The Xbox and I

We all have our weaknesses. For some, it’s drink. For others, it’s chocolate. For me, it’s consoles. I love them, I want to own them all, and it’s a testament to my own will power that I don’t own them all. They’d bankrupt me, given half the chance. It’s not even really about the games that come on them; I owned, for a while, a Bandai Crystal Wonderswan, an obscure little Japanese handheld. I owned the grand total of one game for it, Final Fantasy IV, all in Japanese, which I can’t read. A pointless purchase, but I wept real tears when I sold it on to someone else.

I want a PS2 so I can play Ico and Vib Ribbon. I want a Sega Saturn, so that I can play NiGHTS Into Dreams. I want an N64, so that I can play Perfect Dark, Paper Mario, and Mario 64. I want a Megadrive so I can play the original Sonic games as nature intended, and I want a Mega-CD and 32X, not because they have any good games, but because I never had the opportunity to get them the first time around. I want a Super Nintendo for StarFox and Super Mario RPG, and I want a NES for, well, for all those NES games that are being re-released on the Gameboy (it’s just not the same). I already have a Gamecube, Gameboy, and Dreamcast (wouldn’t mind a replacement, though — mine’s ended up with a nasty yellow sunlight stain on it, and if you’re going to collect these things, you really ought to keep them mint.)

And that’s just the mainstream consoles; what about the PC Engine (the white Japanese original, of course), or the Neo-Geo (cartridge, not CD), and the FM Towns Marty? The Neo-Geo Pocket Colour, the Lynx, the Jaguar, the Game Gear, the CD32, the 3D0, the GP32…I’ve not even gone into the limited edition versions of everything — the Hello Kitty Dreamcast, or the Pearl Pink PS2, or the white Saturn. And then there’s the forthcoming Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP. How am I supposed to keep up?

So, my name is paul, and I Have A Problem. I’m dealing with it, though, and even though I could get most of those mentioned above on ebay for about £20, I haven’t. I’m resisting, like a reformed alcoholic refusing to even touch a lemonade shandy.

But. The astute among you — particularly those of you who read the title of this post — will have noticed one console, quite a popular one, that isn’t in this list. It’s the one console that has never appealed to me, not even in the slightest. In fact, I’d say I hate this console. It’s big, it’s ugly, it’s…so American. It’s the Xbox. There’s not a single game that jumps up out at me and screams “This! This is why you need an Xbox!”. Speaking as a bona fide Nintendo bitch, it’s more or less the complete antithesis of everything I love about gaming. I’ve never wanted one. On Friday, I bought one. Whoops.

Double your money, step right up

It was only by chance that all of this happened. I was passing a branch of GAME, and I saw it, and it saw me. It was one of the crystal Xboxes, limited edition, and (I knew from looking in the past) selling on ebay for anywhere in the region of £160 to £240. It was here, second hand but in perfect condition with two controllers, for just £85. Now, I’m no maths geek, but even I could see that if I bought it for £85, and could sell it for £160, well, that would be worth the effort. So I bought it, and the staff congratulated me on my swift purchasing skills. They’d only had it in there for 15 minutes, and they’d expected it to go quickly. Feeling a mite proud of myself, I took possession of the console. Did I want any games to go with it? No, I did not. This wasn’t about enjoyment. This was business.

The Xbox did not warm itself to me any more in taking it home. It weighs a fucking ton and is as big as a house, but fortunately, my good friend Clarie was willing to be my pack horse and carry it sometimes, as manual labour on behalf of others brings her closer to God, and who am I to argue with that?

I checked ebay again when I got home, and yes, there were the crystal Xboxes, being sold for a minimum of £160. Hurrah for me, I thought, and allowed myself a touch of gloating time, until, a few hours later, when a friend pointed something out to me.

Not so limited any more.

Well, bugger. I like to think that I keep on top of all things console-related, but that really passed me by. Crystal Xbox re-released. I checked ebay again, and yes, people were selling them at £160, but — and this is the more important factor — nobody was actually buying them for £160. They all knew.

10 day returns

So, I wasn’t going to be making any money that day, but that was ok — after all, GAME have that funky 10 day returns policy, right? I’ll check the receipt — yes, here it is:

10 Day Returns
We want you to be happy with your purchase, if not we will offer a full refund or exchange.

Well, that was ok then. I could just take it back, get a refund, and put the whole sorry incident behind me. It would mean lugging that monster of a console back to the shop, but still, at least I wouldn’t have lost out.

I did look around at Xbox games first, though. After all, it had managed to get this far into my house, I thought it deserved a chance, but still, no, nothing. The most I could find were games that I wouldn’t have minded playing if I had nothing better to play. I even unpacked it and set it up — goddamnit, I gave it a chance, but no. This is not a console that’s been designed for the likes of me.

I phoned GAME this morning, to check that it was ok to return it. It wasn’t. Shit. I’m very glad I did phone them, as I would have been a touch annoyed to have carried this thing all the way back and then taken it home again. It turns out that GAME’s 10 Day Returns policy doesn’t include consoles, or PC games, or DVDs. I can understand PC games and DVDs, but not allowing console returns — what do they think I did, make an illegal copy of the Xbox to share online? Pah.

I said this was a morality tale, and I think it’s quite clear what the moral of this story is: “Always Lie Through Your Teeth”. If you want to take something back to the shop because it was a bad idea, tell them it was broken. If it was a used product that they tested before letting it leave the shop, drive a screwdriver through its sensitive bits first — you make that bitch completely unusable and you tell them it was like that when you — no, not you, when your 9 year old neice — opened the box. Honesty will get you nowhere.

I’m open to suggestions as to what I should do with this now.