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Four stupid things I learned from owning an Xbox 360

My Xbox 360 hasn't done this to me so far, but here's some things it has done ...

Over the weekend, I became the proud owner of an aged but functional Xbox 360 Arcade with an attached 20GB hard drive. It didn’t come with any games though, and it being a bank holiday weekend here in the UK all the used games shops were closed, so I had to resort to XBLA to get my first taste of gaming goodness. Going to hit the charity shops with a vengeance this lunchtime though. But here’s a short list of unexpected things that I discovered as a used console owner.

1. GamerTag profiles are stupid

Being enthusiastic, I made the gross error of setting up my XBLA account *before* I set up the console. It then took me half an hour to actually sign on to Xbox live, because every time I tried to enter my email and password, the machine told me those details were already matched to an existing GamerTag. I tried changing my profile name, deleting the old profiles on the machine, searching the online help and menus, each and every time having to tediously re-enter my long email address and password without a keyboard all to no avail until I discovered, quite by chance, that if you already have a profile you have to download it first. Am I the only person who found this “feature” to be idiotically well-hidden?

2. Microsoft Points are stupid

As I said I had to get my first games from XBLA. There were three that interested me: Braid, Limbo and Trials Evolution which would come to a grand total of 3200 “points” if I wanted them all. Can I buy 3200 point? Not if I want to get a discount on RRP and buy them in blocks from cards, no. This is so screamingly, obviously a ploy to force people to overspend and then use the excess to engage with other parts of the Microsoft shop to buy mp3’s and such that I’m amazed there hasn’t been more of an outcry about it. I think it’s absolutely disgusting and I’ll be doing my damnedest to try and make up round numbers from promotions and freebies where I can find them. Although I note that the Bing Rewards scheme is arbitrarily only available in the US and therefore closed to me, so way to go to alienate a substantial chunk of your user base, Microsoft. Also, I found it extraordinary that the critically acclaimed Braid, an XBLA game from 2008 will cost me approximately £8 in points, whereas the copy of the critically acclaimed Fallout 3 from 2008 that I secured on Ebay cost me £4 including P&P. No bloody wonder manufacturers are keen to squash the second hand games market: this isn’t just about stopping used sales, it’s about encouraging downloads and locking down the means of distribution at which point you have an effective monopoly and can charge what the hell you like.

3. My TV is stupid

I still have an old cathode ray set. I have never seen the point of HDTV: I have friends that have it, and I’ve seen it demoed in shops and it really hasn’t looked all that much better than SDTV to me, especially when you factor in that the vast majority of broadcasts in the UK are still in SD and that they look marginally inferior when viewed on an HD set due to having to be processed through scaling software. As far as consoles go I stupidly thought the same would apply, especially since I’ve seen adverts for games on the TV that looked okay. But the minute I loaded up a game to play, I could see what the problem was: horrible fuzzy edges everywhere. I’m perplexed as to why I perceive this problem so much more in computer graphics than actual TV transmissions but for now I’m just encouraging my kids to throw heavy objects at the screen in the hope the insurance will cover a new one.

4. Consoles are stupidly effective money sinks

I picked this console up because it was a bargain. And then promptly spent £30 on XBLA points and used games from Ebay, and that barely scratches the surface of what I want to play. Now I’m thinking I need a new memory stick and a bigger hard drive. And I’m tempted to buy The Witcher 2 even though it’s new and can only be had for near full price because it sounds awesome. My six-year old daughter would absolutely love Kinect. Oh, and Brandon told me about this handy-sounding recharge kit for the controllers. And at some point someone is going to challenge me to some online gaming and then I’ll need to upgrade to Gold. So I’ve gone from from trying to economise to spending tons of money, all because I managed to pick up a bargain. How the hell does that work?

So that’s my weekend in a nutshell. The first game I spent those points on is Trials Evolution – might post a review next week as it hasn’t had much coverage round here, and it’s totally not what I was expecting when I downloaded it.

This is a Warning

Congressmen Joe Baca (D-Calif.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.) have introduced a bill that would require video games to carry a warning label similar to cigarettes, only in this case the warnings would inform consumers that video games have been linked to aggressive behavior.

Finally! It’s high time the government steps in and lets consumers know that every game ever made, including those violence mongering Dora cooking games, can cause little Timmy to explode in a fit of rage at the slightest provocation. Also, it’s about time that Congress take time away from such trivial matters as unemployment, staggering wealth disparity, the growing surveillance state and dependence on foreign energy sources to tackle something that really matters, informing consumers of nebulous ties between games and aggression.

Unfortunately though, for all that the warning does, I don’t feel that it does enough. I think that games need specific warnings so that consumers can be shielded from unpleasant experiences as much as humanly possible. What kind of warnings you say? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Read Dead Redemption – WARNING: You may think you’re about to embark on an epic Sergio Leone style western, but instead, prepare yourself to pick lots and lots of flowers. Yeah, flowers. Also, we hope you like bears!

Dragon Age 2 – WARNING: Bethany’s boobs are not really as big in the main game as they are in the tutorial. I know, right? Such a let down.

Halo: ODST – WARNING: Upon completing this game, you may feel like Nathan Fillion is your very bestest friend and that he will totally help you move on Saturday. Neither of these things are true. Alan Tudyk, on the other hand, may be able to help out, but only for like, an hour.

BioShock 2 – WARNING: Playing this game and making choices based on your own notions of child rearing may uncover what a truly terrible parent you are. Please return your children to their womb of origin immediately.

Dark Souls – WARNING: Failure to complete this game will brand you as a worse player than Bill Abner. No greater shame can be imagined.

Marvel vs Capcom 3: Ultimate Edition – WARNING: All of your wins have been against the AI. You are not ready to go online. No, seriously, don’t—see, I told you. Man, that has to be some sort of record.

L.A. Noire – WARNING: Actually, there’s not much game here. Carry on.

Cooking Mama – WARNING: This bitch is crazy.

Mass Effect 3– WARNING: This game may do nothing to assuage your fears that every choice you’ve made has been meaningless and that the yawning chasm of unfulfillment that exists at your core has been excavated by a lifetime of poor decisions. Also, you may be inadvertently exposed to gay sex. Icky!

Angry Birds – WARNING: Involvement with this game in any capacity may make you prone to hyperbole and to proclaiming the death of any game that isn’t sold at the App Store for less than a dollar.

New Super Mario Bros – WARNING: You are no longer eight. Failure to adjust your expectations accordingly may diminish your enjoyment of and/or ability to play this game.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – WARNING: While playing this game, you may feel like you’ve played it before. That’s because you have, like nine times.

Left 4 Dead – WARNING: Todd will shoot yo–oh. You’re dead. Told you.

Braid/Journey/Limbo – WARNING: Failure to enjoy these games may cause feelings of inadequacies as you wonder if you’re just too stupid to “get it”. Enjoying these games may cause feelings of blind allegiance to common gaming tropes simply because they’re presented as being artistic. Eff it. Go play Call of Duty.