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Buying video games just got more complicated, but here are good options

The experience of buying video games is about to change

A shopper looks at video games as he shops at a Best Buy Inc. store on November 28, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images

In our current time of crisis, experts are all saying the same thing: We should be socially distancing as much as possible to help temper the spread of COVID-19, and limiting our time outside to essential errands. Stuck indoors, many are turning to video games to help pass the time. But how we purchase these games just got more complicated.

Normally, I suggest that people buy physical copies of games — it’s much easier on our hard drives, and you don’t have to worry about the vicissitudes of digital titles. But if you want a physical game, you have two options: You can either go into a store, or you can order online.

Going to a store, of course, means braving the possibility you will somehow come into contact with (or help spread) COVID-19. Buying a physical copy online, meanwhile, keeps you indoors — but someone else who likely isn’t getting paid nearly enough to be outside right now has to get the game to you. These aren’t great options!

Then there’s option number three, which is buying digitally. You bypass the issue of going outside for something non-essential, or making someone else do it for you. If you have the hard drive space and really want to commit to social distancing, I’d recommend purchasing games digitally right now.

But if you don’t have the storage space, or if you want to support retail workers during these uncertain times, there are still things you can do to try and be mindful:

  • Seek out indie stores which may be seeing decreased foot traffic right now and try to support those, rather than big box stores. But regardless of where you go, whether it’s a local shop or your neighborhood GameStop, it may be a good idea to call ahead of time to make sure the game you want is there, or for associates to set your intended purchase aside, so you can go in and out quicker.
  • Try and limit how long you hang out and look around, or how much you handle merchandise around the store. Go in knowing what you want, and get business done.
  • If you order online from outlet like Amazon, consider including the game purchase in one bulk purchase to avoid numerous packages and deliveries. You’re not just cutting down on extra person-to-person contact — you’re helping the environment.

However you decide to get these games, the basic gist is that you should give it a little more thought before setting off in a new adventure. No option is perfect, but at the very least it should be an informed and deliberate one.

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