Saturday, June 20, 2009


I’m not a lucky guy. It’s a fact I have come to grudgingly accept. I like to console myself by thinking that statistically speaking, there have to be people like me, with a constant run of minor, annoying bad luck, just like there have to be people with constant good luck.

Take for example, my Xbox 360. No, really. Take it. I can’t use it anymore. It doesn’t work.
That has me quite mad.

I got my Xbox in March 2007. In 2006, I had lucked into a gig writing freelance articles for a local newspaper. Opinion pieces- like I do here. The best part was I was getting paid for these articles. And, being the good dad that I am, I thought that this extra money would be great to spend on my kids.

Seven articles later, the paper folded. Now for me, this wasn’t that big a deal. I had a regular day job. It could have been worse- I could have been once of those folks that lost their primary means of income. But my luck doesn’t work like that.

Anyways, I had $250 burning a hole in my pocket. And my oldest wanted an Xbox 360- having been sold by all Microsoft’s effective advertising. So, I decided what the heck, and spent my writing money, plus a little of my regular check and got us an Xbox.

It was great fun.

In fact, not only did my daughter enjoy playing her games, I soon became hooked myself. No more sitting at my PC, gaming in an uncomfortable posture, hunched over a desk. Nope, now I was able to recline in luxurious comfort on the couch. Better still, I discovered that with an Xbox I was able to virtually hang out with my friends, without having to leave home. XboxLive, Microsoft’s online gaming service, allows users miles apart to connect via headset and play games together.

In no time, several of my friends and I had formed a little group of gaming dads. We could stay up late, talking trash and enjoying games, but still be home to help change diapers, give baths or any of the other many duties required of dads.

Moreover, I found that gaming was a great stress relief from work. Have a bad day? Crank up the Xbox and play a nice First Person Shooter game. What could be more therapeutic than shooting digital terrorists, or rampaging e-zombies?

However, in the midst of all this electronic fun, I learned that Xbox has a little problem. The Red Ring of Death. This is the gamers’ term for a condition caused by a manufacturing defect rampant in about 1/3 of all Xboxes. A defect that causes your Xbox to overheat and not work anymore.

At first, I was fully expecting to get the RRoD. My luck is always getting me defective electronics when I purchase them. I am repeatedly having to take things back and get them replaced. Very annoying.

However, Microsoft, seeing their market drying up, offered an impressive 3 year extended warranty, free, for the RRoD. Xbox overheats (for the RRoD) just send it in a get it replaced, free of charge. They even mailed you a box and covered the shipping price. Awesome.

For several of my friends, who had purchases the first Xbox 360s out, this worked out really well. Their Xboxes died and they got newer, improved Xboxes. See, Microsoft is always improving the Xbox; adding more memory, putting in cooler-running chips, and even adding an HDMI output.

Once I learned that my pals were getting better Xboxes than they started with, I knew I would never get the RRoD.

And I was right. My Xbox has chugged along, used maybe 20 hours a week, for two and a half years. It’s become my primary hobby. My wife and kids get me games and even extra accessories- like a wireless controller- when shopping for gifts. And this was to be my third Father’s Day weekend, where all I wanted to do was kick back on the couch and enjoy some air conditioned video gaming. I even got a new game, solely for this weekend.

Then my Xbox died last night.

No, it wasn’t the RRoD. That would be too easy. Nope, the graphics chip(s) have died. I get sound, and a super-distorted picture. Something that isn’t covered by the extended warranty.
If I currently had an extra $99, I suppose I could send this sucker off and have it "repaired"; which really means I’d get a refurbished console that someone else sent in with a RRoD. Meaning my "new" console would crap out within a few months and I’d have to send it back. This vicious cycle of exchanging Xboxes can go on for months. One of my friends had to send his back four times before he got a winner.

Yeah, I could send my Xbox off, and wait 4 to 6 weeks for a refurbished return. But what about this weekend? What about my new game- my self-picked Father’s Day present?

Nope, no gaming for me. I get to look at all my games, neatly shelved with my DVDs, and my controllers and extra accessories. I get to listen to my kids pout that the Xbox is down. My friend’s kid suggested that I just go out and buy a new one. If only the world worked like that. At 12, he just doesn’t grasp budgets. We live by a budget. And we’ve been saving our money for pool for the kids for this summer- a small one yes, but big enough that you have to save for it.
I suppose I could be selfish, and tell the kids they aren’t getting their pool. But that wouldn’t be me.

And really, why should I even be in this situation? You’d think that a device meant to be played for hours on end, that Microsoft claims has a "10 year life expectancy" would last longer than 2 ½ years.

So Microsoft tricked me. My Xbox worked so well for so long, and I recommended it to all my friends. Then mine crapped out due to shoddy manufacturing. I guess in the end, this has taught me a valuable lesson- never recommend ANY Microsoft product.