Apr 23 2015

How I learned to start loving the Xbox 360

About 2 months ago, I finally decided to take the plunge and buy an Xbox 360.  It’s amazing that after nearly 9 years of the console being available I only just recently purchased one, but I tend to go for cost effectiveness over need to be current. In addition, I have focused heavily over the past decade on PC gaming, and vintage consoles, which, combined together, have resulted in me never really needing, or wanting a console enough to justify the purchase of such.

Now, 9 years is a long time for a console to be around, and I know the Xbox 360 is at the end of it’s life as a mainstream console. I’m okay with that; after all, I’m the guy who goes out of his why to hunt down games that are 30+ years old. I’ve got no problem with a system being old since, to me, that means the game are going to be much cheaper than they would have been when the system was new.  The Xbox 360 still has at least another year and a half of life in it as a mainstream, supported system, and probably another 5+ years in the secondhand scene before it eventually becomes a relic in the same vein as the PS2, the Original Xbox, or the GameCube.

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Now, the last current system I owned was a Playstation 2. Before that? An original Playstation. You could say that was my system of choice. Why then did I go for the Xbox 360 instead of the Playstation 3? Indeed, a few years ago, I bought a PS3 game on release day in the hopes of it enticing me to purchase a PS3. Clearly, a $60 investment was not enticement enough, and today I happen to own the game for the 360 as well. What changed my mind?

Perhaps I would do well to explain why I originally hated the Xbox 360.

Back when the system was released, I already had a dislike of the Xbox brand. I saw it as a dumbed down PC gaming box for people who for whatever reason didn’t want to own a worthwhile gaming PC. The Xbox 360 seemed to be just an extension of this, and an elitist gaming culture that I just couldn’t stomach. A focus on competition and winning, an attitude of superiority; I hated it. The gaming style of the Playstation hardware, still heavily influenced by Japanese culture, was focused more on adventure, and when multiplayer was there, sure, there was competition, but also a feeling of teamwork from the gamers. It’s hard to describe, bu in the PS2 days, we just seemed to have fun discussing the games and being friends, rather than focusing on playing the games and the actual combat or challenge within. The friends were the focus, not the games – the Xbox culture seemed to reflect a focus on the game and the battle, and being the winner, more than the fun with friends.

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At least, that is how it appeared to me. This was a decade ago, so, take it for what it is.

It was one thing to enjoy the games on the Playstation 2, and what I expected on the Playstation 3. The other thing was the hardware itself – as the years went on, the Xbox 360 showed many flaws due to its rushed design; overheating, disk scratching, and a myriad of other failures made me wonder what the point was? I was wondering if the system would even last the first few years, or of Microsoft would be sued to the point where the console would be discontinued. Indeed, I somewhat hoped it would happen, not because of a dislike for Microsoft, but because I though the Xbox 360 was such a poor machine that it deserved to die in the same way as many other consoles in the past had.

Instead, it came through, with a redesign in 2010, and I was impressed. Impressed at least that the system had survived. The Xbox 360 at this time was already nearing 5 years old – by that time, most consoles already had their replacements in the works. Not this one, it, and the Playstation 3 were just in the middle of their lives, it would seem. Nothing was going to stop them, and they kept going and going. Prices continued to drop on systems, and they continued to have more and more games released for them. The same games.

Yes, save for some select exclusive titles, the consoles had the exact same games released for them over and over and over. For the majority of the game selection, things were the same, except for one curious tendency – the Xbox 360 versions of many games tended to be less buggy than their Playstation counterparts. This intrigued me, and I, as a person on the wayside, collected information where I could on the subject. There was a general trend that the Xbox 360 version of most games, especially those I showed interest in, tended to be regarded as the “better” version of them. This made me think that, if I was to purchase a console, I would do myself a favor by picking a system with the more solidly functioning games.

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As for the hardware issues themselves, while the Playstation 3 had an occasional issue here or there, the 360 was having failures left and right, it seemed. That is, until that redesign in 2010. All of a sudden, the system seemed to behave right. Of course there were failures here and there, but nowhere near as extreme as they were originally. It seems Microsoft had done things right and fixed their system. Old units that had not failed had proven over time to be reliable, but new units were showing much higher reliability rates, and were shipping out with more storage and wifi built in (Original Xbox 360 models requires an adapter for WiFi based network access) and so naturally were easier to connect for network game play.

Still, I hesitated on making a purchase. I was still thinking the Playstation 3 would win me over. I was waiting for that one game that would make me want to get the system. Yes, there were the Killzone games, they were Playstation exclusive, but what else? Nothing ever caught my eye that wasn’t also available on the Xbox 360.  Granted, at the time, the Xbox 360 exclusives didn’t entice me – I still didn’t care for Halo – but that would soon change.

In 2010 I had snagged an original Xbox from a local Goodwill. In playing around with hardware, like I do, I eventually succeeded in modding the console, so I could run custom software on it. The original Xbox is basically a very custom 2001 era PC, and had some very nice quirks about it; I grew to love the little box, and I started to wonder if I would enjoy an Xbox 360 in the same way, game wise. I began to play Halo, and started to enjoy the game, and finally see what all the hype was about back when I was in high school. The games were indeed fun to me. So, even though I had a Playstation 2, and was well invested in the Sony ecosystem of gaming, I knew I could enjoy what Microsoft and the Xbox hardware had to provide.

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At this point came the classic peer pressure. Several friends had Xbox 360’s, and in hanging out with them I grew accustomed to what could be done with the system. Granted, the features exist on the Playstation 3 as well, but I was getting to see these in action. Gamers like myself taking advantage of what their system had to offer. It was enticing, to say the least.

Then came Windows 8. Everyone’s much hated 2012 Windows release that I just happened to love. It had great integration with the Xbox brand, Xbox Live, and Microsoft accounts. I had grown over the years to be more invested in the Microsoft ecosystem than ever before. It was to a point where I had Xbox achievements without ever owning an Xbox 360, via games like Grand Theft Auto IV being “Games for Windows Live” branded games, supporting achievements on the PC version. It was pretty cool, and gave me  taste of the Xbox experience long before I would eventually consider buying one.

That was the turning point. Integration. I realized an Xbox 360 would fit into my digital life better than anything else at the time, and would be affordable, especially in the used market. By this same time, the Xbox One came around.

There was nothing about the console I didn’t like. Well, as it was released – any gamer will remember the DRM and mandatory Kinect issues that worried gamers when the console was announced. With those issues gone, I looked at the hardware and software itself. A Windows 8 based game console with power to spare? Oh yes, how could I resist. Of course, the system was beyond expensive so I would have to save up for it, but for now an Xbox 360 would do the job nicely. A library of thousands of games, many top notch titles, some of which I could get for just a few dollars. It was a win-win situation.

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By now it was 2015. Tax season. I had just gotten my tax refund, and what would anyone do? Spoil themselves with at least a small part of it, right? So, I did just that. I went to my favourite local used game shop, the Disc Connection, and saw they had a console for sale for $60. It was an original style 360, but a later revision with HDMI. We booted it up in store just to make sure it worked, and didn’t fail on boot. Everything looked good, so I took it. Over the next few months, I’ve purchased, usually for only a few dollars each, about 25 games for the system, in addition to taking advantage of the “Games with Gold” feature Xbox live has, where each month you get 2 free games (pre-selected ones, not your choice sadly) to download and keep. This doesn’t help most long term owners, as they often already own many of these games, but for me, each game is one I didn’t already own – each game is something new to enjoy. I couldn’t be happier with that chance, to have a few random games a month tossed over to me. It’s just awesome.

Oddly, as it stands, I don’t play the system as much as I thought I would. I might turn it on and play for a few hours every other day, but that’s it. I still game quite a bit on PC, and play older consoles. It’s just how I do things.

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When Xbox live service for the 360 ends, I will mod the system. For now, I keep the console untouched. I haven’t even opened it to clean it. I’ve paid the $60 for a year of Xbox live service, and I don’t want to risk that just to experiment with the hardware. For me, the 360 I have is something for me to just kick back and game on, as it was intended to be by the developers. It’s the only game console hooked up to my HDTV (everything else, even up to the Wii, are hooked up to my CRT gaming TV) and I am quite happy with this setup. I can escape my PC and the bulk of the internet and just sit on my bed, enjoying some recent gaming.

I still want a Playstation 3, don’t get me wrong. I’ll just wait until they are dirt cheap. As it stands, I’m happy with my decision for the Xbox 360, and eventually will get an Xbox One. Call me a Microsoft Fanboy if you wish. I don’t say they can do no wrong – remember, I hated the 360 originally. I just simply went the route that worked best for me, someone who uses Microsoft services, and enjoys a cohesive experience. I’m the guy with a Windows Phone, after all. It just works for me.

 

Add me on Live: Kurisu Yamato

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