The Ion Element: Paying $300 for Toy Drums, and Other Gaming Absurdities

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A significant threshold is crossed when one purchases a $300 set of toy drums.

The boundary itself is a dark, unmentionable place. One does not simply walk into GameStop and purchase $300 toy drums. It is an act accomplished in privacy, while everyone and everything is asleep, including your common sense.

Once beyond the bound, you find yourself in another realm of video game fandom, granted access to an exclusive clubhouse reserved only for the truly pathetic.

Inside the lodge, rejected gaming paraphernalia litters nearly every inch of available space. The floor is carpeted in worn-out DDR pads. The walls are covered in mounted Halo helmets. Dusty driving controllers line the banisters, the expensive steering wheels re-purposed as coat hangers.

The owners of the junk mill about, quietly commiserating. Over at the bar is the sap who bought the Steel Battalion controller, drowning his sorrows. Next to him is a grown woman, wiping at tears with a Power Glove'd hand. A man wearing a Kingdom Hearts pre-order t-shirt stokes a raging fireplace, throwing on a few Draken 2 deluxe art books for fuel.

In the corner, a small boy is playing a sad, silent tune with a broken pair of Samba maracas. Regret hangs in the air like the foul stench of Earthbound strategy guide scratch-n-sniffs. The denizens speak in dazed whispers, like drug fiends that have passed the point of return, going through the motions.

"Did you see that Fatal1ty Sidewinder mouse? That shit is off the hook, man."

"Hey man, can you score me a Fallout 3 bobblehead? I promise I'll pay you back."

"Did you hear about the Mega Man special edition? Man, I would give anything for a little of that, man. Man."

The heavy blanket of excess begins to suffocate you. You start to scream, but the sound of a thousand Taiko Drum Masters drowns out your voice.

A Cymbal Union
$300 is quite a commitment. Your nerves go haywire before the big day. A $60 game is fleeting, but $300 drums are forever.

You start to question your decision in rambling thoughts, your emotions see-sawing between elation and depression. "What am I doing? This is so crazy. My life will never be the same."

I imagine it's a little like your wedding day.

Of course, five years later, when your friends come over, you'll hide these things like an abused wife. What else can you do?

"Yeah, we just put in the all-wood paneling. We're really happy with it. By the way, have you seen my collection of plastic toy instruments?"

In the past, at least the peripherals I wasted money on were entirely distinct. But once you dip your toe with that first music controller, it's all over. The plastic inevitably begins to pile up, the instruments multiplying like vermin across every platform. In the blink of an eye, you're finding places to store that fourth guitar, with another one on the way.

You start wondering what to do with them all. No other gamer needs another guitar at this point. Should you donate them? Would sick children enjoy rocking out to The Police? If I had cancer, the last thing I'd want to do is spend my time making it through an endless 80s setlist. No god is that cruel.

But where are all of these guitars going to end up? Will they be abandoned to rot in closets and attics, or given away for pennies at garage sales? Do they come alive at night, like a bad digital short?

In a communist society, one imagines a Maoist plan that would see every town's raw guitar resources melted down for the good of the country. Men would come door to door to carry away unwanted Fenders and Stratocasters. They would be converted to fuel, to power our future gaming peripherals.

You Are The Perfect Drum
An intense cycle of justification is at the heart of every addiction. Gaming accessories are no different--especially ones that are more expensive than the systems they're played on.

I'll say things like, "It'll be worth it in the long run," as if I'm sitting down to buy a blue chip. After a while, it feels more like building a portfolio than having fun.

And when the $300 Drum Rockers finally arrive broken, I make excuses for them, like some bizarre, consumer-based twist on Stockholm syndrome.

Okay, the cymbals may not work right, but nothing is perfect. The steel kick pedal has my neighbors convinced that I've become a blacksmith, but Ion tried their best. They meant well. You can't go to the Moon in a day, right?

A few days later, I suddenly don't feel like playing Rock Band. The $300 drums that I lusted after only weeks ago, that I just had to have--they're up against the wall, taking up space. Every minute of the day that I am not playing them feels like a waste of money.

Sure, I'll use them every day or so. They certainly won't collect as much dust as my Wii. (Pretty soon I'll have to snow-blow that thing out, and I'm not anymore sure of what I'll find. Probably a GameCube in another box.)

They may even turn out to be worth the cost. Even half-functional, they do more to fulfill the potential of Rock Band drumming than any other option. They serve a practical purpose--a far cry from most excessive gaming purchases.

But that doesn't change the fact that I spent $300 on a pair of toy drums.

Join the club.