Economy of Effort

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I Gave Channel 47 The Shocker (Or: Camping For An Xbox 360)

My parents were going to buy me an Xbox 360 for Christmas. But with the 360 supply problems, they weren’t able to acquire one, so they threw in a catch: I could get a picture of a 360 for Christmas and get the real thing when they are finally in stores for longer than 5 seconds… or I could get the money put into my account and I go acquire it myself.

Normally, I’m not in a rush for these sort of things. The last system I got at “launch” (I define that as within a month of release, not necessarily the DAY of launch) was the Sega Dreamcast. But you see, I have a precious few weeks of free time following these last two back-breaking semesters and before the next one. So, I wanted a damn 360 to play for these few weeks while I don’t have the pressure of work piling up.

So, it was leaked online weeks ago that Best Buy was going to build up stock and resupply their stores on December 18th - this past Sunday. The internal Best Buy circular was scanned and posted online. So, I knew 360s were coming, and just a couple of days after the end of finals. I was going to be a zombie anyway, might as well be a zombie sitting outside Best Buy, right? I got my little brother Logan involved, and we got my dad’s heavy-duty camping gear and prepared to camp out.

I had figured that lines wouldn’t start to form until Best Buy closed Saturday night. Logan and I went to lunch Saturday afternoon, and then we swung by Best Buy to see what their hours for the day were. Well, when we got there, about 20 people were already standing in line. So I pushed Logan out the door, drove home, and got all of our gear while he established our spot. The camping began, for us, at 1:00pm.

We ended up next to a German gentleman named Hendrik. He was quiet and reserved, but nice. It wasn’t until his wife sat in for him for a while that I learned he is a composer. The wife, by the way, was beautiful. I admit that I was slightly smitten, in a harmless way. They were in their late 30s, I’d guess. Very pronounced German accents, which are of course attractive from women. The magazine he was reading covered people like Brian Eno, so that scored more points with me. Great people, very nice to have them next to us instead of some ADHD crackbaby kids or hardcore supernerds or anything.

I brought along my whiteboard, which is usually found hanging next to my desk with data structures and stuff scribbled across it. In line, though, I wrote little sign slogans to amuse myself and the people walking by. One sign read, “If I Don’t Get an XBOX 360, The Terrorists Have Won!”. Another said, “Camping for WORLD PEACE, Will Settle For An XBOX 360”. I heard people laughing and muttering the phrases amonst themselves as they walked by throughout the day/night. Later, all of the local TV stations sent news crews to shoot footage of the line, and each of them made sure to take a separate shot of my signs. One crew even interviewed Logan on camera, though they didn’t use the footage in the news. Too bad. It was neat to get the attention, though.

Everything was fun and relaxing… until the rain began. And kept going. All through the night. Then the reading of books and playing PSP games ended, and the cowering in sleeping bags began. Logan had the thick canvas weather-proof bag, while my bag was somewhat less weather-proof. So at 2:00am, Logan just sent my ass to the car and he built a little shelter out of our chairs, to cover his head (as the canvas bag took care of the rest). When the Best Buy people came outside to do a count, he called my cell and I hopped out of the car and back into my spot. Nobody cared, and I wasn’t the only person taking shelter in cars. As long as someone was holding your position, it was cool.

The rain never stopped, though as the morning came, it at least lightened up. It came to a near-stop right when the store was opening to let people in. All of us close enough to the front of the line hand numbered vouchers, and were let in 5 at a time. Logan and I were #24 and #25. Best Buy only committed to carrying 20, but the managers let us know that they expected to have 40-50… they just weren’t allowed to actually say so in definite terms. When I got to the stock room where they were handing them out, I saw the stack, and they weren’t lying. It was about 50, keeping in mind how many were already gone from the people in front of me. The line stretched well beyond 50 people, so a lot of dudes walked away disappointed, no doubt.

And that was that. I’ve already taken the system out of the box and played with it - after the misery of the rain, there was no way I was waiting until the 25th. I don’t have any retail games for it yet, but I’ve tried a couple of backwards compatible games (Splinter Cell is tres bien) and some Marketplace games (hooray Gauntlet and Geometry Wars). I also love the fact that demos are downloadable. Who needs those OXM demo DVDs anymore? Not anyone on Xbox Live. I’ve played the Kameo and Madden demos - they take a while to download (each is about 1GB) but the convenience of on-demand demo downloads is a much more awesome feature than I had anticipated. I hope that most retail-released games end up having demos on Live.

That’s it for now. More impressions when I have some actual game discs to drop into it.