Sealed with Hatred

Packaging. There are times when you appreciate it, and there are times when you hate it. The games industry has a long history of unusual packaging, but that’s not what this column is about. No, this is about frustration and annoyance.

First of all, there’s cellophane. I can’t get the stuff off, even with tear strips and corners to help me. It’s always been that way. Now, I don’t want my games to go “stale”. OK, maybe that’s a good metaphor for a late-comer that just apes other games that have gone before, and in theory it could be stale by the time it hits the shelf. But why do we have these heavy plastic cases and THEN seal them, if they don’t do the job? Surely there’s more to it than authenticity seals and the like?

(While we’re on the subject, I find myself ambivalent to the collectors of sealed games – particularly those who do it just to have a sealed original. I want to play a game, when I can eventually get into it, not leave it on a shelf. True, if I came across a real rarity that was still sealed I might be tempted to keep it that way for value’s sake. I like my games to be in good condition when I buy them, but in the end I want to PLAY them.)

Then you have the pre-formed plastic packaging found on many add-ons. What do you do? Attack it with a melee weapon? Try to extract it surgically? The number of times I’ve ended up with massive damage to my weak spot (my hands) because of this sort of packaging ought to earn me an achievement. And they put wires and cables inside this.

Now, let’s back up a minute and praise some good ideas. I like the way both the Wii and the Xbox 360 are packaged. The drawers in the Wii box are nice and everything goes back in tidily. The words on the plastic packets of the 360 components are helpful, although more than one is called “See”, which caused me a few moments’ confusion as to the cable I needed.

But then we get the cable problem. Every cable is covered in one or more plastic bags, with combinations of sealing, tape and plastic ties. Is it all really necessary? I must have about half a dozen plastic plug covers kicking around my computer room. What do I do with them?

And then there’s the mother of all boxes, Rock Band in a Box. Wow. I’m glad the game wasn’t included, else it would have taken me even longer to get in and play it…

Finally, we have a certain retail store that runs a return policy, whereby your purchase that is already covered in stickers and price labels has an additional seal placed over the edge. Sigh. Are they actually trying to convince you not to play it?

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