in the first place.

You know something?  I should stop with the rant.  Maybe I’m being too hard on ol’ FuncoLand-after all, it was big part of my early teenage years and helped me to discover a wealth of games I’d never even played before, much less heard of.  The thing is, hindsight is always 20/20, and as I look back I can’t help but find fault in many of FuncoLand’s business practices.  Right down to their training video.

Off to Best Buy!