Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Keep Your Head(set) in the Game

The stress of expanding to fit my enormous melon has finally proven too much for the Xbox 360 headset that came with my console. The section of bent plastic meant to keep it in place has snapped in two in such a manner that it cannot be repaired.

I haven’t been playing Madden 11 for a while so my lack of an earpiece and microphone hadn’t been much of an issue. Even when I was playing, I’d grown sick of the offensive coordinator barking in my ear. I’m a professional, damn it! This isn’t my first year in the league. I know how to check down receivers. Plus, the inability to talk back and tell him I was calling an audible because the play he just called was crap only added to my frustration.

From time to time I opened my dedicated 360 drawer to retrieve a controller and noticed that the headset was broken, I would consider going out and getting a new one. While in Best Buy one day, I even went to the 360 aisle (which I might have already been in looking at games) with the intention on picking one up. However, upon seeing that it would cost me twenty bucks, I hung it back on the display rack where I’d found it. Don’t get me wrong, twenty dollars lost wouldn’t put me in the poor house (do we still have those? Did we ever?), but it was more than I planned on spending for equipment that I rarely use.

So my gaming experience carried on, none the worse. I meandered through levels of Mega Man 10, I helped my sons begin their own Madden franchises, and even relaxed with the occasional round of Hexic. To be honest, my work schedule didn’t allow for much gaming anyway.

The other night, as my sons finished up a football game, I signed them out and signed on, intending to maybe browse the downloadable content for a while before shutting the system down. But before I could do so, I received an alert that my friend across the country was online. Further (totally non-stalking) investigation led me to find out that he was playing Modern Warfare 2.

Like a jungle cat, I sprang from my bed and ejected Madden 11. As I turned to get MW2 from the aforementioned drawer, my wife wondered what the hell was the matter. I explained that I had a small window of opportunity to kill people with a good friend and she immediately understood. You see, he has more kids than I do, so I can only imagine gaming time comes at even more of a premium for him than it does for me. To find him online playing right while I had an opportunity is the kind of thing you need to take advantage of.

With MW2 warming up in the tray and my wife’s blessing, I went back to the drawer to grab…


I examined the two pieces of the broken headset in my hands the way Lady MacBeth must have examined the blood on hers. You see, more than the opportunity to cause death and destruction in a virtual world together, I relish the free conversation I’m able to have with my old good friend during these gaming sessions. Alas, I faced the very real possibility that all would be lost due to my efforts to save twenty bucks.

At first, in futility, I held the headset against my ear with one hand like Ralphie holding his broken glasses against his face. Maybe they won’t notice! The use of only one hand, I quickly determined, would leave me practically useless. I rooted through the drawer as if I would magically find a second, not-broken-by-a-ginormous-head headset. I didn’t.

That’s when a stroke of genius arrived. I rushed downstairs and began rifling through the winter hats near my front door. As I found pinks and purples belonging to my wife and hats too small for me belonging to my sons, I began to panic. Suddenly I discovered an old, barely ever used headband I had purchased. After wasting a few moments wondering why in the world I, a man who rarely ever combs his hair, would ever purchase a winter headband, the kind whose purpose is to keep your ears warm without messing your hair, I donned it and ran up the stairs. On this short journey, I lamented the fact that during my basketball career I had opted against a headband, which would have come in handy about then.

With little time to spare, I arrived back in front of my console in time to accept a request from my friend to play MW2. I tucked the earpiece of my headset beneath the headband and noted briefly as I caught sight of myself in the mirror that the tuft of hair sticking up from the headband caused me to look like Beaker from the Muppets. Still, as my wife threatened to take a picture of me, I prepared to do battle.

Except… “Hello? Hello?”

The incoming message from my friend read: “Sorry, dude, my headset is broken.”

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