The Power of Xbox

 – Originally written on August 18th, 2017 – 

As much as I have enjoyed talking about the technological power of the upcoming Xbox One X for the past year, this article will instead focus on the powerful impact Xbox has had on my life for more than fifteen years.  It will detail the how and why of I grew to become so attached to not just a “brand” but also to a community and a lifetime of great experiences and memories.

Essentially, this is a follow-up to my article “The Best Week Ever” that I wrote just after returning from my first week in Los Angeles for Xbox FanFest and E3 2015. Those memories, and that write-up, continue to be special to me to this day. I hope to expand on some of what I discussed there, while also reflecting on the incredible time I had doing it all over again in 2016 and 2017. I realize I am not alone at all with some of the feelings I’ll express throughout this write-up, so I hope to also give a voice to others as well who feel the same way about what Xbox has done for gaming.

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(2017) Playing Forza Motorsport 7 on an Xbox One X developer kit

Origins

I will never forget playing Halo for the first time with a friend in 2001.  I remember running around on Blood Gulch – the legendary multiplayer level that lives on to this day throughout the sequels – and being instantly fascinated by the Warthog vehicle, not to mention the physics and lighting the game had. That same friend and I eventually played through the whole campaign together and it was an absolute blast. I can still vividly remember the two of us running for our lives during that final level, laughing so hard as the Warthog we were in flipped over and he drove off without me. I was running on foot for the remainder of the level trying to catch up as we both eventually made it to the end just in time.

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(2017) Playable at the Xbox One X showcase event!  The Flood are back!

It was 2002 now and I was in high school.  Although it had been a couple of years now since I was the new kid in town I still did not know that many people, but luckily a couple of friends of mine had an older cousin who was a senior at my high school.  He and his friends would have Xbox LAN parties quite often and I was invited to come over and play Halo with them one time.  I remember being at this stranger’s house with around twenty people, not knowing anyone but my friend, and us all bonding over Halo on multiple occasions from that point forward.  That first occasion though, there was a point in a huge multiplayer match where I was put on the spot to win a match for my team and overcame some incredible odds and I remember one of the guys on the other team saying, “This guy plays way too much Halo…”  I laughed and told him it was only my third time playing and that all I have at home is a GameCube.  Everyone seemed to a get a kick out of that, and we all became friends.

Unfortunately, less than a year later those people were all graduating, so a lot of things were changing for them.  A lot was about to change for me though too, as I was about to turn 16 and get my first job.  After a few weeks, I had saved up enough money to finally get an Xbox of my own and be able to play Halo in the comfort of my own home (and not in split screen)!  That first major purchase I made was a new Xbox and a copy of Halo in June 2003.  A couple of weeks later I upgraded from dial-up AOL to cable internet so that I could get Xbox Live and again experience the magic of online gaming that I had last truly enjoyed on the Dreamcast.  It was also at this point that I decided I was going to go all-in with Xbox and it has been my only console ever since.

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(2017) E3 at the Los Angeles Convention Center

More than a decade later, in the late spring of 2015, I was still just as hardcore of an Xbox gamer and fan.  I had always been up on the latest news and games for Xbox, but I had never taken the big step of going to see any of these events I followed so closely for myself.  Going to an event like that had always felt like something that wasn’t for me, or that it wasn’t feasible – which was actually true in the case of when I was invited to Xbox 360’s Zero Hour launch event in 2005 by a very nice man at Microsoft by the name of Arne.

I was 18 years old at that time, and so my main concern was that I would not be able to rent a car to drive out to the Mojave Desert location of the event.  I had also never even come close to considering flying anywhere before in my life – all of which had been spent in Minnesota.  Traveling was just not something my small family of my mom and I had ever done at this point, and due to the way technology was at that time there were not the conveniences of airline phone apps, Airbnb, and Uber to make a trip like that easy to understand, or even possible for me.  And so, I had to politely decline and I still regret to this day not being there for that historic Xbox launch event, which is still held in high regard by many on the Xbox team.

Ten years later, I had gone on a couple of trips with friends and so I was a bit more comfortable with airports and renting a car. I had now finally decided I was going to attend my first gaming convention at some point, meet my heroes, and be a part of the fun.  Initially, I was going to try for PAX in Seattle (because it was basically the only public option in the USA that I knew Xbox would have a presence at with its team and lineup of games) but the tickets vanished and were already being scalped for inflated prices before my page to purchase had even loaded.  Around a day or so later, the upcoming Xbox FanFest event was announced and I knew right then that I had found what I had waited all of these years for, and thus The Best Week Ever was in the works.

When I left Los Angeles in 2015, I thought it would likely be several years before I was able to come back again, but I decided sometime in the early months of 2016 to try for it all again.  Not only did I want to relive the amazing time I had experienced in 2015, but I had spent nearly every day interacting with Xbox fans like myself on Twitter ever since my trip.  A whole new side of the Xbox community opened up to me after that trip, especially after my write-up on my experience sort-of went viral thanks to so many great people reaching out to thank me for writing about how it all went.  I had never expected anything like that to happen; I had written it for myself, to be able to retain all of those memories in detail and to share with a handful of people I hoped would read it.  I have always loved writing and sharing things online, so I felt compelled to write it all down even if it ended up being just being for myself.  Instead, it went far and wide, and suddenly I was frantically going back to proofread it all again as I realized many more people would be reading it now!

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(2017) Tom (@supergamertom) and I in the Xbox booth.  Thank you for the FanFest 2017 pin!

Some people might laugh or wonder, “Why get so worked up over Xbox or gaming?”, and as I spent the last few weeks thinking in my head about all that I wanted to write in this article, I felt like addressing that.  To me, in the face of that question I instantly picture all of the people who are shown on the news crying and screaming over sports, or over a celebrity.  I’m not going to judge what anyone else is passionate over, but in my opinion if there’s something to be completely invested in and passionate about it would be that which allows you to have countless different experiences for essentially your entire life, especially when they are experiences that put you in the center of it all.

With Xbox, it is us, or in my case here, me, playing through these games.  I have had these experiences that are personal to me, I have invested the time to complete so many games, adventures, stories, and the specific details within them.  I spend time each day reading the latest news in the gaming world and I often read something that makes my day or gives me something more to look forward to.  I have spent thousands of hours of my life with these consoles, having had amazing times whether I’m in an intense multiplayer match that becomes borderline stressful, am in the midst of an immersive 40+ hour story, am laughing at a game’s humor, or am getting emotional from a game’s story, etc.  These are years of experiences and memories, so how could someone not become invested and attached to something like that if they opt to allow themselves to do so?  If you are reading this article, I am likely preaching to the choir, but I wanted to put that out there as I am bluntly honest with how passionate I am for Xbox and gaming in general.

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(2017) The Xbox One X’s Scorpio chip

The 2016 Experience

In 2015, I went into Los Angeles knowing basically no one who would be there aside from those who worked at Xbox, so I spent much of the trip quietly taking it all in aside from brief interactions with those I met in line for a game at E3 or while kayaking in San Diego.  However, 2016’s experience would usher in an entirely new Xbox FanFest experience for me, and also affect the way I would go about many of my days back at home in Minnesota throughout the year.

Leading up to the 2016 flight to LAX, myself and others bonded on Twitter for several weeks over a common anxiety of hoping we would even get into the experience this time around.  Tickets were again going to go out to 500 lucky fans who lined up at a Microsoft Store in Los Angeles, except this time it was easy to tell that the demand was going to be much higher than in 2015 based on how the posts and tweets regarding the upcoming FanFest were receiving multiple times more likes and replies than the previous year’s announcements did.

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I flew into LAX already quite sleep-deprived not only because I was worrying about FanFest, but also due to having a job interview on the eve of my trip.  After stopping at Target to buy a sleeping bag and pillow, I checked into my first Airbnb and relaxed for a few hours.  In the early evening I headed out to the mall the FanFest line was going to be at.  There were already hundreds of people there, and over a thousand people total would end up arriving by the end of the night.  In all, I was there from 5pm Saturday to the early afternoon of Sunday afternoon, and in that time I made several friends for life.  Although it was stressful, especially considering my lack of sleep and same day flight, it was an amazing experience that ranged from incredible anxiousness to absolute shock and joy.

Around midnight, everyone was given a numbered ticket and a several-hour random drawing commenced and it had all become a less than 50% chance of getting in.  It was also around this time that I once again saw Major Nelson (Larry Hryb), Aaron Greenberg, and Bonnie Ross as they and other members of the Xbox team walked up and down the gigantic line that spanned two levels of the mall the Microsoft Store was located in.

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After meeting Phil Spencer, the head of the Xbox team (thanks to a very nice introduction by Aaron) the fatigue and stress of it all started to hit me and I was starting to feel like the FanFest experience truly was going to be once in a lifetime.  I didn’t ever regret trying again, especially not after getting to meet so many great people and the chance to meet Larry, Aaron, and Phil again, I was just so tired and started to feel some doubt.  I was sitting there on the ground in the line trying to stay awake and was borderline delirious when I quickly handed a couple of thank you cards to Aaron Greenberg as he passed by due to thinking this might be the last time I saw him, and because of how nice he and some others had been to me the year prior.

 

I honestly can barely remember what it was like to experience that moment through my own eyes due to how tired I was and how much of a surreal experience it was for me.  The video above speaks for itself, but I am sure you can tell I am quite stunned by what is happening.  I never thought I would ever, ever, have Major Nelson holding a microphone to my face for hundreds of thousands of people to listen to us go back and forth – and especially not in the middle of the night in Los Angeles with the historic Nakatomi Plaza directly behind me.  As a kid, I rented the first Die Hard movie from Blockbuster probably twenty times, so I was excited simply to see the building from the movie all night long.

An hour or so after that amazing moment with Major, one of my new friends in line had her ticket number called.  At this point, she was one of the only people around us in that part of the line that had won in all of the hours of the tickets being called, and she was adamant that I take her ticket and walk up to the front as the next winner. At first I said no way, she had waited in line just like I had, and then her boyfriend at the time, Mitchell, was saying they had already agreed that if either of them won they were giving it to me based on what they had seen of me, and then my interactions with the Xbox team in the last couple of hours.  I still wasn’t going for it, it was too much to take, and then people around in line who none of us had even talked to began yelling “Go Rob!  Do it man!”.

Even writing about it now is overwhelming to think about more than a year later.  It was so nice of them to do that for a complete stranger they had only known for a few hours in the food court area of this giant mall (which was now mostly completely darkened).  I finally hugged and thanked them both, traded tickets, and walked up to the front of the line to get my FanFest credentials and entered the new line that was for the winners thus far. I had now won entry into something I had waited a year for, but all I could think about was that unbelievable act of kindness as I stood there in this new group of people.

Unknown to me, just a few feet from me now, was someone who I would become great friends with online over the next few months thanks to someone else near us asking everyone who could hear her to friend each other via Snapchat’s location-based friend finder feature.  Jonathan and I would finally meet in person exactly a year after this moment, on the first day of FanFest 2017.  Ultimately, it was that initial act of kindness by Kelsey and Mitchell that made this friendship happen as well.  Thanks to a common bond in Xbox, a person from Minneapolis and a person from Miami became great friends over the past year where we chat every day about gaming, other hobbies, and life.

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Thankfully, in the next hour or so, Kelsey, Mitchell, and Jeff – the three main people I had hung out with throughout the night, all had their tickets become winners.  My original ticket had eventually become a winner as well, but who knows what might have been different if things had not went down as they did.  I think of little things, like the fact that someone in line encouraged me to high-five the ticket caller as I went in to turn in my winning ticket just as she was about to pull the next winning ticket out of the bowl.  If she had not stopped, pulled her hand out, and high-fived me, everything that followed might have been different.

What happened that night was a powerful showing to me in how one act of kindness can affect so much.  I have actually come across people in various social media outlets and Reddit talking about what they saw that night in regards to me being given that winning ticket, one man even listed it as his favorite memory of E3 2016.  These are people discussing that amazing moment that occurred within the line for a gaming event, so it seems I was not the only one touched by what happened.

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The following days were incredible, as expected.  Myself and others were able to play games like Forza Horizon 3 and Halo Wars 2 many months before they were due to launch, and experience the various fun times that FanFest had planned for us, including a hilarious panel with the cast of Gears of War 4.  I don’t think I have laughed that hard since that night, I had tears from how funny things became between Rod Fergusson (Studio Head for The Coalition), John DiMaggio (voice of Marcus Fenix) and some of the questions the crowd was asking (most of which consisted of asking for Gears of War 4 spoilers, or if John remembered something minor that happened from decades prior).  Overall, it became yet another “Best Week Ever” and the memories of it would join 2015’s and become part of an almost daily reflection on how fun it all was.

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(2016) Mitchell and Kelsey surprised me on my final night in Los Angeles by bringing me to the Griffith Observatory, which they knew I had wanted to see all week.  We all watched the sunset from there that evening, with a lot of great laughs and sights all around.
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Looking Back

As I reflect on my life with Xbox, another reason I went for more of a “play-it safe” type lifestyle is that I would more easily avoid the bad, hurtful situations that come up in life.  Of course this means missing out on some things, but I have felt it was a fair trade-off to have a mostly peaceful life.  Unfortunately, a person cannot hide from all of the negatives that are bound to happen to us in life, and I have learned that as well – as we all have.  However, getting through those tough times when they come is when my love for Xbox has grown even stronger over the years.  I can remember so many times when Xbox was there for me either as a way to pass time during a bad time, or was there in my mind as something to look forward to and think about as inspiration to get through a rough time.  The below examples are nothing in comparison to what many people have gone through, but when I look back there has always been a couple that stick out to me just due to their timing and how into Xbox I was at the time.

In 2004 I was forced to change high schools right in the middle of the year after my high school of the last two years refused to provide anymore parking passes for out-of-district students.  Seeing as though I was no longer willing to drive to school, park a mile away, and then walk on the side of the road while crazy high school drivers nearly hit me as I walked on the shoulder of the road to school (my only option) I changed schools right in the middle of my junior year in early 2004.  It was quite a scary thing to try and do, but I ended up liking my new high school even more.

It may sound weird, but what inspired me to just do it and get through it was the looming launch of Halo 2 later that year.  I often had a Halo novel with me in my backpack (there were only 2 or 3 Halo books at this time) and at other times, usually lunch period, I would go to the library and check up on what was going on with all of the cool stuff that was happening with the marketing of Halo 2 leading up to its launch.  I don’t think I felt too stressed out or bothered by the big changes back then, but as I think back to a younger me going through that and going to a school where I knew no one, it was nice to have something I could think about that would comfort me and give me something to look forward to as I went forward with something that was going to change so much of my daily life.

I remember in the summer of 2005 my car breaking down on me on the freeway on a Sunday morning that was getting hotter by the minute.  There was barely any traffic, no one was stopping to help, this was before I (or most people) had a cell phone, and I was a long way from home.  I walked several miles along the road, until there was no shoulder left, and then had to go through a winding forest, and then back to some more roads until I made it to a payphone.  It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal when I think back to it, but it was for me in the moment, and I remember the whole time, while being so thirsty and hot, thinking about how it was going to be awesome in November when I get that Xbox 360 on launch day.  It makes me laugh to think about how that was the main thing going through my head during that several hour walk.

Life delivered a major curveball two years later in mid-2007 when my mom was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  As the best mom in the world (of course) and my only family, this was such a shocking thing that I don’t remember ever thinking that she wouldn’t be okay – as if my mind couldn’t comprehend any other outcome.  Thankfully after two surgeries to remove her thyroid, she was, and has been, okay ever since.  It was a scary time where I would often think about Halo 3 as hopefully that “light at the end of the tunnel” later that year.  I would think about that day, now just a couple of months down the road, and picture everything being okay and playing the game I had waited three years for and that all would be right again.  Thankfully, it was a joyous launch day by the time it came around and the cancer scare was relatively in the past by then, where it hopefully stays.

In 2009, I started college in the fall and I remember Halo 3: ODST coming out a couple of weeks into my first semester and it was great to once again have something fun to look forward to as I went through something that was stressful for me due to how different my life was now that I was adding full-time college to my plate along with work.  I was excited about it though too.  I had not taken many chances in life, so the decision to go to college despite not knowing exactly what to go for and all that, was a big deal to me.  I did not simply go right after high school, so it was something I thought about for quite a while.  Although I worked that first job of mine for nearly nine years, from early 2003 to late 2011, I do also regret not having had the confidence and courage I enjoy now to try and branch out to something else I might’ve enjoyed better earlier in life, instead of spending all of those years at the same place.

The newfound confidence in recent years to try and find something that is best for me when it comes to how I spend over forty hours of my life each week comes in large part to my experiences over the past two years in Los Angeles.  The amazing treatment and comradery I have experienced from the Xbox team and fellow fans and friends has shown me that things can be better, and I continue working towards a life that makes it so I feel a bit of the FanFest magic each day of my life at home in Minnesota.  Thankfully, I believe I have made good progress on this front and my life is better for it.

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(2016) Aaron Greenberg and I before the 2016 media briefing

2017: The Year of the Scorpio

Based on the way Xbox’s 2016 media briefing ended with the teaser of Project Scorpio, Xbox’s next console set to launch in late 2017, I knew right away I wanted to be there again in a year to see my first console reveal live in person.  Like many, I have watched these happen so many times throughout life, whether it be via gaming magazines back in the day, on the computer, or, for the last several years, via the Xbox console itself where the briefings were conveniently streamed right to our TV.

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Due to my experiences in 2015 and 2016, I already understood how (at least for me) being there when the game is first announced/shown to the world and being there for its big moments and reveals makes the actual launch of the game back at home much more exciting.  Games like Forza Horizon 3, while being an all-time great game, hold an even more special place in my heart because I will think back to being in the Galen Center when the game was revealed during the media briefing, and then I remember standing in line for over an hour to play it at E3 with the wheel and fully-immersive seat and screen experience with dozens of people watching me play from behind the whole setup.  So the idea of being there when a new console is revealed and available to play for the first time ever was a huge thing for me for a lot of reasons.

 

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(2017) With @nickytwit, and a perfect photobomb by @MissAEternity

Fortunately, Xbox FanFest’s tickets were handed out via an online system this time around, several weeks prior to E3 instead of a physical line just a day or two beforehand.  Although the online system had a bumpy start due to an even higher demand than before for FanFest admittance, 500 winners were again selected and I was lucky enough to get in one more time.  I was so thankful for this chance because it had been a rough few months prior to that time in late April.  I did not want to see my hopes of seeing the reveal in person fall through because it all really had been my “light at the end of the tunnel” through the worst times of my life, but more on that in a bit.

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(2017) @Dapper_Tux and I at the briefing and Showcase event!

For 2017’s trip I decided to not rent a car this time and try going all Uber and Lyft for transportation to and from LAX, and all of the trips in between.  I had never used either of these services before and I was a bit anxious of trusting someone else to drive me around in the crazy traffic of LA because I’m used to always being the driver for anywhere I go, but it was certainly the right call.  In the two previous trips, worrying about the car, and then driving in unfamiliar, sometimes hostile driving conditions, was a big source of not only anxiety, but cost, as parking prices in LA are steep!  The 2017 trip to LA was so smooth and perfect I almost feel like it didn’t happen yet because it all happened so effortlessly and there was never a time I was worried about anything during the trip.  Los Angeles finally felt like a home away from home.

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(2017) Finally, @DocCupCake84 and I have taken a picture together!

Additionally, thanks to all of the amazing friends I have made at FanFest and/or on Twitter because of Xbox, I flew into Los Angeles this year feeling like I was in a city full of friends.  I know this is not particularly the safest mindset to have in the city of LA, but trust that I used that positive mindset of mine responsibly!  This year at Xbox FanFest, not only was I able to meet up with my friends from 2016, who almost all got in again this year (either to FanFest and/or E3 itself), I was able to finally meet many others for the first time too.

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(2017) After two years of close encounters at Xbox FanFest and E3, two fellow Xbox fans finally meet up!

We all were able to see the Xbox One X revealed to the world, and play games like Crackdown 3, Forza 7, Sea of Thieves, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Super Lucky’s Tale, and so many others games before release – including Halo Wars 2’s new Flood expansion!  This love of Xbox that I have had for so many years has grown exponentially over the last two years.  It was taken to a whole new level in 2015, and then again in 2016, and then again in 2017.

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(2017) Friends from 2016 join with new ones from 2017 for the Xbox media briefing!

Throughout the rest of the year when I’m back at home, I am thankful for every reply or like I receive on Twitter, and the interactions become better each year, or even each month.  It’s an amazing feeling to quickly tweet something out about how I’m going into my first day of work at my new job, and then throughout my whole shift I can feel my phone regularly vibrating with one notification after another of people liking it or offering words of encouragement.  Needless to say, the experiences I’ve had at Xbox FanFest, and the people I’ve met there, have increased my opinion of people in general in a huge way.

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(2017) Major and I meet again, this time at the 2017 Showcase event

With everything the internet and social media exposes us to, it is easier than ever to become jaded at what the world is like, or perceived to be like.  Many people even continue that negative mindset to entertainment mediums as well, moving instantly to criticize a new game or movie, sometimes even just from something someone else said.  It is as if being negative seems to be what is perceived as “smart”.  I have always gone into any game, movie, or anything else entertainment-based with an open mind because I am looking to enjoy it, not hate it, and it is nice to have that positive mindset now extend to society in general in some ways, especially when it comes to the potential new places I will find myself in if it seems worthy of a trip or adventure.

 

Before I conclude this year’s article with some of my favorite pictures from 2016 and 2017’s Xbox events, I want to discuss the greatest thing Xbox helped me get through this past year.  17 years ago this week, on July 4th, 2000, I met my best friend in life when a 13-year-old me picked out an 8-week-old kitten.

I talked about Oreo in my 2015 article as well, and how my trip that year had some anxiety in it due to leaving him for so many days and his history of health problems.  In 2006, I remember pouring myself into the early Xbox 360 title “Full Auto” as Oreo was at the vet overnight due to a urinary tract blockage – a common issue in male cats.  Thankfully, it never affected him again, but due to that same issue being the cause for my first cat to be put to sleep at the same age six years prior, it scared me to death.
Another scare started again, in late 2010, as Oreo was diagnosed with diabetes and on the brink of seemingly death based on him having to be forced to eat at home for the first few days so that I would give him his insulin shot safely.

I remember so many nights he would be laying there on me for hours and hours as I played the newly-released Halo: Reach and I would wish for time to go by so that this could all be behind him too.  Oreo and I had a bond that I believe would be quite rare between a person and a cat.  He watched me grow up to almost the age of 30 and he was always so smart and caring for everyone in the house.  I would sound like I was exaggerating if I tried to go through all of the cool things he had done over the years to express the care he had for his family.

The worst hit to him though was in the late summer of 2013 when I brought him into the vet thinking he was going to need to go back onto insulin because of his recent lack of appetite again.  Instead, after a surgery to try and figure out what was wrong, he was found to have gastrointestinal lymphoma.  Because of his history of diabetes, he could only have the chemo pill part of treatment, and not the steroid pill as well (as the steroid would trigger diabetes).  It seemed at best he would live 19 months, and that would be if he had the steroid as well.

During that horrible week in 2013, I had just gotten into the band M83 a day or two before the visit to the vet, so I remember all of those drives back and forth to the vet with him listening to their music and simply having the worst time of my life – thinking Oreo was probably going to have to be put to sleep any day, because back then I tended to expect the worst.  His fur had been shaved on his underside, he had stitches, he was on several medications, and yet he was so full of life and loving.  He was always seemingly less bothered by it all than I was.

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(August 2013) Oreo and I at his first oncology appointment, days after his diagnosis

Throughout my entire teenage and adult life, people who have known me knew me for two things: my love for Oreo and my love for Xbox.  Besides my first cat being put to sleep when I was 12, who was very much like Oreo and who Oreo “replaced” several months later, Oreo’s looming death was my first personal encounter with a close death, and it scared the hell out of me.  In what the oncologist once described as a “miracle” Oreo continued to live beyond the 36 month mark, despite him only being on half of the usual treatment for the lymphoma, and not even on the chemo for the final year of his life because I decided it was affecting his appetite too much and I didn’t want him to spend a single day in discomfort from that point on.  He continued to live, and even gain weight, until finally last October at the age of sixteen and a half it was clear that things were going downhill and I decided to have him euthanized at home so he could at peace and around all those who love him.

It was the scariest day of my life, and during that final day or two prior when mostly all he would do is sleep, I would lay there next to him and when I couldn’t take it anymore I would open up my Surface Book and stream an Xbox One game to my screen so I could take my mind off the surreal reality of what was finally happening.  Mafia III happened to be the game I was playing at the time and I am so thankful for that game being as fun and engrossing as it is, because it truly helped me get through a personal hell.

I knew I wanted to and should appreciate every last second with Oreo in those final days, but it became torturous to lay there next to him and fixate on what was happening as I waited for time to pass to see if things would change  Xbox was there for me to bring a little bit of peace even in the midst of all of that.  It also helped to think about all those good memories of 2015 and 2016 in LA, a sense of happiness I did not have back in 2013 when this lymphoma saga had all begun and hit me so hard.  I filled my mind now with thoughts about how good times have happened before, can happen again, and just focused on the fact that Oreo had lived a long, good life, more than almost any animal could ever dream of – and I think that for any animal who has a nice home of their own.  I know many people will say he’s “just a cat” but to me, an only child who grew up the way I did, he was like a brother to me,  Then, as he needed more care over the years, like a child to me as well.

I bring all of this up in full detail not only because I have never written it all down since it happened over eight months ago and I felt like doing so because he was a huge part of my life along with Xbox, but because something truly special happened for me on the night of the Monday night FanFest event this year.

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We were given special access to the Galen Center floor the night after the Xbox media briefing.  The floor had been transformed into a “Showcase” of dozens of gaming kiosks for the media and other insiders for an event earlier in the day.  The Xbox team had done this in 2016 as well and streamed a show involving it hosted by Larry Hryb and Graeme Boyd, but it hadn’t been open to FanFest and I had hoped for an entire year that it was what one of the surprises for 2017 would be because it is exactly the type of thing I love: an environment where you get to chat with the Xbox team, and easily play some great new games (and also free drinks!).

 

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(2017) Major Nelson, Jonathan (@miamiprodigy:), and I in the Xbox booth at E3

The Galen Center has been the scene of so many special announcements and memories, that even being in that building is a treat for me, but to have an event like this happening on the floor itself, and to be so close to the stage all the magic has happened on, over the years, was yet another one of those “best ever” type experiences for me.  I arrived at the Galen Center about an hour early, was interviewed on camera by someone from Xbox about how much I love Xbox, at 8pm it was time to go in.  About fifteen minutes later I entered through the Galen Center’s doors one more time and made my way towards the small tunnel that led out onto the floor, a floor that would be filled with everything from the new Xbox console, to my most anticipated game for nearly two years (Crackdown 3) and all of my favorite people in the gaming industry.  As I walked through the tunnel and was just a moment away from my eyes seeing all that awaited us fans for the next four hours, M83 came blaring onto the speakers.  It didn’t even hit me at first, but then it did and I got a huge smile on my face.

I had said on my Twitter a few weeks prior to the trip, that in previous years I would worry about Oreo when I was away in California, but this year he would be there with me now.  For over three years now, M83 had been “our band” in my mind and two days after he was put to rest I got an email alert that M83 was having a big concert in my hometown that night (which only seems to happen every few years).  I ended up going and it will likely forever be the best concert I will ever attend, as they played all of the songs I was hoping for and that were sentimental to me.

(A glimpse of the scene there in the Galen Center near the end of the song.  DJ: @Jen_Lasher)

To be in Los Angeles, and be at such a crucial moment in my trip where I am at basically my peak happiness in a land of exclusive Xbox experiences and my heroes in the industry, and then to hear M83’s Midnight City come blaring onto the speakers the exact moment I walk in…  That was really touching to me.  Maybe it is just a coincidence, but for my own peace of mind I will always think of it as something more.  My three trips to Los Angeles were filled with such amazing and unexpected times of happiness that it does not surprise me that something extraordinary could happen as a part of it all at just the perfect time.

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(2012) Oreo and I on July 4th, the 12th anniversary of the day we met

Thank you for reading, and thank you to Xbox and its amazing community for helping make the highs and lows of life more fun and easier to get through.  For me, that is the true power of Xbox, and I know the best times are ahead, especially once this November arrives!

– Rob

Twitter: @ReclaimerRob
Gamertag: Reclaimer Rob

A highlight from 2017’s post-media briefing event, recorded by @miDnIghtEr20C: