The New... Er Xbox Experience (with bonus Supreme Court talk)

Well, it's been quite the week, and we've only just gotten started.

First off, the Newer Xbox Experience, as I like to call it, came out today, and I've had a chance to test drive it. It's only the first day, and it might improve later on, but I can't help but notice that it's just as sluggish as it did in Giant Bomb's quick look at the beta. It doesn't happen often, but it seems sometimes as though a frame or two here and there will drop while you're browsing the interface, which is a strange thing to happen during what should be the least graphically intensive thing you should be made to do. The mini-blades, by contrast, seem to run consistently at noticeably half the frame rate that it used to. Not a practical concern, but it's just uglier than it used to be, indeed than it should be. Also, the system seemed to freeze for a moment several times while I tried to set up media center, suggesting that the underlying OS is laggier than it used to be. The changes don't end at the main menu, however. Going into the marketpalce, the compartmentalized, organized sections of the old NXE have been replaced with a mess of text, with the categories up top and text positioned underneath, looking a lot less attractive. Indeed, any of you who are familiar with the Zune software on PC will notice immediately that the marketplace now uses the same oversized, ugly fonts that the Zune software uses. Also, as far as I can tell, you can no longer browse manually through a game's picture gallery, but have to wait for images to go automatically. I may be wrong about that, but I couldn't figure out how to go through the gallery when I tried to for Super Meat Boy.

In essence, the system hasn't changed much on a practical level, but the menus sure look ugly now. A shame, really. The Xbox 360 didn't need that.

Oh, and don't forget the welcome intro when the 360 first runs after the update.  You know, in case you've forgotten how an Xbox works between Oct. 31st and today.

In other news, the Supreme Court will hear arguments between California and the game industry tomorrow. While the Justices don't have to render a decision until June, I maintain my confidence that they'll do the right thing and reject California's attempt to rip First Amendment protection from video games. Put simply, in order for the Court to rule in California's favor, it would have to willfully ignore the fact that research in this area is decidedly inconclusive, to ignore the possibility of such restrictions bleeding beyond video games, to disregard reams and reams of information given them in documentation from over 138 different sources before argument, and most importantly, to believe that traditional obscenity law doesn't cover games that are created solely to offend as is already. In short, the Court will likely need a whole lot of reason to broad brush an entire medium, and that is, in the end, what we're talking about. With very little reliable evidence that violent videogames, in the absence of other violent media, truly effect minors as much as California claims, the court would have to come in with a bias against video games, and if the ESA's lawyers do their jobs and show that mainstream gaming is nowhere near as bad as the holier-than-thou types make it look, we're good.

In short, relax. Everything's gonna be all right. 


Now if you'll excuse me, I'm watching Netherlands VS Sweden in Euro 2012 qualifiers. Yay ESPN3.