How Not to Deal With The Red Ring of Death


I’d had a long day Googling synonyms for penis, when I sat down for some much deserved rest. I poured myself a beer, settled back into my armchair and grabbed my trusty Xbox 360 controller. I hit the power button, mentally preparing myself to spend the next hour being called synonyms for penis by 14-year-old boys. A lot of people complain about that kind of treatment from Xbox Live, but hell – some guys fly all the way to Bangkok just to experience it legally – I try to think of it as an honor. There was a loud beep I’d never heard before, and the screen froze.


Right at my favorite mission, too. “That’s odd,” I said to my dogs (because I’m so, so lonely). “I wonder whatever that could be.” The controller wasn’t responding anymore, so I reluctantly got up from my chair to manually press the power button like some kind of third world savage. I powered it back on, and that’s when I saw it: Three sections of the ring were lit up brilliant red, flashing with vindictive mockery. The legends were true: The Red Ring of Death.


"The Eye: that horrible growing sense of a hostile will that strove with great power to pierce all shadows of cloud, and earth, and flesh, and to see you: to pin you under its deadly gaze, naked, immovable."

“FFFFUUUUUUUUU-“ *** “-UUUUUUCK,” I finished screaming (though this was completely unrelated to the earlier scream; it happens a lot these days). “I should probably call about that Xbox thingy,” I suddenly remembered, letting the mailman up from my Flying Rage Tackle, “but we’re agreed, right? No more bills.” “I don’t make the bills,” his voice broke nervously. “That’s right: You don’t. Not anymore.” I strode manfully (that’s when you walk confidently, cock-first) into my living room and dialed the number for Xbox Support. I cleared my throat, arranged my papers in front of me, and prepared to introduce myself to the operator.


1. Start with a joke 2. Pause for laughter 3. Death threats 4. Graphic descriptions of genitals 5. Hammertime. “Hello, Xbox Support, how can I help you?” a chirpy female voice greeted me. “You RRODed me! You shafted me with your horrible RROD! You stuck your huge, throbbing RROD into my life and ejaculated ruination all over it!” “Jesus Christ!” “Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain! That’s profane!” “Wha… how, how can I help you?” “You can fucking travel back in time and build a product that works! And while you’re back there you can accidentally court and woo your own mother like Marty McFly…. “ “I don’t-” “Because you’re a motherfucker!”


"God, ever since I got out of you all I've wanted to do is get back in you." -Marty McFly, Professional Motherfucker “You seem to be upset. If we can just calm down…” “I am calm,” I screamed, punching the mouthpiece, “you fuckin’ fuck you!” “That doesn’t even make sense! Sir, please! We can resolve this, just take a breath.” I did so. “And tell me what happened.” “Well, I was just sitting aaaAAARRRRKKK ARK ARK ARK” I barked furiously at her. “Stop! Please stop! I can help!” she pleaded. “I can help you!” “That’s good! First things first: I am going to need a new Xbox. Now, I’m not unreasonable. I understand there are inherent difficulties here, so I’ll tell you what: You don’t even have to deliver it. Just call the nearest store and tell ‘em to gimme.”


"Sir, I... I don't know to give change for a 'gimme'" “Sir, I can’t do that. We have no authority over the local retailers. But we can get you a new one. Just tell me your address, and we’ll send you a pre-paid shipping label, then pack up your system and mail it to us. In three to four weeks, we’ll send you a repaired unit!” “Three to four whats?! WHATS?!” “Weeks, sir,” she answered. “Weeks?! I don’t even know what those are! I’m sorry, I don’t speak incompetent bitch. You’ll have to explain your fascinating, bizarre language to me. I’m not familiar with your culture. Tell me of your rich heritage of incompetence and bitchery, sing to me your native fucking idiot songs-“ “Sir, I-“ “PAINT ME A TAPESTRY SO THAT I MIGHT EXPERIENCE THE BEAUTIFUL ART OF THE INCOMPETENT BITCH PEOPLE.” “Good god, sir!”


The two gators represent luck and misfortune, while the sun-spear idol represents what a tragically ineffective bitch you are. “You will give me video games right now!” I demanded, standing on the dining room table and pounding my fists on the ceiling, like a completely reasonable person. “Sir, the best I can do is two to four weeks, but I assure you it is free of charge. We’re very sorry that–“ “God, shut up. Your mouth is like my mother’s vagina.” “I don’t… I don’t understand…” “It’s just a hole that disappointments come out of.” “Oh god, I don’t know if I’m offended, disgusted or sorry for you.” “That’s what she said.” “That is what I said,” she said. “Goddammit, don’t tell me what you said: If I wanted to know your opinion, I’d beat it out of you.”


Pictured: A public opinion survey. “Didn’t you just tell me not to take the Lord’s name in vain?” “Don’t tell me what I said, either! Listen: OK. Let’s take a step back here.” “Oh, yes! Yes, let’s do that sir.” “Yeah, actually I need to take two or three steps back to get enough room TO JUMPKICK THIS PHONE.” I didn’t hear her rebuttal at that point, because I bought some stupid piece of shit Japanese phone that can’t even take a measly jumpkick, but I got the feeling the situation was not going to be resolved to my liking--considering that “my liking” involved significantly more fire than HR was likely comfortable with. No, there was no point relying on Microsoft--the same people that engineered (and kept manufacturing systems with) the problem--to fix it again. What was I supposed to do? They had a monopoly on murder simulation. I couldn’t buy a Wii because I’m not a child molester, and I can’t game on the PC because I can’t do advanced physics calculations in my head.


" you just carry the video card and multiply by the number of DivX's and then... just fuck it: Go play Nintendo." But wait… weren’t there rumors? Hushed whispers in seedy back alleys about a competitor for the Xbox. Some washed up old hack who used to be king, and was now supposedly coming back to the fight with something to prove, like the console equivalent of Rocky? That's right! The Playstation 3! There were alternatives, no matter how unseemly. I hadn’t emptied my Swear Jar in nearly a week, so I grabbed two fistfuls of 20s from it and sprinted out my front door, down the street. *** Navigating the sea of anachronistic nerds that always occupy the local game store (seriously, guys, where do you come from? I haven’t seen a nerd in real life since 1992, and I think that might’ve been a Halloween costume), I grabbed a dusty, long-forgotten PS3 box from the haphazard pile in the alley behind the store and made my way back to the checkout stand.


Nerds: Do they just spring from Gamestops fully formed, like Smurfs from mushrooms?

“Would you like to sign up for our Blaster Points card?” the pushy virgin-king at the register asked me. “No.” “Would you like to pre-order Sports Game 12: The Sportsiest today?” “No.” “Would you be interested in signing up for our Rad Game Masters embarrassing newsletter this eveni-“ *** After 42 more minutes of intense personal questioning that culminated in a full prostate exam, I was allowed to make my purchase and leave the store. Upon returning home, and after taking a searing hot shame-shower, I plugged in my new system and navigated the many set-up menus, high off the smell of new plastic and giddy with gadget-euphoria. When it was all ready, I signed onto the high-tech, MMO-like virtual reality service that was the Playstation’s version of Xbox Live. I was floored by the potential. A whole other world constructed just for gaming! Why, with a place like this you could seamlessly integrate a multimedia center with strangers half a continent awa- Where the fuck is everybody? There wasn’t a soul in sight; absolutely no trace of human occupation. Jesus, it was like Wyoming up in there.


He... hello? Hello? Did I do something wrong? Is this purgatory? Was that a tumbleweed? Did they virtually render a tumbleweed just to mock me? Is this supposed to be the post-apocalyptic level that illustrates the crushing loneliness of a world built for habitation, when all the people have long since passed on? After several hours, days maybe (in a world devoid of culture, what meaning has time?) of wandering through empty malls, deserted movie theaters, vacant bowling alleys and eerily silent plazas, my heart skipped a beat at what I saw. Was that a person? My god, it could be! The figure was far-removed--impossibly distant--but there was definitely something there. Oh God, please let this be real and not a hallucination brought on by the solitary weight of despair. If only I could reach him! All the personal connections I took for granted on that other gaming platform, all the opportunities to form a meaningful bond between human beings I'd wasted – not here! Here I would savor those chances! Here in this desolate wasteland, where human companionship is the most valuable currency, our empathy would be driven by necessity. Friendship, by its very scarcity, would have meaning again!


I will never again take humanity for granted! Please, I'm so terribly alone! Wait, he was stopping. He saw me! A friend! I had found a friend! A companion to stave off insanity! “My fellow man,” I desperately typed, “I thought you were a vision! A hopeful hallucination too cherished to be real! Hail and welcome, friend! I never thought I’d be so happy to see another human being!” A long, insufferable moment passed as I awaited his reply. I would have to be patient; we had so much to say! Not like Xbox Live, where human companionship was cheap and words were quickly thrown away like verbal garbage. This place would be different! “Lolz,” came the response, 15 minutes later. “Fagzor.” I wish I could tell you what he said next, but apparently the Japanese can’t fucking build anything to withstand even the most half-hearted, heartbroken of jumpkicks.

You can pre-order Robert's book, Everything is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead on Amazon, or find him on Twitter, Facebook and his own site, I Fight Robots, where you can find more new bitching about old news!

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