Stupid ****ing Grail!

I’d have been a lousy Knight of the Round Table.

I mean leave aside the whole religious problem for a moment (if only we could do that so easily outside the world of blogs and docufiction).

I’ve been on a quest this week. A selfless quest, not for my own glory or aggrandisement but for a higher purpose.

A PS5

Those of you who are gamers or who keep a cynical eye on the world of overhyped digital frippery will be aware that calling a week’s search for a £449.99 PS 5 Console and controller at a figure below £800 pales in comparison with the travails many have undergone in the search for this semi-mythical object.

Since Sony launched this thing at the back end of autumn last year (where I was raised we called autumn ‘back end’; so in my vernacular this would be ‘back end of back end’) there have been a ‘few problems’ with availability. As in ‘Noah had a few problems with light showers’.  They have been like any of those proverbial imaginary objects; rocking horse droppings, hen’s teeth, the Grail, difficult to pin down.

There are allegedly many reasons for this from the technical: shortage of microprocessors, via the trade wars angle: China v US slowing down movement and production of elements of the machine, to the socio-economic: scalpers buying up thousands from unsuspecting retail outlets, creating a shortage and hiking the price.

You can theoretically get them – on ebay and other less well known ‘reselling sites’ – for vastly inflated prices, but in the first months there were as many straight scams as overpriced reality, so even if you feel like paying £900 for a £449.99 object – it is most definitely a case of caveat emptor.

Now I’m not a gamer. Well I am, but a generally analogue one vice digital. I did play Lego City through to a conclusion on the PS4 and if I could get a few minutes on the PS4 I enjoyed bits of others – Call of Duty Modern Warfare for example, but mostly I play board and toy soldier wargames.

My son however is a big fan of digital games.

He had until recently however been extremely scathing of the PS5. He has a PS4 and had set his heart on a gaming computer as his next step up in the online gaming world and had been saving diligently to that end. Until something, I am still not sure what, happened about ten days ago. At that point what had been an object of, if not derision then bemusement, became a matter of deep and personal engagement for the two of us.

I started reading twitter feeds and predictions of ‘drops’. I stayed up until 5 in the morning chasing an Argos online drop which didn’t materialise, backed up with rising to pursue an 0800 Amazon drop which didn’t occur and then queuing for an hour a time on various retailers systems to be met with the lingering smell of the beast disappearing behind a cloud of smoke and messages of condolence, red lettering, no entry signs and blank screens depending on the whim or efficiency of the programmer of the purchasing ‘software’.

All this time my son’s hopes were raised and then dashed as he endured what I hope will be a salutary lesson in the smoke, mirror and lies of the retail marketing industry and associated flummery. That lesson doesn’t help his current mood nor my feeling of inadequacy as mighty hunter/warrior/pater familias or shopper.

This morning Argos was supposed, according my native twitter guides, to be, at last after several false predictions, releasing a large number of console, controller and game bundles (this is where, supposedly offering you a great deal, they force you buy crap you don’t want alongside what you do, in order to boost profits. It’s not just Argos, it’s an industry wide scam). Argos are known (apparently by those who claim to know, though their predictions are like Nostradamus’s- they work after the event by tracking backwards and ignoring the failures) for dropping between 0100 and 0500 hours. I had stayed up all night waiting for this release once this week already. The smart money said it had happen now. At 0230 I crashed after c10 hours sleep in the previous 72. I told my son to wake me if anything happened. At 0330hrs he was bouncing around – it was live, apparently on app only. We tried on his phone app and then on a laptop. Both got us to the trolley and once to the checkout, but each time it crashed or blackholed or came up with weird messages about errors placing it in the trolley although it was clearly marked as being in the trolley and then disappearing as you clicked on it.

At 0515hrs we both went back to bed and I crashed out. I had promised myself to check out a possible Amazon drop (‘smart’ money says this will happen next week) but I slept on until just before 1000hrs.

As I logged on it became clear from the backwards predicting native guides, that everyone had been stuffed by the same problems. I have no idea what happened but the sale only went properly live apparently c0800hrs, the rest was the work of a Morgan le Fay to lead the pure hearted knight to madness.

I tried for forms sake and everything worked on the site right up to payment then there was a glitch, and then there were none left. Then there were some elsewhere, then there weren’t. I suspect the evil spell is still cast on the works of the fair Argos, and the Grail of the PS5 remains as much an object of mystery and legend as ever.

I have come to believe that, like the Grail legend, in the case of the PS5 the pursuit itself is the aim of the exercise and not the possession of the object. The quest  itself is the real Grail and self knowledge and metaphysical awareness of ephemeral nature of existence is the reward.

More drops next week!