Wednesday, August 21, 2019

No more games

Dundas Street West and Manning Avenue
Toronto, ON
August 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
On the northwest corner of Toronto's Dundas Street West and Manning Avenue, a shuttered store that once sold video games stands, ignored.

The faded, shattered sign says it once sold Nintendo, PS3, and Atari games, so I'm guessing it's been a while since any wide-eyed kid walked through the retro diagonal-set door with a fist full of cash and dreams of being the next Mario Kart champion.

I find it fascinating how, in a city of millions, countless ghost businesses can so litter the landscape. In another era, brick-and-mortar retail was something of a gateway to a better life for some. But today, e-commerce is rewriting the rules of retail, and stores built on the promise of if-you-build-it-they-will-come are having their lunch eaten by unseen digital enemies.

There's no arguing with the convenience and cost-effectiveness of shop-by-touchscreen, But there's also no ignoring what we've lost along the way. That ability to walk into a store and shoot the breeze with informed, passionate employees who play the games and willingly share their advice. The feeling of spontaneous, informal community in a tattered-at-the-edges store, a temporary refuge from the drudgery of elementary school. Or a Canadian winter. Or a dark day at the office. Or a dark day, period.

Online shopping offers no such experience. The passionate practitioners of a craft - games, movies, shoes, whatever - have, like the stores that employed them, virtually disappeared. In their place are algorithms and suggestion engines, snappy graphics and accelerated online checkout. And free shipping, of course.

It's all so convenient. But we fool ourselves into believing there isn't some kind of additional price to be paid. Both by all of us who might have shopped here, and by the kind souls who worked here and guided us on our way, whatever it was that we were looking for.

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