The Wenatchee Rant - Featuring Jim


The Influence of Xbox Live

In the past decade, the internet has had a more influential growth on the lives of inhabitants in industrial societies than any other invention. Because of this, ideas and conventions that were once considered standard have been completely redefined. Sending mail no longer requires that icky aftertaste you get from licking the envelope, the black market is more accessible thanks to auction websites , and now potential victims everywhere can take comfort in knowing the screen name of their rapist — as opposed to nothing at all.

Things have come a long way.

During the same time, video games have leaked out from geeks’ basements everywhere and have assimilated into mainstream culture. Much of this was due to the drawing power of the internet and its unique ability for people to play against others they would never need or want to meet in reality.

Even more recently, Microsoft released Xbox Live. For those that are not familiar with Xbox Live, it is a service provided by Microsoft in which Xbox owners can play games and talk with each other via the internet.

What Microsoft set out to accomplish with Xbox Live was to finally render something obsolete that nothing else on the internet had yet been able to:

Your Friends.

With Xbox Live, you don’t need to pretend you have real friends — you can find fifteen in a matter of button presses. Don’t like these friends? Press a few more buttons and you have fifteen new ones.

Looks great, right?

Well, Xbox Live isn’t all fun and tootsie pops. There’s a dark underbelly that isn’t immediately visible. You don’t see it in the ads. Bill Gates won’t tell you about it. Honest Abe wouldn’t even tell you if he could. You won’t see this underbelly until you’re in bed with the enemy and engaging in post-fornication, as you’re sobering up and only now giving the first once-over to the foreign mass lying next to you.

Xbox Live changes you. You might not notice at first, but eventually you will succumb to the deadly equation of “Total Anonymity + Microphone + You” and you, my dear friends, are the only variable in that equation.

Q: And what are the possible sums?

A: I’d like to take this opportunity to present three stereotypes of Xbox Live users inside an item I call
the Xbox Live Community Pyramid

Type #1: The Cool Guy

The rarest of the three types of Xbox Live users, the Cool Guy has, as his name might suggest, a cool head. The Cool Guy (or the immeasurably rare female version, the “Cool Girl”) always enjoys a good match and allows others to enjoy it along with him. If he loses, he is quick to congratulate the winning team or just salute them with an always welcome “Good game”. If he wins, his ego stays ground-level.

The Cool Guy is a simple and elegant creature. He has conquered the deadly equation and stands triumphant. The weapons in his arsenal being only sense and courtesy.

Oh, and these:

Type #2: The Moron

We all know them. They need little introduction.

When one searches for an explanation on a certain topic, they often seek the wisdom of an expert. In my search to provide such an expert on the topic of Morons, I came across this Halo 2 forum thread, which is full of Xbox Live users telling stories of stupid things other users have said or done.

While many of the stories did seem to come from people who know a great deal about morons, two individuals stood out above the rest as true experts: “mkiller33” and “crashing alpha“. I believe an exact citation is the only way to purely convey their stunning research; providing unqualified paraphrasing would be flirting with heresy.

Remarkable. Let’s read on:

I can’t imagine the tension. The pure exhilaration of the digital battlefield. The looming possibility of digital hand jobs.

mkiller33 and crashing alpha have depicted in mere paragraphs what I would not have been able to in an entire novel.

As you might notice, the Moron group is not strong willed enough to hold its own when coupled with the other parts of the equation. They allow themselves to be taken over and become nothing more than vulnerable in the hands of the beast: Anonymity.

But all is not lost for the Moron. Often maturing will allow the Moron to evolve into a full-fledged Cool Guy. There is hope.

But with every evolution, there must be a devolution...

Type #3: The Dickhead

Known as a slew of other pronouns intent on setting the same mood, the Dickhead is the most prevalent entity on Xbox Live. The Dickhead is far weaker than even the Moron, for instead of being merely beaten down by the other parts of the equation, the Dickhead is completely possessed and mutated by them.

However, we cannot blame the users alone. It is extremely easy for even the strongest of mind to sway due to the tempting accessibility of this vile belly dance.

For those who have never experienced Xbox Live and would like to live out the role of the Dickhead for a moment, I have provided a helpful template below that will accurately place you in the shoes of the average Xbox Live Dickhead:

Clearly, being a Dickhead is straightforward. If some of you potential Dickheads were worried about having to think or (dare I say?) be creative, you can cast those worries into the deepest crater of your body. That would be where your head already is.

So, the next time you sign on Xbox Live, please take a moment to consider what type of person you will let the service turn you in to. Granted, being a Dickhead on an internet game is no huge concern — most people will forget about you as soon as they get into another match (after they have already passed you off as the asshole you are) — let us consider for a moment that it actually did matter. The Cool Guy syndrome is just as contagious as its Dickhead counterpart. I suggest taking on the Cool Guy philosophy for a few matches. It can almost be guaranteed that in at least one of those matches, other users will increase in courtesy, creating a friendlier and more enjoyable environment for everyone.

Or you can just die lonely.

If you have Xbox Live and would like to play or whatever, feel free to send me an email and get my gamertag.

Jim A

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