The Microsoft Tech that Saved Christmas

Last night, our 18-month-old kidlet was in the mood to have me play a video game. I know this because he handed me an Xbox 360 controller and pointed emphatically at the television. Since I wasn’t doing anything else and it was a welcome break from the near-constant barrage of Scooby-Doo! episodes, I decided to acquiesce.

I fired up the system. It indicated that the drive was empty, which didn’t seem right to me; I usually leave a game in for impulse play. I opened the drive; sure enough, Onechanbara was in there. Just as well, that’s a bit too violent for the toddler, so I put in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts.

The Xbox indicated that the drive was empty. Uh-oh.

At this point, the toddler was cuddled up to me on the couch, waiting expectantly. I asked my wife to try a third disk; this wound up being PGR4. Same deal. Hmph.

Since the kidlet wanted me to play something, we switched to the Wii and I played Scooby-Doo! First Frights (at least it wasn’t the TV show) for a level, halfway through which the toddler fell asleep.

Afterwards, I did a quick Google for the Xbox 360 problem, and Google fairly universally told me that the DVD drive was broken, and that Xbox 360 drives are coupled with the box so they can’t be easily swapped out by the end-user.

Since we’ve got a Kinect waiting as a Christmas present, this left us in a sketchy position. We could take the Kinect back and buy a Xbox-Kinect bundle, which would cost us $150 more (which we don’t have, naturally), or I could see about sending the current Xbox back for a repair or replacement, which would probably cost around $100.

I decided to call Xbox just to make sure our dire circumstance was really as dire as it looked. I approached the conversation as if it were a done deal. After waiting through the usual “unusually high call volume” message, I got Margie (who sounded very vaguely Indian, but maybe not).

I told Margie my DVD drive was broken and I needed to find out how much it would cost to repair or replace. She asked me to describe the problem, which I did. She told me we had to go through some trouble-shooting steps first. I rolled my eyes but patiently obeyed.

First we went through the standard documentation rigmarole: Name, address, email, serial number, and so on. Everything was double checked. I spelled my gamertag; she read it back using the military alphabet code, bolstering my opinion that she’s Indian (how many American know the code?). She said “Lima,” as in the capital of Chile, not “lima,” as in the bean. Although she did use “Universe” and not “Uniform,” so she wasn’t perfect.

At any rate, we got to the troubleshooting. First question: Is it doing this with multiple disks? Yes, I’ve tried three. Eye roll.

Second step: Clear out the cache. She stepped me, painfully slowly, through the process of getting to my memory cache, then read me a script about how this wouldn’t destroy any of my saved games or accomplishments, but I’d have to re-download any game updates. Yes, whatever, sure, Я не дурак. I do understand the painful slowness and script reading are because they have to approach the call as if every caller has minimal knowledge, but it’s annoying for those of us who can fly through basic IT instructions.

I cleared my cache. I turned off my machine. I turned it back on, expecting to have the same experience.

Instead, PGR4 started up and told me I had an update to download, which I did. Then PGR4 restarted. I swapped it out for Banjo-Kazooie, partially because Marge told me to try a second game and partially because I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. It, too, told me to download my update.

Wowie zowie.

So hopefully that’s all it was. I’m crossing my fingers that we won’t have another incident between now and when it’s time to install the Kinect. I’m also very impressed that I had a positive, user-friendly experience with a Microsoft tech. So hurray for Marge.

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