Potential XBox Outrage

Gather ’round boys and girls, I wish to tell you about a great injustice that befell me years ago… (cue harp music and waving-fade camera effect to signify a flashback is beginning…)

It was the summer of 1999. It was a simpler time then. Our days were spent stocking our fallout shelters for the inevitable Y2K disaster. Nobody thought Arnold Schwarzengger would ever take the oath of office (click for audio). And everyone was convinced that in five years nobody would go to the store for anything. Hence, pouring your life savings into an Internet company that sold cat food online was considered a shrewd investment.

Also, cell phones were not yet mainstream, meaning people had to deal with the hassles of long distance plans with numerous hidden fees and restrictions.

The phone company MCI had just sent me a huge bill for some long distance calls. Naturally, since this predated sending anthrax through the mail, I decided to call and complain. After being on hold for about nine hours, I finally got to begin explaining the problems with my bill. Unable to adjust the billing herself, the operator attempted to rectify the situation…

Operator: “Sir, you can mail a letter to our customer service complaint department to further assist you… I’ll give you their address…”
Me (stunned): “Write a letter? Don’t they have a 1-800 number?”
Operator: “No, I’m sorry, they can’t be reached by phone. You need to write them a letter.”
Me (outraged): “What? This is MCI! You guys are a (expletive) phone company! What do you mean they don’t have a phone number? That’s your whole (expletive) business!”

Needless to say, the lines of communication deteriorated rapidly after that exchange. MCI banked (wisely) on laziness impeding any action on my part. It was a risky gamble, but one that seems to unwaveringly pay off when the American public is concerned. So, like everyone else, with clenched teeth I paid my bill in full, shook my fist in the air, and vowed revenge. Had the company not gone bankrupt four years ago, that revenge would have come today in the form of this angry manifesto. Seems kind of petty now, so I’ll just talk about my XBox 360.

Which brings me to my current problem: (cue wavy camera effects, signifying a return to the present day…)

Last night, my 360 froze up. I’m not feeling good about the situation one bit. My experience has taught me that companies that base their business in advanced technology usually don’t possess the most basic technology to actually deal with customer complaints. I have a feeling that when it comes time to helping a customer, all of a sudden, Microsoft has never heard of email.

So, I can’t wait to call Microsoft’s XBox support hotline tomorrow and have the “customer service” representative tell me she doesn’t have Internet or a computer and the only way to submit a complaint is via passenger pigeon. Wish me luck, I feel a potential outrage developing…

I’m A Wood Elf Now

Please, don’t shine the light on me. I’m not proud of what I have become.

Whatever you do, don’t buy “Oblivion” for the Xbox 360. It’s a fun game, and addictive as hell, but I feel ridiculously nerdy while playing it. (As if playing video games as a 28-year old isn’t nerdy enough.)

For instance, right now I’m a level 17 Wood Elf, and have joined the Mages Guild to increase my majicka abilities. I have Mithril light armor, and ebony heavy armor. I have a sword that drains willpower and a staff that absorbs the health of my enemies. My shield reflects frost spells, and I roam around in water-walking boots. I’m using an Elven bow and arrow and wear a tunic that resists poison. Last night, I found a sweet Vampire cave that I know will have some Vampire dust and Welkynd stones. In my mythical world of Cyrodil, life is good.

See what I mean? This is what I’ve become.

And the worst part? Much of the game takes place in dungeons and caves, where the lighting is especially dark. I’ve found that if the lights are left on in the Zillionaire Lounge, it creates a glare on the TV screen and I can’t see in these darkened environments. To combat this, I turn off all the lights, and play the game in the pitch black in my basement. I seriously feel like a mole. A nerdy, nerdy mole.

And since I can’t see the clock in the darkness, I lose all track of time too. The last two nights I’ve been up past midnight fighting Goblins with my Dwarven battle-axe.

My god. I never thought I could succumb to this level of nerdiness. Others of you are probably not that surprised.

Regardless, please don’t shine the light on me. You won’t like what you see, and it hurts my pupils to adjust.

Ripping Off A Zillionaire

For those of you that don’t know me, I am a petty, petty man. And, you should also know, this website was conceived entirely so that I would have a forum to slander anyone I held a grievance with.

The following is a true story…

I didn’t really publicize this, but I was a candidate to become a staff writer for a major video game publisher last spring. Since I generally don’t believe in protecting the innocent, I’ll name names. It was Bungie Studios, a subsidiary of Microsoft, best known as the creators of the Halo franchise.

I ultimately didn’t get the job, and aside from the flaming bags of dog doo I left on Bungie’s door (my calling card), I didn’t really harbor any ill will.

Until today. Here’s where it gets interesting. Remember this post? During the interview process, I submitted this to “Frankie,” the chief content dude at Bungie.

At the time I sent this to him, this post had already generated a buzz within the Halo community and wound up being linked to by a variety of sites, many of which were not Xbox related. To date, it remains the most widely read post on Internet Zillionaire.

That was more than six months ago. Take a look at what was posted on Bungie’s website yesterday. An article with an eerily similar tone, written by the very person they hired instead of me, whose boss happens to be Frankie. Coincidence?

Anyway, read it for yourself. It’s a pretty blatant rip-off. And keep in mind, I directly submitted this very idea to Bungie. For the record, I am not accusing them of plagiarism… just crappier writing. And from my perspective, this only adds insult to injury. But that’s just my opinion, you be the judge.

The Dream Team

We had a major breakthrough last night.

It came after yet another loss to a vastly inferior team. After every match of Halo 2, the Zillionaire platoon lands in the post-game lobby with our opponents, presenting us with an opportunity to review our stats while the other team criticizes us for our horrible play.

For The Captive Lion, this is his favorite part of the match. For him, the outcome of the game is truly irrelevant. As long as he can deal a clever insult to the opposing team in the post-game lobby, that’s all that matters. And the more handily we’ve been beaten, the more The Captive Lion seeks to avenge our loss with witticisms. If one of us leaves the post-game lobby early, The Captive Lion actually becomes upset that we didn’t give him enough time to deliver an insult to the other team. Sadly, this is not an exaggeration.

Solo, on the other hand, spends this lobby time obsessing about our stats. Not our actual wins and losses of course, but rather how many “headshots” he tallied during the game. Once he’s carefully reviewed his own stats, he then examines those of his teammates, taking time to point out their killing deficiencies relative to his score. For good measure, he’ll then urge them to “step it up” in the next round.

Lastly, Krusty generally uses the break in the game to fetch another beer or to make fun of The Captive Lion, as these two seem to spend more time taunting each other than our opponents.

As the other team simply laughs at our dysfunctional display, I’m left in the unfortunate position of being the only one actually bothered by the fact we lost a very winnable game to a very sucky team.

Back to the breakthrough I spoke of earlier… At the start of the next game, I resisted the usual urge to bark orders or attempt to formally organize the team. I simply said the following:

The Centaur: “Alright guys, let’s just stick together here… within reason.”

Solo laughed at how low my expectations of teamwork had sunken. But, by tacking on the “within reason” part to my request, it gave a little latitude to The Captive Lion. He still mocked me for trying to implement any semblance of strategy into this affair, but I think he sensed the compromise I had put forth. He didn’t have to march in lockstep with us… he just had to generally act like he was part of our team. I afforded him some room for creativity, and the option to freelance… all I asked was for him to not wander off like a teenager trying to avoid being seen with his parents. (And yes, that metaphor is entirely appropriate.)

Once The Captive Lion was on board, Krusty and Solo followed suit. Lo and behold, functioning as a team, we won easily.

While a win was nice, it was the next match that served as the inspiration for this post. During the game, Krusty manned the turret, and suppressed the other team’s movement with heavy machine gun fire. Once they were pinned down, Solo easily picked them off with the sniper rifle. I guarded both their positions, preventing any sneak attacks. And The Captive Lion was free to tactically clean up anyone that was left, knowing he was well-covered by his teammates. The final score, 50-19, was easily the most dominating win we’ve ever had. And it was all the product of teamwork.

A funny thing happened once we started winning. Suddenly we found ourselves on the receiving end of praise from the other team. In victory, we now could act as gracious winners, or, as you might expect, insufferable jackasses. (This wasn’t an option before.) We no longer felt the need to single out our weakest player, and berate him for his lackluster performance. The best part though? I don’t think I’ll have to spend future games imploring my teammates to regroup, cover each other and focus their taunts on the other team.

Xbox Live Personality Profiles

As luck would have it, I no longer have to make a trip to the bus station or frequent cockfights to interact with social degenerates.

Thanks to the miracle of Xbox Live, I can have an assortment of wretched personalities beamed right into my living room. Here’s how it works: Whenever the Zillionaire Platoon is short a man, the Xbox Live “matchmaking” service selects an available player from its network to fill out our team. Of course, these members are carefully screened for red flags, like normalcy or general competence, before joining our squad.

The remaining dregs of society will produce our new teammate, usually in the form of one of the characters below:

The Screamer: Are you capable of screaming into your headset, uninterrupted, for an entire ten-minute match? If not, are you willing to at least attempt it? Sadly, this actually happens. Frequently. Of course, if The Screamer’s fingernails were being removed with pliers during game play I would be a little more understanding. But that’s not the case. The unfortunate reality of the situation is that our nation’s mental hospitals are woefully under-populated.

The Racist: What’s the best way to unwind after placing a burning cross in someone’s lawn? Apparently it’s signing onto Xbox Live. Generally, this player assumes every member of the opposing team is of whatever race he happens to hate the most, and he directs his epithets accordingly. As for being a teammate of this individual, we are pretty much left to spend the entire game cringing.

Tourette’s Syndrome: Why bother using the headset for discussing strategy when you can just bark orders and yell random profanity and insults at your teammates? Seriously, I’m asking. That’s what the headset is made for, right? As my teammates can attest, I have a severe case of this affliction… let’s just move on.

Malibu’s Most Wanted: This suburban white kid loves to quote explicit rap lyrics in coordination with each kill. Also, he turns his baseball hat cockeyed and dons a garish chain during game play. (All right, technically I don’t know if that last part is true, but I assume it is.)

The De-Leveler: What’s it called when you’re afraid of success? I’m pretty sure there’s an actual word for it. Whatever it is, the De-Leveler suffers from this condition big time. Inspired by Johnny Knoxville’s character in the movie The Ringer, the De-Leveler aspires to artificially lower his rank so that he’ll be able to dominate inferior competition. Of course, to achieve a dramatic drop in his skill ranking, the De-Leveler needs to sabotage a few games in grandiose fashion. Unfortunately, we usually don’t realize we have a De-Leveler in our midst until he’s aiming a rocket launcher directly at us.

The Tough Guy: Nothing reeks of masculinity more than challenging someone to a fight via an Internet connection. Needless to say, it’s easy to dole out undeliverable threats of vicious ass-kickings to your opponents when you are protected by online anonymity and distanced by thousands of miles. True to his name, The Tough Guy passes out these threats like Halloween candy. The rest of us are left to hope that just once, one of these proposed confrontations actually come to fruition.

The Instant Quitter: Of the entire list, this individual is probably our favorite teammate. Sure, he quits the game instantly, leaving us desperately shorthanded and outgunned. Compared to the alternatives though, we are actually relieved when we wind up only with desertion from our new teammate.