15 years ago today my friend Erik and I found ourselves camping outside of a local Wal-Mart store for around 12 hours. It was roughly 20 degrees outside, which is unusually cold for a Maryland autumn. We were sandwiched in between a chain smoker that wouldn’t shut up on one side and a separate smaller group that had arrived together on the other. Why? Easy. The Playstation 2 was finally arriving in North America and we secured the 3rd and 4th spot in line.
Although it was freezing outside and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the PS2, what I oddly remember most is playing Dreamcast games with the other group of friends next to us. About 4 hours in to our cold-as-fuck camp-a-thon, a friend of theirs rolled up in his car, popped his trunk, and proceeded to whip out a small TV, a pair of milk crates, and a Sega Dreamcast. I wasn’t sure I believed in God at that point, but this was a miracle worth considering.
Wal-Mart wasn’t yet a 24 hour establishment where I lived, so the only way we could possibly get power to the TV and console was to unplug the store’s gigantic bright red Coke machine. When the coast was clear, one of them pulled it back a bit while the other unplugged it. We had power! No one seemed to care, since the other 100+ campers mostly brought their own food, drinks, and tents. We weren’t smart enough to bring tents either, which was stupid in retrospect.
Neither one of us anticipated spending 12 hours at Wal-Mart. We had every intention to camp out for a PS2, but had no idea people would be lining up that early. It just so happened we went there for whatever reason (food or drinks, most likely) and noticed two other people setting up lawn chairs and rolling a cooler in from the parking lot. “Oh shit!“, we thought. As huge fans of the original Playstation–I actually spent $800 on a Japanese PS2 7 months before its North American release. I was that excited.–there was no way we were missing out.
With the numbing cold putting a damper on things, and 8 hours to go still, our neighbors busting out a Dreamcast was the best thing that could have possibly happened. We spent the rest of our time in line getting to know some cool dudes (not the chain smoking jabberjaw), getting schooled in UFC but redeeming ourselves by cleaning house in Soul Calibur. It just made the chilly night progress much faster.
Eventually the clock struck midnight, the doors opened, and we rushed back to the electronics department to grab our consoles. Since we worked at a local game store (shout out to Power Gamer in Glen Burnie Mall!) I just picked up the console and Tekken Tag Tournament, knowing full well we were about to trade in a bunch of stuff when our shift began at 8am. I was hoping to get some sleep before then, but I just got a Playstation 2. Of course we went back to Erik’s place and played the hell out of it until then.
We arrived at Power Gamer on zero sleep, still awake from our shift the day prior, and were fucking useless. The place was PACKED for the PS2 release and we were stumbling over everything, knocking games off the shelf, assisting customers in that slow thoughtless tone you get when you’ve been running on fumes for hours on end. Eventually it slowed down and our boss was kind enough to let us go home early.
Rather than go home and go to bed though, I went home and played Tekken Tag, Ridge Racer V, Smuggler’s Run, Midnight Club, Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore, Evergrace (what a turd), Summoner, Street Fighter EX3, Dynasty Warriors 2, and Fantavision. I had pretty much evaporated my PS1 and Dreamcast collection to get them all, but our boss was nice and let us pay for some of our games in installments out of each paycheck. I basically worked for store credit for the next month or two, paying him back a little at a time.
The original Xbox was the last console I camped out for, but it was only for 2 hours and it was inside of a Wal-Mart. Not outside in the freezing cold. As much as I love video games and the fond memories written about here, it’s not something I’d ever care to repeat. Especially now with online shopping.
What are your fond memories of the PS2? Got any favorite games or anecdotes to share? Sound off in the comments below!