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Happy Birthday Xbox

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On November 15th the original Xbox celebrated its ten year birthday. Granted, I doubt there are many of the things floating around and being used as video game consoles, as opposed to cheap Microsoft media extenders, but still. Ten years ago this week Microsoft entered a space dominated by Sony and Nintendo and the result changed the gaming lives of millions, including myself.

Truth be told, I should wait until the GameCube’s birthday on Friday to tell this whole tale, but why make something into one post when I can drag it out into two? The reality is that while the GameCube set me on the path to console gaming, the Xbox is what made me forever turn my back on PC gaming, never to return save for the occasional casual game. For better or for worse, it’s all the Xbox’s fault…

Even though the Xbox launched in 2001, I didn’t get one until 2003. When the system launched, I looked at the launch games and wasn’t interested in any of them. At the time, I was still a PC gamer, and the notion of playing a shooter like Halo on the Xbox didn’t exactly fill me with glee. Plus, with the GameCube’s launch so close, I was more interested in Nintendo’s offerings.

So what happened? BioWare happened, that’s what.

I had always been a fan of the Star Wars extended universe, particularly the video games. Jedi Knight and Jedi Knight II still stand as some of my favorite games with the latter easily in my top ten. I was also a huge fan of BioWare, as I am now, so knowing that BioWare was working on an RPG set in the Star Wars universe during the golden age of the Jedi had me more excited than any upcoming release. Then the bad news hit, Knights of the Old Republic, a game which was to originally launch on the PC, was going to launch on the Xbox. Not only launch, but only be released on the Xbox. Devastated wasn’t the right word. I was downright pissed.

By the time KOTOR’s release started to draw near, I was already pretty familiar with the Xbox. A number of my work friends had them and about once a month we would get together on a Friday night to play Halo at my house. They would grab a projector from work and bring it, the Xboxes and beer while I supplied the basement, a TV and either chili or ribs or some other food. We’d start around 9PM and play until 2AM and have an absolute blast. I can honestly say that those Halo sessions were some of the most fun I have ever had with other people, gaming or otherwise. I lost a lot, but never got pissed or upset because it was just too much damn fun and I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to play with. One evening my dog pulled a muscle when jumping on the couch and my wife and I weren’t sure if she had inadvertently swallowed a bottle cap so everyone there helped match up every bottle cap from the trash with every empty bottle. And people say gamers are violent sociopaths.

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Getting back to KOTOR, when the game came out, I still didn’t have an Xbox but my friend Andy had two of them as one of them constantly gave a disc read error when Halo was in the tray. Even back then Microsoft didn’t know how to make a friggin’ console. Any way, I made a deal with Andy. If he let me borrow his spare console, I would buy KOTOR and play it and then, when I was done with it, I would give him his console back with the game and he could play KOTOR. Seeing how the spare was collecting dust and he wanted to play KOTOR too, he agreed.

KOTOR blew my fucking mind, to put it lightly. Dual wielding lightsabers and knocking blaster bolts back at enemies while rocking Force powers? Yeah, I was hooked. Well, until the end where my insistence on going full-on light side made that final battle a complete pain in the ass. I still remember being blown away by the big reveal as I simply did not see it coming. Once I was done with KOTOR, I gave the Xbox back and didn’t entertain the notion of buying one until two things happened, one economical and one technological.

On the economics front, I had been working for a company that gave away stock options like water as employee benefits, in large part because their stock was in the fucking tank due to the tech bubble bursting. Eventually, some of my options headed above water right when I could exercise them and as I wasn’t about to let the moment pass and watch them sink back to being worth less than the digital paper they were printed on, I cashed them out. My other consideration was that my ten year anniversary was about three years away and my wife was fully expecting a diamond anniversary ring as she had been pretty clear about wanting one for quite some time. My wife is an awesome woman, and I didn’t have a problem getting her the ring, and had been putting money aside, but cashing out the stock options allowed me to put aside a big chunk of cash and guarantee the ring. I also figured there was enough there to let me buy the Xbox bundle I had seen at Costco that consisted of the box, a headset, a controller, a remote and a copy of some game or another. I told my wife my financial plan and she was more than happy with it. Finally, an Xbox was mine.

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On the technological side, right around when I got my Xbox, I finally got broadband internet access. We lived in Virginia, out by Dulles airport, and despite being right down the road, literally, from AOL, we couldn’t get broadband at my house. AOL was a lot more important back then, so the irony was much deeper. Trust me. Finally Adelphia offered broadband and we ditched the screaming of our 56.6 modem and welcomed the joy of always-on internet. Now that I had broadband, Xbox Live was an option and I could finally play Live games with my friends. Granted, I sucked at all of them and lost many the Rainbow Six 3 and Madden game, but still, I was playing with other people and it was awesome.

In November of 2004, Halo 2 came out and to celebrate, I took the day off of work and smoked a brisket while my friend Mark came over and we played Halo 2 online. By the end of the day, we were both tired from killing armies of red and blue Master Chiefs and my floor was covered in balls of carpet fuzz, the result of Mark constantly rubbing his feet on the floor as if he was engaging in some sort of Die Hard relaxation technique. It was one of the few times I have ever taken a day off for a video game launch and I loved every minute of it.

Once I got my Xbox, the slide away from my GameCube increased until I got to where I am today, primarily an Xbox gamer with feet in other console pools, but heavily invested in Microsoft’s hardware. It helped that once I was on Live, Andy turned me on to a site filled with like minded Live players that wanted to meet cool people to plan online with, without having to worry about random assholes and racist 12 year olds. Through this site I met a bunch of awesome people, including Bones, my brother from another mother.

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If anything, more than because of the games, I’m glad I headed down the Xbox road all of those years ago because of the people I have met and the friendships I have made. Without an Xbox, I wouldn’t have met Bones or Kurt or Richard or Carrie or Anthony or Aaron or Sean or so many others. Without the Xbox, I wouldn’t have bought an Xbox 360 and wouldn’t have become such good friends with Petey and Hodge and with my manager Joel. So many of my favorite gaming moments involve playing with other people, and all of those multiplayer and co-op moments happened on one of Microsoft’s consoles.

So yeah, while the introduction of the Xbox into the landscape of modern gaming changed said landscape, it also fundamentally changed my life, very much for the better. That is plenty reason enough for me to celebrate without talking about the hundreds upon hundreds of hours I have enjoyed playing Xbox and Xbox 360 games.

Happy Birthday Xbox. I’m so glad we were able to spend the last eight years together. Here’s hoping for many, many more.

Brandon

Brandon loves games, which shouldn't be a surprise given where you're reading this. He has written for GameShark, The Escapist and G4, and made them all less relevant as a result.

6 thoughts to “Happy Birthday Xbox”

  1. To me xbox is the biggest leap in system since the 2600. And its because it did the same for me. It got me off the PC. Me and my gaming buddies waited for like 2 years for haloo only to have it ripped from us by microsoft. I wasn’tt going to take that so against all my prejudices I got an xbox and played and played and played halo. 3 times thru which is a lot for me considering I don’t finish a lot of games even to this day.

    Anyway, the xbox while not right away has ended up killing the pc to me to. I havent played a game other than wow on my pc in a few years now. Though guild wars 2 looks like maybe my next pc game.

    Im generally tired of spending roughly a thousand dollars to get a system up to date to play the latest game at full graphics which btw usually doesn’t run well till like 2 years later when hardware catches up. Generally speaking 1920 by 1080 is plenty of res to play a game. Hell I swithed from pc monitor to 32 sony 1080p xbr tv for a monitor anyway.

    In order to punch through to higher resolutions on bigger pc monitors it cost much much more. Sure games will look better on pc when consoles get old like now but soon new badass consoles will be released and the pc will be hard pressed to compete. I can spend 600 bucks on a new console it will last 4-6 years and every game I buy will work no bs driver issues.

    I’d also like to say that xbox wins purely on live. Live was thier greatest smartest invention. I am puzzled as to why sony fails to see this and build a pure game network. I have a ps3 I bought it much after the xbox 360 which was a day one release. I bought it as a bluray player and really that’s about all I use it for. This is because whenever I buy a game I think Is this an online game and then I get it for xbox. I have a collection of old the shows and a f1 game for PS thats it.

    Anyway my early mindless rant over Happy bday Xbox, Happy Bday to my youngest daughter sarah 5! And here here to xbox and xbox live living as long as I do. I could care less after that

  2. The Xbox launched during my freshman year of college, and one of the kids I knew had a mom who worked at Microsoft. After Thanksgiving that year, this guy came home from Seattle with an Xbox. I knew about the system before it launched because I had read about it in EGM and online. So I was aware of how the gaming press felt about it and whether people in general liked it or didn’t like it, but this was my first experience with it.

    So, I walked into his dorm room and he’s playing a snowboarding game I didn’t recognize. It happened to be Amped and he was playing it on his new Xbox. It looked great. He proceeded to give me the tour of the system. I think the coolest thing he showed me was the breakaway cable. I can’t tell you how many times that function saved my system from falling off places an Xbox shouldn’t be placed in a cramped dorm. I think he also had Tony Hawk 2x, and it looked better than the version I had been playing on my PC. I was left with a pretty positive impression of the whole thing, but I had my Dreamcast and I wasn’t ready to buy a new system.

    As the Dreamcast dwindled and then died, it started to look like the Xbox was going to be the future home for much of the Sega catalog I had grown to love. JSRF and Panzer Dragoon Orta ended up being the catalysts that made me buy an Xbox that Summer and I never regretted it. Playing JSRF, Panzer Dragoon, the Splinter Cells, Sega GT and Halo with my college friends were some of the best times I’ve had playing video games.

    When the 360 came out, I wasn’t sold on it either. Then I saw it in action at a co-worker’s house, and again I was left with a really positive impression, but not strong enough to make me purchase it. The game that made me go out and drop the 400+ dollars to get the system turned out to be Rockstar’s Table Tennis. The game was a blast and I needed it. The 360 is the system I use the most currently and may be my favorite system ever. I think now at this point I’m pre-sold on an Xbox 720. Microsoft has proven they can do console video games.

  3. For me it was Halo. I was 16 and worked at Target for I think three months and it dropped. At the time I wasn’t driving so I walked around trying to buy an xbox for a few days after it released. Picked one up at Gamestop think I bought some guys reserve because I also grabbed 3 controllers and like 4 games.

    It was all worth it. Everyday I had off my friends would come over and cram into my bedroom we would just Halo over and over. That’s what sold me on the Xbox. Then my system died and I didn’t bother replacing it and just played PS2. I still preferred the Xbox.

    This time around though I’m on my third or fourth 360 and I hardly touch my PS3. I think the big difference is live I got it with the 360 and it really makes a big difference to me. I’ve been playing Skyrim with my brothers over Live.

  4. The only console I have ever owned is the xbox360. Still, I remember back in college when a few housemates had hacked xboxes and we played early copies of Halo 2. The copies were in french and I remember we played it quite a bit. Yeah, not bad but I do find myself drifting back to the PC these days.

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