When the Machines Talk, They Talk About You

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By Mike Musgrove
Thursday, August 31, 2006

My Xbox 360 has a blog, and it's starting to get on my nerves.

While I was off on a vacation recently, the slick game console spent the week talking about me behind my back and posting snarky comments on the Web.

"I was ignored . . . all . . . freaking . . . day," it complained.

"What . . . are you off reading a book or something?" it remarked another day. "Come play games!"

Finally, things got a little spooky. "I have a bit of a temper if I am neglected," it warned.

The blog is an automated software widget hosted at 360Voice.com that takes advantage of the Microsoft Xbox 360's extensive Web connectivity features, originally designed to let gamers compare their scores and game collections.

The service has about 50,000 registered users: Just enter your Xbox 360 name, or "gamertag," and your console can join the blogosphere, no charge. Every day, the personalized blog is updated with a list of what games you played and whether you made any progress in them. Leave the machine turned off for a day, and it generates a gripe like the ones above.

The site was put together by tech guys Trapper Markelz and Stephen Sopp, college friends and video game fans who now live in different states and stay in touch via the Xbox's online service. Markelz said in an e-mail yesterday that he got the idea for the automated blogs from a talk given by science-fiction writer Bruce Sterling at a tech conference.

Their service is a decent chuckle -- but frankly, I'd like to think my Xbox 360 would take a wider view of the world if given a voice.

There are a lot of other important issues I wish my Xbox were addressing, instead of ratting me out. Why, for example, did Capcom ruin its otherwise decent new zombie game, Dead Rising, by making the in-game text nearly unreadable for people not playing on a high-definition set? And what is it about the new game Saints Row that makes it less fun than Grand Theft Auto -- even though it's such a very close copy of that game franchise?

And, while we're at it, why knock my general lack of love for the current batch of Xbox 360 games when the real reason I haven't spent time on the Xbox system this summer is the PlayStation 2 game Guitar Hero?

I put on a rockin' toy-guitar performance last week, for the benefit of my girlfriend's two dogs, who were as surprised as I was when I made it through Ozzy Osbourne's "Bark at the Moon" on the game's "expert" level. But did my Xbox, parked nearby on the floor, deign to notice or even give this feat a passing mention on its blog? Nooooooo.


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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