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Good-night sweet Xbox 360, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

This weekend I stripped all the data off the hard drive of my original Xbox 360 and put the machine in my closet for good. This wasn’t a launch 360, but it was the first one I owned; an elite I bought in early 2008 when there were finally enough good games to convince me to scrape together the money. It had an RROD not long after I purchased it, but Microsoft fixed (or maybe replaced) it for free, and since then it worked flawlessly for over a decade. Unfortunately when I turned it on earlier this year to play something I found that the DVD drive was no longer working and trying to use a cleaning disc didn’t help it any. I could get it repaired, but I actually bought a spare right when the Xbox One was released, and this machine is so old it doesn’t have internal WIFI. I have to run an Ethernet cable from my TV into the other room if I want to download something or cloud synch my saves. It’s time to retire it and replace it with a different one.

To that end I spent some time digging through the hard drive and moving everything I could either to the cloud (for saved games) or to an external drive (for digital games and title updates.) It was a bit of an odd experience digging through so much digital detritus. I already moved most of the saves for backwards compatible games to the cloud a few years ago when the BC program was in full swing so much of what was left were either obscure games nobody cares about or early games I hadn’t played in over a decade.

In truth I could have let the vast majority of it go. Do I need the demo for Xbox Live Arcade Dig Dug when I have Namco Museum on my Switch, which has a perfectly serviceable version of Dig Dug? One could argue that I do not. Am I likely to revisit my save from Penny Arcade: On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode 1 where I got like 20 minutes into the game and lost interest in 2008? Probably not. I will likely never play the game again but if I do I might just roll fresh because I don’t remember everything I did in it over 12 years ago. This 360 hasn’t been my primary console for a very long time and though I did, in fact, load up my old save from The Darkness last year and completed the campaign for that game, that save was “only” 4 years old at the time. Most of the saves I found this time were much, much older. I had a lot of fun with Tropico 3 back in 2011 but if I play a Tropico game again it will be a newer one, and even if I wanted to play 3 I would start fresh because it’s 9 years later.

Instead of feeling like a useful act of digital salvage this ended up being like returning to your parents’ house 10 years after you’ve left and going through the stuff you left in their garage. None of it is particularly important or useful, because you’d have gotten it by now if it was, but a lot of it holds weirdly sentimental memories. I was reminded of how after I first got the elite with its seemingly unfillable 120 gigabyte hard drive I downloaded every XBLA trial I could find and tried basically all of them, leaving me with copies of the trial version of such incredible gems as Cloning Clyde and Mutant Storm Reloaded just bouncing around the hard drive. I loved those trials; they reminded me of the joys of demo discs in the 90s (as memorialized on the Demo Derby series) and I have a fondness of some of those games I never actually bought. Shout out to TiQal, a game nobody else has thought about in a decade but whose demo I played a bunch of times and really enjoyed but never got around to buying. It’s still available for sale on the marketplace, and if it were backwards compatible I might actually get it for nostalgia’s sake, but I’m not going to switch on my 360 to play it.

I remember the time I got to school a week before the semester started and blazed through Dead to Rights: Retribution and the Medal of Honor reboot. Those were some really mediocre games! I enjoyed them though. I ended up playing Medal of Honor: Warfighter in 2014 after I already had a PS4 and Xbox One because that’s the kind of person I am. Ask me anything about Medal of Honor: Warfighter. I dimly remember kind of liking the multiplayer in both games in the franchise. Warfighter’s had an interesting Fire Team concept that paired you with another player on your team and let you respawn on them. The whole thing was pointless in a world where Call of Duty and Battlefield both exist, but it wasn’t the least fun game I ever played. Dead to Rights: Retribution let you bite people in the nuts when playing as the dog. Where does time go? How can it already be nearly a decade? It feels like just a couple years ago.

I bought a full copy of Wik & the Fable of Souls and I never played it. It got decent reviews. That one went straight to the external. At some point, hopefully this year, I’m going to sit down and make myself play Wik and Swarm and a bunch of other XBLA games that aren’t backwards compatible but that I bought at some point or another. I did play Eets: Chowdown but I never finished it. Screw it. Put it on the list. XBLA marathon.

After Burner: Climax is the first game I ever got all the achievements for. What an incredible game. It got delisted, and though it was relisted for IOS and Android there’s no console or PC release available. My 360 copy still works.

I never got around to playing Alan Wake on my 360…but I did play it earlier this year on my Xbox One. It was pretty good! I haven’t played either DLC episode yet, nor American Nightmare. I should get around to those. I still play Xbox 360 games pretty regularly. I played Enslaved: Odyssey to the West this year, along with Assassin’s Creed. Last year I played both Star Wars: The Force Unleashed games and, as mentioned, The Darkness. 360 games are still a lot of fun and backwards compatibility is an incredible feature on Xbox.

I finished transferring my data off my old Xbox and swapped it out for the new one. It’s blue. For now that’s not a problem but after the pandemic is over when I start having people to my apartment again it may go in the box when it’s not in use. That’s okay. I booted it up, set it up and signed in. All my games were there, and my ‘Splosion Man theme too. I booted up Frogger: Hyper Arcade Edition and played a round. I don’t remember buying that but apparently I did at some point. It has an incredible soundtrack, as many XBLA games did back in the day. I have a copy of FIFA Street, too, bought for $5 in 2015 according to my email receipt. I have no memory of that. I booted up Gauntlet but that was just a demo. For a flicker of a moment I considered buying a full copy before realizing that it was probably delisted (it is) and that buying an Xbox 360 non backward compatible copy of Gauntlet in 2020 is a bridge too far even for me. Instead I logged on to the store and downloaded a copy of Midway Arcade Origins, which I bought a few years back for backwards compatibility on my Xbox One, and which now works on the last three generations of Xbox. It includes Gauntlet and Gauntlet II. That is how I found myself having spent hours shuffling data only to play a very old arcade game emulated in a compilation I already owned on another system that was already hooked up to the same TV.

Generations are weird now. Solo Gauntlet is fun for about 4 minutes.

I know that I can’t recapture the time in my life when the Xbox 360 was relevant. I’m never going to spend hours playing Oasis songs with my roommate on Rock Band or have a 100 day streak going in Brain Challenge or do much more than go back to clear up a few games that I never got around to. I’ll probably never play FIFA Street. But the 360 was my main gaming machine for a very long time and it’s sad to see my original retire, and good to have one still sitting there, under my TV, just waiting for the day that I might want to finally pop in that copy of El Shaddai and see what it’s all about, or go bowling with Cousin Roman in GTA IV one last time (I’m never going to want that.)

Gaming is media, of course, but it’s also a set of experiences. It’s hours spent exploring new worlds alone or with friends. It’s nostalgic for me, even when it’s a system that I got after I was an adult. With the Xbox Series X and the Playstation 5 the idea of generations seems well and truly dead. I’m not considering trying to pick up a spare Xbox One because over 99% of its games play as well or better on the Series X and what’s the point. If my Xbox One X dies I’ll just sell it for parts or something. It’s obsolete in a way that the 360 will never be, even though many of its best games are playable elsewhere.

We’ll always have Poker Smash. Wasn’t Poker Smash great?

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