The numbers system broke down long ago. Someone has bought fried chicken and is eating it in the Xbox aisle. Bearded teenagers arrive and attempt to jump the queue. They smell strongly of cannabis. A middle-aged woman swears at them. Welcome to the midnight launch of Grand Theft Auto V.
Milling around outside a video game store waiting for it to open during a cold night isn’t most video game fans’ idea of fun, but, nonetheless, they’re here.
A GAME employee has a book of raffle tickets. He says that the first 100 people here have a numbered ticket so that they don’t have to queue. “Why don’t you go and buy some chicken?” he says as I read my number: 68. Tilting my head in the direction of KFC, I see that it’s closed.
As it nears 11.30 p.m., the doors open and the bearded, smelly horde rush in to fill up the space near the front of the shop. Looking around, almost everyone is in their early twenties and, of course, male. One middle-aged woman stands next to her husband, who is eagerly checking the time.
Over in a corner of the shop, a 12-year-old boy is instructing his mother as to exactly which version of the game he wants. She nods, making a mental note that he wants the Special Edition.
I heard they have none left. It’s probably true. What a mess.
The rumour spreads to the back of the queue. Some new arrivals decide to leave, not wishing to queue for hours for a game that may or may not be there. But standing near the front of the shop, I can see the giant pile of Grand Theft Auto V DVDs.
Finally, at half past midnight, the numbers are called. “Number one!” shouts a burly store manager. Everyone looks round to see if they’re number one. Nobody is.
“Number one!” comes the call again. Eventually, the number is scrawled in felt-tip on a piece of paper and held up. Realising that number one most definitely isn’t here (he is probably buying chicken), the piece of paper gets tossed to one side.
Rumours begin to spread further, and more desperately. “They’re just serving anyone!” “Numbers don’t mean anything anymore, mate!” “KFC is opening specially for us!” None of them is true.
Two hours pass, and I muscle to the front of the queue. “Excuse me please, it’s my number.” I almost throw my ticket and pre-order slip at the burly bloke behind the desk.
He gives me the prized game and I stroll back through the crowd, which parts before me. Some people give me reverential looks, spying the bag in my hand. Others sneer: I only got the Standard Edition. The 12-year-old boy is still there, explaining to his mother that Grand Theft Auto V, despite being rated 18, does not feature violence.
I strode out of the shop excitedly, but not before someone in the street saw my bag and threw rocks at me.
These people are insane, I think to myself. But, then again, I was there too.
NOW READ: James’s review of GTA V