Tango Neutralized

Background: Rainbow Six is an XBox game with online capability. Equipped with special headsets, multiple players can interact and communicate with each other in real time through a high-speed Internet connection. The mission is simple: My buddies and I comprise an elite squad of anti-terrorist commandos that will rescue any hostages, defuse any bombs and neutralize all Tangos to secure the peace and restore law and order…

As we get older and move to the far corners of the world, it gets harder and harder to get together with my buds to enjoy the juvenile pursuits that are the foundation of every male friendship. Since Al Gore hasn’t invented a way to have rubber band fights over the Internet, I’ve come to depend on XBox Live as a means to maintaining these important bonds in male relationships. Thankfully, The Chizzler (DA) and Jon_Solo are always up for neutralizing Tangos at a moment’s notice…

The fact that Solo lives on the East coast actually helps our cause. You see, Solo is on a different biometric plane than the rest of us. He works irregular hours, sleeps during the day, and is most active at night. His mother refers to this lifestyle as a mild form of vampirism. Anyway, the three-hour time difference conversion somehow puts us on about the same space-time continuum. Honestly, if Solo lived in the same time zone as me, I’d probably never talk to him.

Once we all get online, we take a moment to select our weapons, exchange a few pleasantries and mentally prepare ourselves for battle. The mission starts out with a chopper dropping our team at the insertion point. Wasting no time, we set out immediately to neutralize all Tangos and complete our mission objectives…

McSex: “Behind us… Building on the left… Top window… I’ve got a dude showing up on thermal. Take him out.”
~A hail of gunfire ensues~
Solo: “Got him.”
Chizzler: “No, I got him.”
Solo: “Whatever… I nailed his ass.”

Now for the record, Solo always assumes he is behind every kill our team earns. Even if he walked up and riddled an enemy corpse with bullets, he’ll still turn to us and claim it was his kill. While some bickering may ensue about who actually registered the kill, it is usually short-lived since the game lacks forensic examiners to determine the actual cause of death during game play. We simply move on and wait for the kill totals to be revealed at the end of the game.

While successfully completing the mission is our paramount objective, it is also equally important to register a nice total of kills individually. Registering single-digit kills for an entire mission will cause other players to call you a pacifist or question if maybe you’d be better suited joining a troop of girl scouts. If you happen to register zero kills, your fellow players will ask if you fled to Canada at some point in the mission. And getting a negative score (the result of killing more teammates than terrorists) will result in an impromptu military tribunal for aiding and abetting the enemy in a time of war.

While we try to function as a team, our best efforts to operate as a cohesive unit can be compromised by interruptions and distractions outside of the game. For The Chizzler, there’s no better time to multitask than when he’s supposed to be providing cover fire or guarding our flank. It never fails. To the annoyance of his teammates, The Chizzler takes an endless amount of pauses to take phone calls, make a snack, answer the door, play on the Internet, clean his apartment or read a magazine while the rest of our squad engages the enemy.

Now, the occasional interruption is tolerable. We all have to go to the bathroom or listen to our wives/girlfriends tell us about their day. It happens. However, with the sheer volume of phone calls and visits The Chizzler receives on a typical night, one could easily justify hiring a receptionist to handle the demands on his time.

Solo: “Where’s Dave?”
McSex: “I think he got a phone call.”
Solo: “Again!?”
McSex: “I know. He’s jeopardizing the mission. He always does this.”
Solo: “Who could he even be talking to? We’re his only friends.”
McSex: “Exactly… You know, I hate answering the phone. You have to get up, stop what you’re doing, run over to the phone…”
Solo: “It’s like, ‘Who wants to get a phone call, ever?'”
McSex: “Not me. But Dave does apparently. He’s all over it every-”
Solo: “Watch out, McSex… There’s a dude on the rooftops up here with a rocket launcher.”
McSex: “I see him. Got him. Anyway, have you noticed that Dave gets a lot of visits, too?”
Solo: “Yeah, what is with that?”
McSex: “Nobody ever knocks on my door.”
Solo: “Try living in Brooklyn. People are pretty chill here, but you don’t visit people. That never happens… Must be Bellingham.”

Individually, Solo and The Chizzler are efficient killing machines. However, when put together, they somehow manage to regress to a bunch of giggling schoolgirls on the battlefield. It’s uncanny. One night, Solo and I breezed through three straight missions flawlessly. As soon as The Chizzler joined us, our squad was reduced to a friendly-firing slapstick suicide-mission. Frankly, Larry, Moe and Curly could have put together a more professional and organized effort than we did.

Allow me to elaborate on some of the breakdowns that befall our team whenever Jon_Solo and The Chizzler work side by side:

1. Lack of Awareness: The word “itchy” trigger finger doesn’t do it justice. Picture a trigger finger enflamed with psoriasis and poison oak. This affliction affects Solo primarily. Essentially, movement of any kind within his field of vision will be met with several rounds of gunfire, followed by vigorous reloading, and then several more rounds for good measure.

The funny thing is, Solo never feels responsible for comrades that he decimates with friendly fire. At the end of the game, Solo always places the blame squarely on the foolish teammate that happened to venture near him as he was indiscriminately firing his weapon.

2. Disorientation: It’s not uncommon for me to advance deep into enemy territory, look over my shoulder and find that the rest of my squad is nowhere to be found. Ducking intense enemy fire, I’ll bring up the map screen, only to find that Chizz and Solo are inexplicably heading back to the insertion point or maybe a frozen yogurt stand somewhere else on the map.

Now, I can forgive getting turned around and mistakenly heading in the wrong direction. It happens under the stress of battle. However, sometimes I’ll check the map and they won’t be moving at all. What are they doing? Digging foxholes? Making snow angels? For all I know, they are playing hackey sack while I’m trying to single-handedly wipe out an army of terrorists. Unfailingly, by the time I can give the order for them to regroup, my life is wasted along with any hope of successfully completing the mission.

3. Poor Execution: This occurs when we have a solid plan in place, and for some inexplicable reason fail to adhere to it. These are catastrophic mental errors like shooting a hostage after we’ve rescued her. Throwing grenades at a bomb we’re supposed to defuse. I’ve actually had The Chizzler drop a live grenade in my lap instead of throwing it at the enemy. Stuff like that.

Here’s a textbook example:

The missions usually end with a climactic standoff with terrorists while a hostage’s life hangs in the balance. Naturally, these daring rescues require precise planning and execution. The element of surprise is critical. As we approach a room where a hostage is being held, I’ll take a moment to try and get our team organized… (Admittedly, depending on your point of view, this strategic planning session borders on sucking the fun out of playing a video game online altogether)…

McSex: “Alright. They’ve got a hostage in the next room. There are at least three Tangos in there as well. I’ll use a breaching charge and enter through the back door. Solo and Chizz, you two enter through the front door on the count of three. Remember to check your fire, and don’t shoot the hostage. Lock and load. On three…”

Of course, Dave pays no attention to any of this. Here’s what typically happens: Midway through my strategy briefing, Dave will casually open the front door, alerting the terrorists to our presence. In a matter of seconds, we hear some rapid gunfire and witness the hostage being executed and our team slaughtered. The words: “Mission Failed” flash prominently across our screen.

Solo and I are dumbfounded. Utterly speechless… (Well, momentarily, anyway.)

Solo: “Oh my god! What was that?”
Chizzler: “I don’t know… I thought we were supposed to go in there?”
McSex and Solo (in unison): “On three!! We were going in on three!”
Chizzler: “Oh.”
McSex: “Wow. That was horrible execution. You might be facing a court martial for that one…”
Solo: “Look right there! I got 19 kills. I told you guys I was on point!”
McSex: “Sweet. 31 kills. That’ll help my average.”
Chizzler: “What? Only 8 kills? I should have had way more than that!”
Solo: “If you’d get off the phone for one second…”
McSex: “Ok, fire it up again. But this time-”
Chizzler (sarcastically): “I know, I know. I’ll get my act together. No hackey sack or having fun. All business!”

Zillionaire’s Official Product Endorsements

I’m happy to launch a new, and hopefully ongoing tribute to products and services that I happily endorse. There are not many things I’m willing to lend my good name towards, and the few that merit mentioning in this space are definitely items that no Zillionaire should be without. Regrettably, I am not actually paid to endorse any of these products, thus you can be sure that the testimonials on this site cannot be compromised or influenced in any way. That is, unless you want to pay us for an endorsement, in which case we’ll happily rename the site to “InternetSell-Out.com”

With that said, it should be no mystery which product will get the initial glowing recognition in this space. This whole concept was born with one specific product in mind. If you can’t guess where I’m going with this, then I suggest you turn in your Zillionaire decoder ring, scrub off your Zillionaire temporary tattoos, and forget the secret handshake because you’re off the team. Seriously, you’re done. Get out. And no, your membership dues will not be refunded.

For those that are still here, I present a product infinitely worthy of the praise of Zillionaires, a product that has enriched all of our lives… THE XBOX. Actually, the “Never-Ending Happiness Machine” would have been a better, more accurate marketing name. And frankly, I think we were a little premature in bestowing the title of “man’s best friend” on the family dog. Simply put, the XBox provides more bliss than a combination of Prozac and Viagra, and it doesn’t even require a prescription.

First, I present a brief history about how I acquired my XBox. It was the summer of 2002; Paris Hilton was not a celebrity, the word “Governator” hadn’t been coined, and everyone answered their phone with the phrase “Whaaasssssuppp!!!” In other words, all was right with the world. I had recently taken an extremely difficult actuarial exam, and I decided that if I received a passing score, I would reward myself by purchasing an XBox. I waited six weeks for the results to be posted, each day growing more and more excited to bring home my little bundle of joy. The day after my failing score was posted, I said, “Hell with it,” and bought an XBox anyway.

Needless to say, the relationship blossomed quickly, and soon we were completely inseparable… (Picture a hazy montage of images of the XBox and I riding a bicycle built-for-two, paddling a canoe, and running on the beach together…)

Now, when it comes to video game systems, the XBox stands head and shoulders above the competition. There is absolutely no debate on this issue, and yet so many PlayStation 2 owners like to delude themselves into thinking they own the superior machine. I’m convinced it’s a mild form of mental illness. XBox owners can provide a litany of valid reasons for choosing their system, like better graphics, games and sound. PlayStation 2 owners unfailingly counter with the argument, “Hey, at least I can use my controller to operate the built-in DVD player!” Yep, that’s their ironclad defense for owning a PlayStation 2. This is like saying your Ford Focus is better than a Ferrari because of its larger cup holder. Like an OJ Simpson juror, PlayStation 2 owners choose to believe their system is better, regardless of irrefutable facts and evidence to the contrary.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is not to expose the inferiority of the PlayStation 2, but rather to praise the XBox. Let’s just say that my XBox is more than a video gaming system, it is a member of the family (much to the chagrin of my wife.) In fact, I recently named my XBox the sole heir of my estate. Some day, I can envision lecturing my kids with lines like “You got a C-minus in History?! Why can’t you be more like the XBox? You don’t see him coming home with bad grades.” And so forth.

I can’t begin to quantify how many countless hours of fun the XBox has provided, and there is truly no other product worthy to be the inaugural entry on our new Product Endorsements section. I honestly can’t envision my life without my XBox, and I would hate to be in a position someday where a loved one and my XBox were both drowning in a river and I only had time to save one of them…

Coming soon, I’ll share some other products that have exceeded the high standards of this Zillionaire.

You Call that a Controller!?!

Alright, I think it’s about time we end the debate right now. First of all, I am a man. (This is not what the debate is about)… Anyway, as a man, I demand a man-sized controller when I fire up the Xbox. For that reason, I exclusively use the original controllers designed for the Xbox. However there is a disturbing trend afoot. With the recent development of the new, smaller, style “S” controller, there has become a proliferation of their use across America, and a gathering public opinion that these new controllers are actually superior to the original design… As a public service, I am here to set the record straight.

For those of you unfamiliar with the ongoing debate, I present a brief history lesson: Microsoft was suffering lackluster Xbox sales in Japan, because the tiny hands of the Japanese public couldn’t grasp the gigantic controllers used for the gaming console (this is true). The Japanese were using them like the old Nintendo Power Pad, with several individuals literally running and jumping on the colossal controllers to operate them. Needless to say, it was hurting business. So Microsoft caved. They brought in a focus group consisting of a bunch of three-year-old girls and molded a controller to fit their hands.

The result: a controller tiny enough to be used as a Monopoly game piece, complete with the ergonomic comfort of getting a hand caught in a weasel trap. The buttons are tiny and spaced so closely together that the user couldn’t help inadvertently pushing all the buttons in unison. It is the video gaming equivalent of trying to do your taxes on a Casio calculator watch (Nerdy Metaphor #1).

The marketing team at Microsoft began toying with names for their new controller… They wanted a name that captured both the design qualities of the controller, and described the traits of their target market. At first they wanted to call it the “Ally McBeal” Controller, as she was a person most of their target demographic could strongly identify with. Sadly, Calista Flockhart refused to endorse the product. Going back to the drawing board, it was decided that it should be called: “The Effeminate Controller.” Unfortunately, this name had to be changed when it was discovered that “Effeminate” was already trademarked for every Nintendo Gamecube accessory. Eventually they settled on the “Small” controller, (later abbreviated to the “S” controller), and let the public draw their own conclusions about the makeup of the users… (“Innuendo, take a lap!” – Clay Evans, Former PE teacher).

Now, the first and only time I used a style “S” controller it simply crumbled in my massive American hands like a fortune cookie. I was left holding a few shards of plastic, some assorted wires, and a tiny motor. By all accounts, this new controller had the durability of a Faberge egg and the power of an electric toothbrush (Nerdy Metaphor #2).

In contrast, the original Xbox controller is made of whatever material is used to make the black boxes found in airplanes, and it is powered by a 10-cylinder diesel engine.

Future Dodge commercial: (A car pulls up alongside a giant Dodge truck…)
Car Passenger: “Does that thing have a Hemi?”
Truck owner (sitting in a Dodge Ram): “Sure does,” he begins, lifting his original Xbox controller to their view, “and the truck has one too!”
Car Passenger (awestruck): “Whoa!!!”

Granted, the original controller handles like a jackhammer and weighs about the same. And I occasionally pass out from the billowing clouds of diesel fumes it emits. However, when I regain consciousness, I realize the mounting physical therapy bills are a small price to pay to avoid the ignominy of using the less-masculine version of the Xbox controller.

In conclusion, if you happen to be a three-year-old girl, I have no problem with your use of a style “S” controller. However, for everyone else, I must caution that using the style “S” controller is like riding a girl’s bike, showering with your underwear on in gym class, or going to an N’Sync concert. It’s just one of those things you can never really live down.