11 Button-Mashing Facts About GameStop

Ethan Miller, Getty Images
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Formerly the property of Barnes & Noble, GameStop struck out on its own in 2004 and has gone on to become a fixture of shopping malls across the world, attracting consumers away from big-box chains by offering trade-ins or cash on used titles. Despite some negative forecasts about the future of physical stores when many consoles now allow users to download games, the company still has 5800 locations across the globe and is hoping renovations that include in-store game sampling will keep them powered up. Check out some details on the company's history, proper etiquette for robberies, and how a former vice-president wound up in a federal courtroom.

1. GameStop started out selling Atari titles. 

Moparx, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

In 1983, Texas entrepreneurs James McCurry and Gary Kusin opened a software store named Babbage’s (after 19th century computer pioneer Charles Babbage) in a Dallas shopping mall. While Atari and the video game industry in general was about to suffer a steep decline in interest, Babbage’s was also trafficking in personal computer programs: The diverse inventory allowed them to tread water before Nintendo reinvigorated the industry. In 1994, the company merged with Software Etc. before being acquired by Barnes & Noble in 1999 and changing its name to GameStop. Executive Dan DeMatteo took the name after BookStop, a chain he remembered from the 1980s.

2. The used games you sell back to GameStop don't stay in the store.

Maximo Santana, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Used titles that are purchased by GameStop don’t get plopped right onto store shelves. Instead, they’re sent to the company’s refurbishment center near its Grapevine, Texas headquarters. The games are “buffed” and inspected to make sure they're still playable before being shipped back out. The facility processes more than 400,000 games every week.

3. GameStop employees can check out games. 

GameStop allows staffers to borrow game titles for up to four days. There are a few caveats, though: the game can’t be a new, popular title, and it can’t be the only copy in the store.

4. Microsoft's "red ring of death" was GameStop's gain. 

Tomasland, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Microsoft’s highly-anticipated release of the Xbox 360 in 2005 was hampered by what gamers called the “Red Ring of Death,” an internal failure on the console’s motherboard that manifested itself months or years after purchase. (The error caused three flashing lights to appear around the power button and prevented gamers from playing their purchases.) In 2009, GameStop figured out a soldering technique that would easily resolve the issue. They bought damaged systems cheap, repaired them, and resold the newly-refurbished systems at a significant mark-up.

5. GameStop got nabbed for "gutting" games. 

Typically, a manufacturer’s in-box incentives (coupons, freebies) are developed and distributed without requiring input from a retailer. In the case of Square Enix’s 2011 PC release, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, GameStop was irritated the developer had inserted a promotional flyer for OnLive, a cloud gaming service. According to CBS News, GameStop had employees open new copies of the title, retrieve the coupon, and throw it away. Customers were so enraged that the company later offered a $50 gift card to anyone who had pre-ordered the game or purchased it using the store’s rewards program.

6. People like to dive into GameStop's trash. 

YouTube

GameStop does such a brisk business with its used inventory—12 million titles passed through its refurbishment center in 2012—that stores often don’t have enough room to carry as many as they have in stock. As a result, the company tends to throw away games and other items that take space away from profitable inventory. Once discarded, titles, accessories, and guidebooks can be retrieved by enterprising gamers willing to paw through the dumpsters. When GameStop caught wind of the practice, they issued a new policy, “Field Destroy,” that calls for employees to damage anything that could be resold by the trash-picking opportunists.

7. A robber once called a GameStop to make sure the game he wanted was in stock.

It wasn’t exactly a heist worthy of Danny Ocean, but it was certainly unique: a Nashville, Tennessee thief who stormed a GameStop at gunpoint in January 2014 actually called ahead and asked the clerk to gather an “order” of an Xbox One and several games so he could swing by and pick it up—per his story, he was on his way to work and in a hurry. (Both technically true.) The man then entered wearing a mask and made off with the goods, which the employee had dutifully gotten together near the counter. There were no subsequent reports of the thief being caught.

8. GameStop stores in Philadelphia once required sellers' fingerprints.

IStock

According to a CBS affiliate, Philadelphia-area GameStop locations began requiring customers to have their fingerprint scanned if they were selling or trading in a used game: The prints were checked against a database operated by law enforcement that tracked stolen goods. Not surprisingly, customers were slightly offended by the measure. Riding a wave of negative publicity, the Philly-area stores abandoned the policy in August 2014, just a month after it had been enacted.

9. GameStop bought out ThinkGeek. 

Novelty ice-cube trays are about to become a lot more convenient to purchase. In June, GameStop announced their acquisition of Geeknet, parent company of ThinkGeek, the online resource for plush bacteria and monkey-related business. The site shut down in 2019 but the brand lives on as a section in some GameStop locations.

10. A former GameStop vice-president defrauded them out of millions.

JJBers, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The FBI issued a press release in 2012 detailing a large and convoluted scheme by former GameStop vice president of communications Frank Olivera to defraud the company out of millions of dollars. From 2009 to 2011, Olivera billed GameStop using invoices for a fictitious vendor called Cloud Communications. When they paid, Olivera would have the money transferred from the fake business account to his own. He cost GameStop nearly $2 million before being caught; the resulting mail fraud charge netted him four years in prison.

11. GameStop employees were discouraged from selling customers new games.

A 2017 Kotaku report revealed a controversial sales approach by GameStop dubbed the "Circle of Life." Essentially, the core of the company's business relies on consumers buying new games, trading them in, using that credit to buy more games, and eventually trading those in. If a store sold too many new games and not enough used titles, it could affect an employee's metrics, and they might subsequently have felt compelled to avoid selling brand-new games. GameStop changed the policy that same year so only overall store totals were counted.

Amazon's Best Cyber Monday Deals on Tablets, Wireless Headphones, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Cyber Monday has arrived, and with it comes some amazing deals. This sale is the one to watch if you are looking to get low prices on the latest Echo Dot, Fire Tablet, video games, Instant Pots, or 4K TVs. Even if you already took advantage of sales during Black Friday or Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday still has plenty to offer, especially on Amazon. We've compiled some the best deals out there on tech, computers, and kitchen appliances so you don't have to waste your time browsing.

Computers and tablets

Amazon

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Video Games

Sony

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11 Fascinating Facts About Mark Twain

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Mark Twain is widely considered the author of the first great American novel—The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn—but his rollicking tales aren’t the only legacy he left behind. His poignant quotes and witticisms have been told and retold (sometimes erroneously) over the last century and a half, and his volume of work speaks for itself. Over the course of his legendary career, Twain—real name Samuel Langhorne Clemens—wrote more than a dozen novels plus countless short stories and essays and still found time to invent new products, hang out with famous scientists, and look after a house full of cats.

1. Mark Twain is a nautical reference.

Like many of history’s literary greats, Mark Twain (né Samuel Langhorne Clemens) decided to assume an alias early on in his writing career. He tried out a few different names—Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, Sergeant Fathom, and, more plainly, Josh—before settling on Mark Twain, which means two fathoms (12 feet) deep in boating jargon. He got the idea while working as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River—a job he held for four years until the Civil War broke out in 1861, putting a halt to commerce. (However, another popular theory holds that he earned the nickname in a bar. According to reports in a couple of 19th-century newspapers, he’d walk into a pub and call out “mark twain!,” prompting the bartender to take a piece of chalk and make two marks on a wall for twain—two—drinks. Twain denied this version of events, though.)

2. In addition to being a steamboat pilot, Mark Twain also worked as a miner.

Shortly after his stint on The Big Muddy, Twain headed west with his brother to avoid having to fight in the war. He took up work as a miner in Virginia City, Nevada, but the job wasn't for him. (He described it as "hard and long and dismal.") Fortunately for Twain, he didn’t have to work there long. In 1862, he was offered his first writing job for Virginia City’s Territorial Enterprise newspaper, where he covered crime, politics, mining, and culture.

3. A story Mark Twain heard in a bar led to his “big break.”

Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress), Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1864, Twain headed to Calaveras County, California in hopes of striking gold as a prospector (he didn’t). However, it was during his time here that he heard the bartender of the Angels Hotel in Angels Camp share an incredulous story about a frog-jumping contest. Twain recounted the tale in his own words in The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. It was published in 1865 in The New York Saturday Press and went on to receive national acclaim.

4. It took Mark Twain seven years to write The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Twain started writing the sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1876, but he wasn’t too pleased with his progress. After writing about 400 pages, he told a friend he liked it "only tolerably well, as far as I have got, and may possibly pigeonhole or burn" the manuscript. He put the project on the back burner for several years and finally finished it in 1883 following a burst of inspiration.

5. Mark Twain invented a board game.

While Twain was putting off writing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he was busy working on a game he dubbed Memory Builder. It was originally supposed to be an outdoor game to help his children learn about England’s monarchs, but he ended up turning it into a board game to improve its chances of selling. However, after two years of work, it was still too convoluted to be marketable and required a vast knowledge of historical facts and dates. That didn’t stop him from patenting the game, though.

6. Mark Twain created "improved" scrapbooks and suspenders.

Memory Builder wasn't Twain's only invention; he also patented two other products. One was inspired by his love of scrapbooking, while the other came about from his hatred of suspenders. He designed a self-adhesive scrapbook that works like an envelope, which netted him about $50,000 in profits. His “improvement in adjustable and detachable straps for garments” also ended up being useful, but for an entirely different purpose than Twain originally intended. According to The Atlantic, “This clever invention only caught on for one snug garment: the bra. For those with little brassiere experience, not a button, nor a snap, but a clasp is all that secures that elastic band, which holds up women's breasts. So not-so-dexterous ladies and gents, you can thank Mark Twain for that."

7. Thomas Edison filmed Twain at home.

Only one video of Twain exists, and it was shot by none other than his close friend Thomas Edison. The footage was captured in 1909—one year before the author died—at Twain’s estate in Redding, Connecticut. He’s seen sporting a light-colored suit and his usual walrus mustache, and one scene shows him with his daughters, Clara and Jean. On a separate occasion that same year, Edison recorded Twain as he read stories into a phonograph, but those audio clips were destroyed in a fire. No other recording of Twain’s voice exists.

8. Mark Twain did wear white suits, but not as often as you might think.

Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

When you think of Mark Twain, you probably picture him in an all-white suit with a cigar or pipe hanging from his lips. It’s true that he was photographed in a white suit on several occasions, but he didn’t start this habit until later in life. According to The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, “In December 1906, he wore a white suit while appearing before a congressional committee regarding copyright. He did this for dramatic emphasis. Several times after that he wore white out of season for effect.” He also refused to trade his white clothes for “shapeless and degrading black ones” in the winter, no matter how cold it got. So take that, people who subscribe to the “no white after Labor Day” rule.

9. At one point, Mark Twain had 19 cats.

Twain really, really liked cats—so much so that he had 19 of them at one time. And if he was traveling, he would “rent” cats to keep him company. In fact, he had a much higher opinion of felines than humans, remarking, “If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat.” He also had a talent for coming up with some great cat names; Beelzebub, Blatherskite, Buffalo Bill, Sour Mash, Zoroaster, Soapy Sal, Pestilence, Bambino, and Satan were just a few of the kitties in his brood.

10. Mark Twain probably didn’t say that thing you think he said.

Twain is one of the most misquoted authors in history. According to one quote wrongfully attributed to him, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” What Twain actually said was, “[He] was endowed with a stupidity which by the least little stretch would go around the globe four times and tie.” There are many, many examples of these.

11. Mark Twain accurately predicted when he would die.

When he was born on November 30, 1835, Halley’s Comet was visible from Earth. It appears roughly every 75 years, and Twain predicted he would die the next time it graced the sky. As he put it in 1909, “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’ Oh, I am looking forward to that.” He ended up passing away at his Connecticut home on April 21, 1910, one day after Halley’s Comet appeared in the sky once again.

This story has been updated for 2020.