Xbox avatar hellspawn

Posted September 27th 2009

So Halo 3 ODST arrives in the post and I stick it into the 360. Boy am I gonna give those covies a pasting - or so I imagine. But the first thing that happens is that I get a notice saying that to play this game an update needs to be applied to my Xbox, and do I wish to continue. Er, it's not like I have much choice is it? Yes, do the darned update then. I hit the button, and I'm glad to see that at least I don't have to connect to Xbox Live. Pretty soon it's completed and my 360 relaunches.

There's some unnecessarily brash graphics and music, but that's not the worst of it, not by a long shot. Moments later I'm shrinking back in disbelief at what my Xbox Experience has become. It's become… a mind-numbingly ghastly TV show for three-year-olds! A horde of repulsively eager childlike characters run onto the screen, and with mounting horror I see that the Xbox is asking me to pick one as an avatar. No, it's forcing me to pick one! Apparently it's required. Surely this can't be happening. Has somebody mixed up the software and accidentally put something from the Nintendo Wii onto my disc? That's what it looks like to me. United in their vapid happy-faced smiles on their ghastly oversized bubble heads, there's nothing to choose from among these creepy little dweeboids. Beaming with mindless sugar-coated expressions of joy, they're the perfect encouragement for a person to take up devil worship, just as a means of trying to redress the balance. They're uniformly repellent. I seek in vain across the screen for a button marked "Battle Rifle" that would allow me put these animated horrors out of their misery. Ok maybe I'd just fire warning shots first to see if they'd run off - I'm nothing if not fair - but sadly there's no such button to be had, and the grenade trigger isn't working either. Damn, what I wouldn't give for a few frags right now.

The accompanying toddler music is perhaps even more nauseating if that's possible. Mere seconds of it are more than I can stand. I can feel it seeping into my brain like a virus of sickly thought-destroying goo. Out of fear for my musical sensibilities I hit the mute button forthwith. Relief! Ok that's one problem dealt with, but the trial is far from over. Gritting my teeth I try to cast my eyes across the dreadful moppet horde, but there's not a one of them I can bring myself to click on. The indignity is too great. I especially don't want to click on one of those five-year-old girl moppets, for fear someone might call the police in! Click on any one of these obnoxious little monsters and he or she is going to rise up off the ground in beaming mirthful ecstasy, apparently so happy to be selected. By YOU, ya stinkin' great child molester! Yes, you with your perverted button pushing ways! I don't know about you but I find it bloody disturbing. It's like you'd want to make sure you do this behind closed doors in case anyone got the wrong idea - and even then you'd be worried the police were going to turn up in a few minutes and kick the door down.

I try to delay the inevitable. Unable to bring myself to select any of these prancing abominations, I notice a button which apparently lets me see more. Oh my stars, somehow they've got me wanting to see more of 'em? So I hit the button. On the positive side, the aforementioned horrors run off. Is it wrong for me to hope they didn't notice the 18-wheeler coming down the highway at the time? :) On the minus side, another group of jaunty bubble-headed moppets run onto the screen, and damn me if they're not even worse! I hit the button again and again, but it's always the same. Cutesy little dweeboids every one, with not a redeeming feature among them. Apparently there's a never ending supply of 'em. My guess, they're being ferried up straight from the depths of hell. Or are they being dredged up from the darkest corners of loathing within my mind? Is that it? Did the update actually install a beta of that 'Natal' technology I've heard about - Prenatal I guess we'd call it - and it can pick up stuff from my head? Worrying news indeed - I'd been hoping to keep a lot of that secret! Curse this freaky technology!

But whether it's Microsoft's thought-probing masterplan or the Beelzebub connection incarnate, I soon realize there can be no good ending to this hateful procession of cutesy avatar hellspawn. With each press of the button I'm hoping I might get something different, but it's clear that I'd have as much luck waiting for passing clouds to spell the message "Flip-Yap says Hi". There's no law of physics ruling it out exactly, but you sense that it just ain't gonna happen. Or at the very least you'll be late home for tea. So I finally bite the bullet and settle on the least repulsive character I can find. This one actually looks older than a kid, but from the look on his face he's still just as dopey in the head as the rest of 'em. No danger of any individuality there - this guy is a class A nitwit from the Lower Simpleton district of Wallyville. Looks like he's been fed the same vanilla coated happy-pills as everyone else. Probably the Wallyville authorities are sneaking them into the breakfast cereal or something.

In a moment of interactive weakness I take him to the haberdashery department to try and neutralize some of the cutesy-factor. Admittedly my search isn't too thorough - I'm already straining my psychological limits by now and feel an increasingly pressing need to have some heavy weaponry in my hands - but everything I see in the wardrobe looks casual and bland. Just as you'd expect! Ok then we'll bland him up. I give him some casual and bland trousers - just because his current ones are way too jaunty - and a different pair of casual and bland shoes. Then I manage to hide some of his features with a pair of glasses - the best improvement yet. He's as pleased as punch. You'd think I'd just given him a winning lottery ticket or something - but hey, that's nitwits for ya! Tragically there's no option to also tar and feather him - that might wipe the grin off his face - but one can always hope for an update.

I'm pretty sure my guy's name is Bob. 'Cutesy Bob', lurking there on my 360, waiting to pop out at any moment. I'm not quite sure when that'll be, but if you happen to see him and you've got a battle rifle handy… well, be my guest! Don't hesitate just because he's meant to represent yours truly. I distance myself from this slack-trousered bozo with all the venom I can muster. I wouldn't touch him with a bargepole… unless swinging aforementioned bargepole briskly at head level. At least I saw a button for skipping that loathsome 'Welcome' section in future, and needless to say, I stabbed at it urgently as if my life depended on it. My sanity certainly does! That was their idea of a welcome? It was about as welcome as a jab to the kidneys. In fact, give me the jab to the kidneys any day; at least that won't leave any psychological scarring.

Hopefully I won't be seeing any more hordes of fresh-faced hellspawn avatars any time soon then, but just what kind of nincompoop at Microsoft thought we'd enjoy being treated like three-year-olds eh? They think that's the core audience or something? I could've sworn we were a more grown-up bunch. Oh well, I guess Microsoft knows best. Suppose I'd better think positive, go with the flow. For starters I better go back and root about in that ODST case some more, just in case the 360 team also slipped in a few nice teddy bear stickers for me. That would be super. And hey, let's look forward to the new releases I'm sure we can expect. Coming soon in the Halo franchise: Master Chief hands in his Warthog and gets a shiny green tricycle instead. With a horn. Toot Toot! Altogether now children (cue Grunt Birthday Party skull)… YAYYYY!

Today's programme was brought to you by the letter 'X' and the phrase
"mind-sucking dweeboid anomaly"