I have been playing video games all my life. At the age of four, my parents bought us three kids a #PlayStation, as well as each our own game. My sister got a racing game, my brother got a #Madden game, and I got Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase. I remember hooking up the new system to our massive CRT in the basement and spending hours each day playing the games.
Looking back, I'm sure it's just because the game was terribly designed, but I was having a very difficult time beating the damn thing. The platforming was tricky for my young, inexperienced self, but the crazy thing is it didn’t matter. I kept on truckin' and eventually beat it, even though it was hard as hell and I plain sucked.
But that was the start of my gaming career. From then on I had a #PS2, Nintendo #GameCube, Game Boy SP, #Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii and a PC. But while I have wonderful memories with each of those consoles, nothing changed my life quite like the Xbox 360.
Now, my parents were very much against me playing M-rated games. To be fair, I was in sixth grade at the time, so I can’t blame them. I would go over to my best friend's house and his older brother would be playing this game called Halo 3. I had heard of #Halo, but seeing it played before my very eyes? I was awestruck. Amazed. Stupefied. Shaken. I knew I needed that game in my life and that I would do anything I could to get my hands on it.
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Come Halo Or Hight Water
I had devised a plan. I had six months or so until Christmas, and I would present the idea now to plant the idea into my parent's heads. When I first told them about Halo 3, they actually weren’t crazy opposed. My dad even brought up the very cool fact that one of his coworkers was on the team that conceptualized the original Halo: Combat Evolved.
Slowly but surely I would wear them down, telling them how even though the game is rated M, it really isn’t that bad. I would compare the Entertainment Software Rating Board figures for Halo 3 to Grand Theft Auto IV, because even sixth grade me knew that when it came to mature content, Halo was butterflies and rainbows compared to #GTA. On the ESRB website, Halo 3 sported three simple content descriptors:
Blood and Gore, Mild Language, Violence
Whereas GTA IV boasted a whopping six!
Intense Violence, Blood, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Partial Nudity, Use of Drugs and Alcohol
This knowledge, combined with websites such as Common Sense Media, slowly started to turn my parents toward allowing me to play the game. I tried getting them interested in gaming as a hobby, and while they didn’t (and still don’t) care for it, I do have them to thank for introducing me to the medium.
But I Digress
Finally, six long months later, it was Christmastime. I’ll cut to the chase and tell you that I did get my #Xbox360, along with Halo 3 and one year of Xbox Live Gold. That’s right, I am fortunate enough to never have experienced Xbox without Gold, and I am very grateful for that. After thanking my parents profusely, I set up the console in our family study, immediately becoming enamored of a series and a console that, nine years later, is still there taking pride of place in the family study.
(I found out much later that one of the reasons my mom changed her mind was because she thought the spartans were robots. I let her think that for a while.)
After Halo 3 I was pretty happy for a long time. And over time I was introduced to all the games I was unable to play before due to their ratings, as my parents began to soften on their M-rating stance once they saw that I wasn’t running around trying to kill everyone like they feared. I’m joking of course, but it was an interesting period of change.
Gears of War 2 came, then The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed and #Battlefield. Through this little box I was able to experience worlds like no other; worlds I grew connected to and have many cherished memories of. For a kid that was too shy to talk to new people and who enjoyed a night on the couch rather than a night on the tiles, that was everything.
The Xbox Expansion
Then the next best thing happened: My friends started getting Xboxes. At this point I only had a few buds, but as they got Halo and Gears and all the other games, I was slowly introduced to their gamer friends as we all played together, and through this shared connection I became close friends with them as well.
Pretty soon we had a network of around 20 people that would be on #XboxLive, constantly in parties, playing different games, all talking with one another and exchanging stories. We would set up LAN parties on the weekends, and we would have weekly custom games in Halo 3 that would end up maxing out lobbies! We developed memes within our custom games before we even knew what memes were. This group would continue on all the way to GTA V’s release — the end of high school — before everyone sort of went their separate ways, with the release of new consoles like the PS4, and graduation.
The Xbox 360 gave me social skills. It gave me friendships that have lasted to this day. The games taught me values I still uphold. It changed my mindset. It helped me realize I have a passion that can be turned into a career, as it helped me to discover gaming journalism. It got me into video editing (Halo montages), critical thinking and analysis (complex stories of politics and relationships, as in Mass Effect), and showed me how to cooperate with other people (Gears of War Horde).
Those who think video games have little value tend to be those who don’t think about how games stimulate the mind and what sort of principles can be applied to the young and impressionable. On the outside, yes it does just look like we're sitting at a screen staring blankly, but on the inside, mentally, the brain is on fire.
I distinctly remember one of my buddies who wasn’t into gaming at the time was watching me play. He commented on my blank stare and said, “It doesn’t even look like you’re having fun. Why do you play these?” So one night I forced him to play a Halo custom game. I showed him that just because I'm not sitting there smiling like an idiot, doesn’t mean I'm not having fun. I’m also being challenged, and I love a challenge. I’m competing with my friends, which I find fun. A few months later, that same friend had an Elite and was playing Halo 3 right along with us.
People sort of shit on where #Microsoft is going with the Xbox One. They question why anyone should get the console, and this and that. I understand where these people are coming from, especially with exclusives now coming to Windows 10. But to me, the Xbox is what gaming is. I grew up with it. I fell in love with the franchises, the characters, the worlds. Also, I prefer most of my gaming to be on console, so I am going to go with the one I love.
That isn’t to say I don’t care for #Sony, or am a fanboy or any of that bullshit. I have so many happy memories with its franchises and eagerly await the day I can buy a PS4 as well, but barring some catastrophe, Xbox will always come first to me. I gotta have that Halo.
The next release in the Halo franchise will be Halo Wars 2, set to hit the Xbox One market on February 21, 2017. Check out the trailer below.
What console changed your life? What do you think of the current generation of consoles? Let me know in the comments below, and be sure to check out my blog at wowimanerd.net!