Having heard just about every male around talk about how sweet the game is supposed to be for the past few weeks, I decided to go. Why not? The fact that so many people were interested in something completely foreign to me spiked my curiosity.
It was a cool, crisp night. The thermostat on my car said 53 degrees Farenheit, but it felt much colder with the unseasonably warm daytime temperatures Iowa City has been experiencing the last few days.
My tour around local venues hosting midnight release "parties" began at roughly 10:15 p.m. First stop: Gamers in the Old Capitol Town Center, 201 S. Clinton. About 25 young men sat, stood, or leaned against the exterior wall of the Old Capitol Mall; it was a typical scene of what I expected to see.
10:45 p.m.- Video Games Etc. on the Coralville Strip next to Hy-Vee. Much the same scene as what I had experienced at Gamers. However, some of these lads had been smart enough to bring lawn chairs. As I drove by, many of them smiled and waved.
Driving down the Coralville strip with its prematurely cheery Christmas lights blazing on the trees to either side of me, it was like the tunnel to heaven. The few businesses still open were fast-food joints and 24-hour stores, and small bars.
10:55 p.m.- I arrive at the Coral Ridge Mall. Unbeknownst to me, Game Stop inside of the mall is open for business. Following a couple of over-excited teenagers through the automatic doors, I spot the back of a 150-or-so person line outside of the store; They are waiting for pre-ordered copies of the game.
Two Great American Cookie employees sit at a table near the front of the line with boxes of free cookies for the multitude of anxious gamers.
"We didn't really plan on handing out free cookies," says Jessica Brierton, 20, a cheerful Kirkwood student. "But we saw people waiting in line at like 9 and offered the cookies."
The mood is generally upbeat, which can probably be attributed to the combination of free cookies and impending hours upon hours of XBox action.
"It's interesting how many people showed up so early," Brierton says. "And they seem to be really bonding about it. Everyone's in a good mood."
Right on cue, the merry mall security supervisor for the swing shift, David Sloan, walks up to grab a cookie.
"We are not so much here for security purposes," Sloan says. "The store just asked us to be here for crowd control. They weren't sure how many people were going to be here."
Sloan, whose shift normally goes from 3-11 p.m., is expecting to be there until at least 1:00 Tuesday morning. And who knows? It could be longer depending on the crowd.
But he loves his job and is proud of what he does. He does not consider himself a police officer, but more of a helping hand for mall patrons, with some of the public safety responsibilities that police do have.
"I like to think of the mall as a town within the town of Coralville," he says, standing a little taller.
11:15 p.m.- Best Buy outside the Coral Ridge Mall. About 40 people are waiting outside, but the line grows leaps and bounds every 10 minutes or so.
The mood is increasingly excited. Groups of game enthusiasts discuss everything from South Park to the perils of buying a Mac to how "fucking awesome!" Call of Duty is. Two college-aged gentlemen with jobs discuss their strategies for surviving the wait.
"Dude, I had like three Red Bulls at work today," says one.
I can't help but notice that the only passing vehicles on the visible stretch of highway in front of the mall are semis, yet the parking lot is nearly one-third full with cars. Groups of guys race into the parking lot.
"Nerds! You're all insane!" says one driver as he races by in his old red Toyota Camry, which he promptly parks and exits to make a mad dash into the mall.
Some of these guys know that they might be seen as just that for waiting hours outside a story to buy a video game, but they are willing to take that risk.
Twenty-year-old Andy McBride got to Best Buy at 8:00 for the midnight opening. He managed to claim the coveted front-of-the-line position.
"This game is the greatest sequel ever," he says of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. "I'm most excited for multiplayer."
McBride says that he spends about 20-hours a week on video games. "I probably sound like a huge nerd right now," he says. "[But] I hope to have the game beat by tonight."
11:55 p.m.- Best Buy's manager emerges from the double doors. The crowd is noticeably and increasingly roused. She explains the orderly procedure for claiming the game.
"There are 150 pre-ordered copies," she says. "This is the longest line I've ever seen, but there are about 570 copies to buy, so everyone will be helped."
The crowd buzzes. Sitters rise. The line contracts.
"MIDNIGHT!" Shouts one overly-enthusiastic buyer.
The doors open. Inside sits a table with all 5 editions of the new game, specialized Modern Warfare 2 controllers, Prestige edition night vision goggles, "Limited edition!" Xbox 360s, strategy guides, subscriptions for Xbox Live, universal gaming headsets.... And everyone's eating it up.
But the best part is the look of relief on the faces of those who have been anxiously awaiting this video game. It's as if they have that one thing they've been waiting for.
And now, energy drinks in hand, they will proceed to play through the night.