Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Slumming with Microsoft

Have you seen those vague, arty Xbox 360 ads? The ones with aggressively multiculti crowds having balloon fights and jumprope jams in what looks like the sets from CITY OF GOD?

I think they're supposed to convey inclusiveness, fun, and diversity, but I'm left cold by the disingenuous casting and the poverty-chic setting. I mean, the people who live in those tower block apartments, you think they have $400 to drop on a game console? Instead of on schoolbooks or a bike to get to a job? Or, say, food?

And while it's fun to think of folk playing together regardless of age, gender, race, or class, the truth is, Xbox Live is not diverse. Xbox Live is this kid.

More to the point, it'll always be that kid until the games for Xbox 360 stretch beyond the predictable likes of Madden NFL 2006, Call of Duty 2, and Rumble Roses XX.

Rumble Roses XX?

That's a title that, to paraphrase a Katrina-era rant, deserves to have its developers covered in iPods and left in an unpicturesque alley in Rio.

Hey! The Microsoft marketing bunnies squeal. What about Xbox Live Arcade? Yeah, the service features puzzle/parlor classics Zuma, Bejeweled 2, and Spades, but with the occasional exception like Wik: Fable of Souls, innovation's wheezing by the roadside, and you know that developers of these kinds of games aren't getting a thimble of love compared to Project Gotham Racing 3.

Kinda makes me want to take to the streets of Redmond and throw something. But it ain't a water balloon.


Fun Joel said...

It's funny. I saw that commercial the other day and absolutely loved the exuberance of it. But I completely forgot what the commercial was for. Not particularly effective advertising, I guess! ;-)

Iain said...

They should re do the comercial with some kid who'd just stolen an xbox stopping to join in and skip

robotdog said...

So as amusing as your post is, I have to say it rings really untrue to me. Or at least your claim that Xbox Live isn't diverse does.

Do you spend much time playing the online games?

It is actually a pretty amazingly diverse crowd. In fact, I am convinced that there isn't a playing activity in America that is more diverse.

Age, race, nationality, even socioeconomic status are truly secondary to your skill and interest in the game.

Listening to the voices in an online game sounds like some sort of geek version of the United Nations. It's a giant cultural mish-mash.

Kira said...

Thanks for your comment, Robotdog -- mileage clearly varies on Xbox live, and in online games in general.

I've played only a little Xbox live personally, but what I've experienced, along with the general media perception of the service, is that it has unrealized potential-- which is pretty much true of any online congregation of humans.

I play several MMOGs, and those can be a rich, diverse experience of gaming fun, and can also be a cesspool of racist, sexist, homophobic mouthbreathers.

I don't think some of the parameters you mention are completely invisible, btw. In particular, female gamers often (but not always) have a tough time on certain game servers.

robotdog said...

That's actually a good point. On XBox Live action games there is nearly a zero female presence.

And god forbid, one does logon.

Half of the other players use the anonymity to say unmentionable things to her, and the other half act out some weird chest-puffing defense of her that has a creepy air of desperate neediness for her attention/affection.

But the good news is that this is all done in equal parts by men of all races, ages and socioeconomic status. Hooray for progress!

Kira said...

Hee, love the way you found that bright side, RD!