So you decided to take the plunge and buy an XBOX!
Maybe it's a reward for your son or daughter for good grades or some other accomplishment. Maybe you're tired of not knowing what your gamer friends are talking about when they rave about spending all weekend playing some new game they just bought. Maybe you're an avid PC, Playstation or Nintendo gamer, and you've decided to cross over to the Microsoft side just to see what the hype is all about.
Whatever the reason, it doesn't matter. This is the right place for getting started with your XBOX.
First, understand that the XBOX console is a specialized computer that's designed for playing games and other forms of entertainment. Just like any kind of computer, it can be used in a variety of ways. The goal is identify your expectations and priorities, so that you can decide what kind of experience you want to have. To do this, there are four essential questions you should answer.
Let's get started!
1. Who is likely to be playing?
This basic question has wide-reaching ramifications. If you're a parent buying the system for an adolescent or teenager, you might want to set some limits. This means not only scanning content rating for age appropriateness, but also potentially setting time limits, and protecting account security credentials so that your son or daughter isn't making any unauthorized purchases.
These issues also apply to roommates or frequent friends. The XBOX makes it easy to set up separate accounts so that each person who plays can have access to an account with their own avatar (or digital likeness), game saves, stats, payment credentials, and other customized content.
2. Where are you likely to be playing?
Not only do you want to get the right audio and video cables for your entertainment center, you want to determine which furniture layout will be best in your room -- especially important if you're planning to use a Kinect sensor, which tracks body motion as part of the game experience. The Kinect requires a certain amount of space to operate properly.
3. How much internet connectivity do you want?
This is a complex question, but it's important to understand your options before you get started. With any form of internet use, there are trade-offs between the two competing priorities of functional connectivity and secure privacy. Any steps you take to make your XBOX gaming experience more private and secure might come at the expense of reduced connectivity or functionality.
For example, playing online with XBOX Live includes options where gamers can either hear or see you while you play, depending on whether you have a headset or Kinect sensor. These settings can be toggled on or off to restrict the flow of communication, but doing so might mean you're missing out on a valuable part of the gameplay experience.
On the other hand, just about every video game includes a standard disclaimer: "Online interactions not rated by the ESRB." This means that even though you might have bought a game that has little-to-no swearing or profanity, the others who play the game might use profanity or other vulgarities while playing. In that sense, playing online carries a set of inherent risks, just like any other form of public interaction like going to the store or riding public transportation.
Therefore, it's up to you to decide how much connectivity you're comfortable with, and then use the included tools and options to set things up the way you want.
The last question is the most fun...
4. What are you interested in?
Video games have a wide variety of styles and genres. Some of them are designed to get you sucked in, playing for hours and hours on end. Others you can pick up and put down fairly easily. There games you can purchase from retail stores, and games you can download directly through XBOX Live, and they can be purchased for as little as a few dollars or as many as $60.
Talk to some of your friends who play games. Find out what they like. Read a few best-of blog posts regarding XBOX titles.
Experiment a little. Download game demos, so you can play before you buy. Or borrow a game disc from a friend and try it out.
Once you take some time and honestly answer these four questions, you'll be well on your way to getting started with your XBOX -- and you'll be ready to conquer the next important challenge: how to talk trash without sounding like an idiot.
*This guide is drawn from my experiences with the Xbox 360; however, these principles also apply to the new Xbox One.