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Local store allows a look back on gaming history

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By Justin Saltzman
Special to The Collegiate

Located on Leonard street off of US-131, Vidiots (or as the logo encourages, “ViDiOTS”) could easily be passed by the unobservant eye.  Quite literally built from a house, it blends almost seamlessly between the homes that surround it.

It has a grassy lawn like a home, it has a path of cement leading up to the door like a home, but most importantly, it feels like a home.

The store is broken into three small, yet adequate spaces; each room wallpapered with video games from the past and present. Standing atop the floor-mat embroidered with the familiar Vidiots logo, you will find yourself surrounded by video game treasures of many decades.

There is a glass case tiled with Nintendo 64 games, another packed with games from Super Nintendo and another layered with the familiar black Sega Genesis cartridges. Though the store invariably possesses a small, antiquated feel, store owner Edward Eitzen realizes that there is far more to a store than meets the eye.

“I’m the anti-Target,” he says. “You’re not in here to look at the floor, you’re here to buy a video game. The product is what sells, I don’t need to make it look pretty in here.”

To Eitzen, video gaming throughout his entire life has gone beyond just a love and reached into the realm of a second nature.

“There never was a love per se,” he says. “It just always has been there…same as television, you never love it, it’s just there.”

Eitzen’s earliest gaming memory comes from the dawn of the 1980’s when his family purchased the classic Atari 2600 “right when it came out,” playing the now-infamous E.T. video game, which Edward defends even to this day.

Even before his days with the nostalgic red-buttoned joystick, Eitzen recalls days when his father would give him a handful of change at the bowling alley to spend at the arcade.

As a child beneath a row of glimmering lights and scores, Eitzen immersed himself in the original Star Wars arcade game, the immensely popular Asteroids, and maze-game Rally X.

During his tenure between jobs, Eitzen managed to find time to earn his Associate of Arts degree from GVSU and Northwestern Michigan, a degree to which Edward lovingly claims, “ask anyone…all it does is make you the king of crap.”

After the job at Flippers, Eitzen was employed as a manager by Tardy’s Collectors Corner, a local comic book store and at the time conveniently located close enough to a video game store that he was able to juggle employment at both establishments.

The building that Vidiots currently resides in was not always known by the recognizable name.

At one point Edward was actually an employee at Video Game World on Burlingame, while another Video Game World resided at the current Vidiots location.

Not long after the opening of the second store, a competing video chain moved in and put Eitzen in a situation to purchase the Leonard location.

“I was just a punk,” he said. “I wasn’t making any money; that way I had a house and a business—sounds sweet.”

Soon, Eitzen’s knowledge and care towards the video game business proved fruitful as the Burlingame location soon began to do poorly financially, while the Leonard location was making positive strides.

“We fixed it up,” he said. “The first day we’re tearing down stuff so the windows can show through and putting up the slot wall.”

Poking fun at himself momentarily, he points towards a wall, saying the fix-ups “have character.”

As Burlingame sales continued to plummet, the owner desperately tried to make deals with Eitzen in order to make some money at his store, to which he stood his ground and refused.
“I was like, ‘no. I pretty much want you to fail,’” Eitzen said.  “‘At this point you’re competition to me.’”

After tragic circumstances, Video Game World ceased to be, with much of the Burlingame stores products being moved to the Leonard street store, which was now re-named Vidiots.
Eitzen said he chose to call his business Vidiots simply “because it was funny.”

The name also drew inspiration from the 1993 Super Nintendo game “The Ren and Stimpy Show: Veediots!”

Employee Samuel Wildschut, of course, was able to grab a copy of this game from behind the glass counter. The humorous side to Eitzen’s personality was soon to show.

“I am nothing if not a parasite—you can write that down,” Eitzen jokingly said. “I totally took over someone else’s idea on a video game store, the name is taken from a video game…and even the logo design and colors were taken from the Dreamcast.”

While nothing short of an avid gamer, Eitzen is not always quick to jump at the defense of the gaming market.

Eitzen describes the gaming industry as a whole as “oversaturated.”

“Considering people like playing all the old games and these games (referring the many shelves of current-generation titles) and the games on their camera and on their iPod; there are so many games, why even bother making them anymore?”

Eitzen believes that the quality of the games isn’t necessarily going down (he regularly plays his X-Box 360), but “there’s nothing (the developers) can do with it.”

As far as his all-time favorite console, Eitzen prefers Sony’s Playstation 1.

“The PlayStation 1 was the best of it’s time… it broke a lot of barriers,” he said. “Sony did it right…there were so many games to choose from.”

It would stand to reason then that Eitzen’s “if-he-had-to-choose-one” favorite game also came from the beloved Playstation 1.

“Twisted Metal II. It’s personal for the time of my life…mixing racing with action—it’s a nice ball of game,” he said. “I could go back and play it now and still love it.”

Eitzen and the store solely rely on word of mouth to bring the store its attention. Rarely will you see the Vidiots name plastered on Craigslist or on fliers littered amongst the streets.

“You go out and you tell people ‘there’s a sweet store called Vidiots,’” Eitzen says with confidence. “I’ve learned not to bother (with fliers).”

It’s a formula that has lasted the store 10 years come this February, about as long as employee Samuel Wildschut has been visiting the store.

“I remember this place when it was Video Game World,” Wildschut recalls. “Me and my brother used to come in here and I’d give Ed a hard time…right when I got out of high school, Ed asked me if I wanted a job.”

When asked what (if any) changes Vidiots has adapted over the course of those 10 years in order to accommodate shifting interests and general market change, Eitzen summed it up with “we took out the porn – nothing’s really changed.”

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