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Xbox marks the spot

December 1, 2013
By SHAUNNA DUNDER HERSHBERGER - Lifestyles Editor (sdunder@timesleaderonline.com) , Times Leader

Atari.

That begins and ends my knowledge of video games and video consoles.

Over the summer, when Justin informed me that Microsoft was releasing a new Xbox before Christmas, I was a little confused.

"Don't you already have an Xbox?" I wondered aloud.

"Yes, the 360," he replied. He could have told me he had the 747 jumbo-jet model and I wouldn't have known the difference.

"What's so special about the new one?" I asked, knowing full well he was going to rattle off a laundry list of improvements.

He did, and he did it with such child-like enthusiasm. He made it sound like this new video gaming unit was going to cook dinner, mop the floors and give the dog a bath - in addition to playing video games, of course.

My mind flashed quickly through the gaming consoles that rode off into the sunset before Justin's current Xbox. He had a Wii, which he traded in, as well as a Playstation PS3. I have no idea what any of those are. OK - I take that back. I played the Wii with Justin because I was smart enough to figure that one out (either that, or the console was dumbed down just enough to suit me). In addition, last Christmas, Justin bought a fancy accessory called the Kinect to go along with his Xbox.

The Kinect in the new Xbox One was much improved, according to Justin. He spoke of its ability to deeply scan your living room and follow your motions. He casually mentioned that conspiracy theorists on the internet seem to think this is a great way for "the man" to spy on unsuspecting citizens. If the government is interested in counting the strands of cat fur on my couch, then more power to 'em! Justin added, "We better clean up the living room. I don't want the Kinect to see a messy coffee table!"

My mouth dropped open. "Let me get this straight. You'll pick up your mess for the Xbox, but not when I ask you to do it?"

His Cheshire cat grin in response was enough of an answer for me.

I thought back to the Atari console my sister and I played when we were kids. Video game characters were lines and dots, and sounds were robotic. It was cool. It was cutting edge. I always loved Space Invaders, but my sister did not because she said the marching aliens were "scary." I was not scared of the aliens, although I must admit the "Blip-bloop-blip-blip" sound effects became unnerving when they sped up.

Now, video games are created by geniuses who go to school for that sort of thing. Characters and scenery are life-like, and scary things really are scary. I hated crossing the crocodile heads on Pitfall - that was Atari scary. But that game was also great because you fell into random piles of money while running through a jungle. Sigh. If only something like that worked in real life.

Justin pre-ordered his Xbox One, figuring everyone was going to want one when it came out. And then, slowly, he began returning games and accessories. The final weekend before he traded in his console and WWE game, he sat in the living room, playing the game for hours. Later, I caught him asleep on the couch, with actual wrestling video footage playing on the TV. He was watching every possible item on that game to get the most out of it. I could almost hear a violin whining out a sorrowful tune in the background. It was sad.

Survival without any type of video game console was difficult for Justin, but he managed to muddle through those four long days. He spoke of the midnight release on Friday morning (or Thursday night), and he kept threatening to go. I thought he was joking until he went out to the game place on Thursday evening to pay off his remaining balance and get a number for midnight pick up.

"I have the golden ticket! Number 5!" he announced proudly when he got home.

I think he was expecting a little more enthusiasm from me, but I wasn't going to mess with this Xbox. Anyway, I was glad he was excited.

Since I was on vacation, I decided to go with him at midnight just to witness this with my own eyes. He set his alarm for 11:15 p.m., and after he woke up, he made a cup of coffee. His plan was to stay up all night playing with the Xbox.

When we arrived at the game store, there were about 10 to 15 people crowded around outside the door. A police cruiser was parked nearby and an officer was letting people into the store one person at a time. The police cruiser surprised me, as I didn't really think this looked like a very disorderly crowd.

I waited in the car, and Justin was only gone for about five minutes. He returned with a large black bag containing his prized video game console. On the way home, he told me that this was the first video console that he ever bought right when it came out. He was so excited, like a little kid who just found piles of presents from Santa under the tree on Christmas morning.

I took his picture with the box when we got home (of course!), and then I wished him fun and went to bed. I woke up at 5 a.m. to let the dog out, and I was surprised to find him asleep on the couch. I woke him up. "Hey," I said," I thought you were going to stay up and play games all night. What happened?"

"I got tired," he replied with a yawn.

I went back to bed and later that morning, when I finally got up for good, he showed me what the Xbox could do. "Watch this, babe," he said, sounding proud. Then in a louder voice, he gave the command, "Xbox, watch ESPN." The TV changed the channel to ESPN. "Xbox, watch History," he said next. The TV switched to the History Channel. I had to admit, that was pretty cool. And Justin just grinned from ear to ear.

I'm glad he's enjoying his Xbox. And because he said he treated himself to a nice Christmas gift this year, he suggested I get something nice too. He proposed either a remote car starter or an iPad. I have to choose one? I want both!

Hey, I have an idea. Get me the iPad and then rig up that Kinect to start my car for me. It can do everything else, right?

 
 

 

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