A Time Machine

Cleaning out my office recently, I came across an Xbox 360 I got for free when I bought a new computer several years ago. It has sat forgotten, box unopened, gathering dust ever since. We already had an older model Xbox 360 with a hard drive attached which has seen a lot of use, mostly by my eldest son, Dan. I stopped playing console games in favour of World of Warcraft a long time ago. Anyway, just for a change, I decided to hook this one up to the monitor next to my work computer and try some console gaming in my spare time.

First impressions? The machine is a lot smaller than the first one we bought and it’s a different colour. It still plays the same games though and that’s the important thing. It’s a lot easier to set up an Xbox 360 than a new computer. Switch it on, connect to the network, some very quick downloads, enter the details of your Microsoft Account and you’re good to go.

I suspect the reason I got this model for free with a computer that cost under three hundred quid is that the retailer was clearing out old stock. It’s the version that comes with only 4 GB storage. The latest model Xbox 360 comes with five hundred gigabytes. In any case, it’s a problem easily solved. You can use a USB flashdrive as external storage on the 360 these days. I very swiftly got the console up and running.

I did not expect the strange nostalgia it brought on. Like I said, I have not played many console games in the last decade. Just some Sonic the Hedgehog and Lego games with my youngest son and that only fairly recently. We had maybe 30 discs lying around the flat. I was boggled when I saw the copyright dates come up on some of them. 2005 for Call of Duty 2. 2006 for some others. That’s more than ten years ago. It seemed impossible that so much time had passed since I last loaded them, but, of course, tempus fugit. Looking back, I can see bits of my life tangled up with these old games. It’s like a time machine to bits of my past.

I can remember playing Oblivion with our eldest. We explored a new world together, astonished by the vastness of it. I was impressed by the fact that a video game could employ Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean as voice actors. I vividly remember being sucked into the adventure as I entered the catacombs below the Imperial Palace and how scary getting lost in dungeons was. It was a thing I managed with impressive regularity.

I was astonished by Halo 3. It was like being inside a big budget SF action adventure. I watched Dan become very very good at the online PvP versions of the game, a feat I never managed, courtesy of worsening eyesight and slowing reflexes. I ended up mostly spectating at Dan’s feats of arms. When he was younger, we were more like equal partners in our gaming.

Devil May Cry was like being inside an anime and having the powers of a superhero. The combos were boggling and the visual inventiveness of the foes and the settings thrilled me. I could go on about these old games, but I think you get the picture.

The odd thing is how good many of the games still look. I doubt they match the super-duperness of games on the PS4 or the Xbox One but I don’t really know since I don’t own either of those machines. I doubt we’ll ever see the sort of giant leaps in graphic quality that you see between the Xbox and the Xbox 360 again though.


I’ve decided to take the opportunity to play some stuff I missed due to my total immersion in World of Warcraft. I’m currently working my way through GTA4. Yep, that’s right I’ve never really played it. I bought it when it first came out, played the first few missions and went right back to levelling my Rogue. I have to say it’s a highly amusing game in a horrific sort of way. Just driving around Liberty City listening to talk radio and accidentally mowing down the occasional pedestrian is strangely relaxing.

Having unmothballed the console, I find myself doing other things I have not done in a very long time. I wander around games stores and bazaars that sell second-hand games. It’s a thing I once loved. There was something about looking at the cover art of new games that excited me. It seems like an experience from another century now though. A bit like visiting a bookstore is for me these days.

Most of my gaming is done online. Most of my games are purchased as digital content. I get new stuff with a click of a mouse and it downloads in the background while I am doing other things. Actually going to a store and picking up something on a disk now seems very retro.

The other thing that seems very old fashioned about the Xbox 360 is how small the downloads are and how quick. In this era of 20-gigabyte content patches, it is quite eerie to witness. The first time the console announced that an update was available and was needed to play, I barely had time to think oh yeah, here we go wasting my time again before it was over. The console only has 4GB of storage which I thought might see me through a game, maybe two. Nope, all the patches and downloads have barely dented its capacity.

Anyway, experiencing the games I have missed out on over the past decade has been a lot of fun. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go and save my cousin from Albanian mobsters.

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  1. Believe me, your cousin ain’t worth it. You’re right about the mysterious length of time that’s gone by since those games impacted our lives. I got the strange feeling, watching Baby Driver the other night, that this was a movie directed by someone brought up on GTA, in the same way that The Avengers was made by a grown-up comics fan.

  2. Gordan Jovanovski says:

    While you’re going back and playing console games you’ve missed out on you might be interested to know there was a Conan game released on the 360. I’d recommend it for a fellow fan of the series!

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