Monday, February 9, 2009

A real LIVE experience

Last week, I got a gift card from my brother and parents to "Game Stop." With the intent that I could buy the drum set for our family's "Guitar Hero" parties, I ventured into the store last Friday. With my 5-year-old daughter with me, we (mainly "I") decided instead to buy the wireless network adapter for the Xbox 360, which, at $99, wouldn't leave us much left over on the $100 card.

"We have a used one for $63 dollars," the seemingly helpful store clerk said. I was immediately caught in a "Catch-22."

If I went with the used one, I'd risk it not working (why else would someone return it), doubting if they even tested the device upon its return. If I did try the used one, I'd have $37 dollars to buy another game, say "Rock Band," or "Call of Duty." If I spent the entire wad on a new one, I was more likely to have success and less frustration setting up the network adapter, but then I'd be kicking and doubting myself for passing up the option on a "perfectly good" one.

My daughter already had a "My Baby Girl" newborn simulator game in her hand for her Nintendo DS. "I want this Daddy?"

It turns out that that was the only thing I needed to hear, not to mention that irresistible look in her eye that I couldn't help but see. With the assurance of techno-video-game-store-clerk guy that I could return the used adapter within 30 days for a full refund if I was unhappy with it at all, or if it happened not to work (in which case he would simply repackage and restock it for the next "victim"), I went with the used one and the $39.99 baby game.

I raced home, eager to hop onto Xbox Live and to get my daughter set up on her new virtual venture into motherhood. That's when the frustration set in.

Not only did the "plug and play" adapter not turn the proper green color, but the game system didn't even acknowledge my home wireless network. Throw in the additional frustration of a crying baby on a video game that needed a bottle every 3 minutes and a 5-year-old girl who wasn't skilled enough with the game stylus enough to hold the bottle at the correct, inverted angle so that the nipple of the bottle stay free of air and full of milk, leaving the more-skilled 35-year-old father, with real-life bottle experience to boot, to alternate between cussing at an Xbox to cooing at at a DS.

I then did what any frustrated father (and virtual grandfather) would do: I put the baby to sleep, left my daughter to gently rock her pink DS, and I hit the internet for network support and how-tos.

After several Youtube videos of people demonstrating the simplicity of the setup and others who had better, cheaper, alternative solutions for Xbox live that circumvented the expensive, wireless device, I tried once more.

Reconfiguring my home network, pinging a new IP address, changing the SSID name and WEP password (like I even NOW know exactly what all those things really mean or HOW I actually pulled it off), I was only successful at disabling the perfectly working wireless service to my downstairs laptop computer. Things were definitely moving in the wrong direction.

After another bottle feeding of the baby, who my daughter sinced named "Ng", I felt my blood pressure come down and the sensation of evaporative cooling upon my forehead as my sweat began to dry. I wanted to give it one more go before I through in the towel/burp cloth.

With a few clicks into new windows and system setting boxes on my computer, I finally reestablished connectivity with my laptop to the network, its printer, and the all-important internet. I felt a new confidence that I could "accidentally" get the Xbox wireless network adapter to work as well. Thinking that plugging in the USB plug on the adapter into the back of the machine more slowly would help the game system and the home network communicate, I blew into the end of it and carefully, deliberately, painstakingly slowly plugged it in. It flashed red, then went blank. I waited for green. It didn't come. I went to the Xbox manual network settings and carefully typed in the new IP address, the Subnet Mask, the Default Gateway, and the number of the DHCP server.

This HAD to work.

It didn't.

Frusrated, and finally realizing that I wouldn't be downloading any new songs for Guitar Hero that day, I packaged up the device in the the original, repackaged packaging, stuck it in the store bag with the receipt, and set it buy the door.

The next day, after Ng's routine feedings of course, I returned the adapter to the Game Stop and voiced my frustration, concern for the practice of selling used, untested products. The only thing the guy, a different guy (the manager!) said was, get this . . . . . ."Yeah, it happens sometimes. So you want to buy a new one?" No apology, no remorse, no guilt, no problem. Business as usual.

"Heck yeah!" I said in an hyperbolic voice that carried the indubitable dual tone of incredulity and satrirical cynisicm.

I paid the difference, left the store with a brand new device, went home, plugged it in, and watched it turn green immediately.

Within one minute of plugging it in, I was on Xbox live, enjoying creating an online Avatar with my son.

It's a shame that our society has become so disposable, inculpable, and shameless, where things breaking and going wrong and being frustrated and inconvenienced are now just routine expectations.

In my mind, the store selling a returned, untested device, even at a discount is tantamount to Wal-Mart taking back dirty diapers and restocking them on the shelves. A foul practice no doubt.

Speaking of dirty diapers, the Ninetendo DS is starting to cry and smell very suspicious.

Gotto go.

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