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I promised myself I would never buy a piece of shit product from Microsoft, but then I fell in love with the Zune. OK, that's not true. But I did sort of surrender (I can't think of a better or more accurate word) to the Xbox360. (Screw off--I know I'm a nerd who is throwing my adult life away, but I am also an incorrigible nerd who is throwing his adult life away.)

Apart from how much I dislike its "gaming for babies" interface, and its unfathomably bad design and construction--which makes me so angry I sincerely wish I could meet the people who designed it just so I could hold the pinch-waisted, over-perforated Xbox360 in front of their faces, hiss, "How dare you?" then smash the console against the ground, shattering it like the shoddily constructed toy it is--it's proven to be kind of fun once I start playing games on it. So that's good.

One thing that's very new to me is the addition of online gaming, and it's the feature that made me relent to MS. Several of my friends have an Xbox360, and the ability to use the gaming system as a way of connecting with pals, and then shooting them in the face was just too great for me to resist.

When you setup your Xbox360, it's a lot like setting up a computer--all that "blow into the cartridge, pop it in, flick the power switch, and play" stuff is no longer applicable. As part of the setup, you have to create a "gamertag," which is how other people can identify you online. They see your gamertag whenever you're logged in, and its the name that appears above your characters head whenever you're playing in any kind of cooperative online game. Most people either use their real names or some kind of badass variant. Generally, the rule seems to be the more badass your gamertag, the more time you've spent living in the apartment above your parents' garage. I've seen a lot of gamertags like "BigBadMofo" and "DiabloHelixx" and "Bad2ThaBonz" and "ChestExploder84." My gamertag is "glenn close."

Another aspect of online gaming that's really new to me is "voice chat." This means speaking to other gamers live, over a network, often during gameplay. And *that* necessitates wearing a headset that is so completely pathetic it requires you draw all the curtains in your home and cover your mirrors like a Jewish funeral, in order to engage in online gameplay without suffering a debilitating crisis of dignity. (I've only reached for the headset once so far, after promising myself and Lisa I never would, and after only a few minutes of messing around in a game called Gears of War, I had to stop because my eyes were involuntarily producing hot, blinding tears of shame--like some kind of biological dignity defense system.) People tend to use voice chat to shout orders to their "team," taunt other players with homophobic slurs, or lament their character's death with a loud, expletive-strewn interjection. The overall tone over voice chat is one of exaggerated machismo, usually undermined by a slushy, orthodontia-induced lateral lisp.

Even with limited experience in online play, it seems obvious to me that the only way to really, truly get the most out of gaming is to run around in violent, multi-player online shooters while pretending to be a raving, screeching, queen. Imagine joining a game of Halo 3 and finding yourself suddenly playing alongside, "glenn close," a mincing, giggling soldier who sounds like a cross between Perez Hilton, Chris Crocker and Madame.

For some (obviously childish) reason, this seems like it would be the most fun imaginable. Every time my player is killed, I'd shriek like I'd just seen a mouse. And, upon being re-spawned on a level, I'd greedily announce, "Oh my, look at all this delicious man steak! I do declare!! I don't know whether to chainsaw them to death or drag them to Ibiza for the weekend. Hellooooo...who wants to party?" I think about this a lot, actually. I'm sure I'm missing a deadline.

WE FIRST MET ON 09.25.2007

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