It's been less than a week since I signed up for my free one-month Xbox LIVE "gold" membership, and I'm wondering if I'm already at the point where I have, more or less, "seen all there is to see." Sure, Soul Calibur IV online is awesome, if only because I have an actual human being playing against me instead of some CPU controlled artificial intelligence (not to mention nabbing some of those completely useless but strangely desirable "Achievements"!). Still, it's hard to make friends with people you're in contact with for all of 5 minutes at most, and when half of them don't bother to talk to you (those headsets came with the XBOX for free, people! Why not USE them?), it oftentimes feels as though I may as well be playing the CPU in the single player campaign, anyway.
I DID make sure to check for available "freebies" for the few games I own that actually have free downloadable content; I nabbed the free gel set for Tales of Vesperia as well as the "Portal Song" for Rock Band 2. Heck, whiny as this post is, LIVE will probably be worth it for that song alone. My brother seminarians are quite the Portal/Half-Life enthusiasts, and considering all the fun we've had just jammin' to Livin' On a Prayer, I'm sure the lyrics to that dainty little ditty will soon become something of a seminary MEME, if they aren't already!
The other unexpected (underutilized?) benefit of XBOX Live is the fact that I can talk to any of my "friends" (would it really be fair to call it Xbox LIVE if it didn't have a certain "networking" aspect to it?) free of charge. No need to rack up a huge phone bill when you can pay $60 bucks a year to chat with your friends via headset with no strings attached!
Still, all of those little "perks" are really secondary to what I was expecting on XBOX Live: an actual community of gamers. I suppose I shouldn't have been so naive, and I certainly don't regret the $100 I paid for that wireless router, but I like to think the "gaming community" has more to offer than bragging rights and a perpetual deluge of foul language and tasteless humor. Really now, is HALO 3 some important that you need to mouth off at everyone just because you/your team lost (I'm one to talk; my brothers back at home will gladly show me to be quite the hypocrite, as I have had my share of outraged outbursts when I've lost rounds of Mario Kart and Smash Bros., among many other games)?
There's no real "common thread" binding everyone together on LIVE other than, well...that fact that they're on LIVE? Not much of "guiding light," is it (unless we're talking RROD...I know, I know, stupid, stupid joke)? There's not really ANYTHING here beyond facing the guy from L.A. who's willing to make small talk as he COMPLETELY OBLITERATES ME in Soul Calibur IV.
Am I being too hasty? Yes, but pardon me for having to perform a bit of a reality check. People without LIVE: it's not the end of the world. You can do without the achievements, and you can always go over to your friends' house to play video games, anyway. Plus, ya know, you may actually end up chit-chatting about something semi-interesting that way - you know, something that may actually bring you both closer to the One who made You?
Anyway, enough ranting for now. A surprisingly fun DS RPG has been occupying my spare time for the past two days, and with any luck I'll be able to write a blurb about it sooner rather than later. Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for me!