As incredible as it may seem to some veteran gamers, the Xbox 360 is now 10 years old.
Launched on 22 November in the US and 2 December in Europe, Microsoft’s second console arrived at a time in which HD televisions were just about taking off, and broadband internet connections were accelerating. Consequently, while the PlayStation 3 floundered in development hell, it was the 360 that brought in a new era of high-definition, highly connected play.
It was the Xbox 360 that really brought seamless social gaming to the console space. Although previous consoles had included internet connectivity, Microsoft made Xbox Live the centre of the gaming experience, providing players with intuitive online multiplayer experiences, as well as the ability to chat with friends as they played. The arrival of the Gamerscore and achievement points also brought a new high-score metric to gaming, giving owners a chance to compare themselves with their mates, and providing developers with a new way to get players really exploring their worlds.
It was on Xbox 360 that we saw the rise of the online multiplayer shooter, at first through strategy co-op greats like Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter and then through the increasingly dominant Call of Duty series. Here too we saw some great Microsoft exclusives flourishing – Gears of War, Forza Motorsports, Left 4 Dead – as well as the explosion of digital indie titles, through the likes of Braid and Geometry Wars.
For me, there have been many standout moments. The endless hours of tense GR:AW missions with three increasingly exhausted friends; marvelling at the humour and genius or Portal 2; laughing in disbelief through Bulletstorm (still one of the greatest shooters ever made); crawling through the undergrowth in Call of Duty 4’s seminal All Ghillied Up level; the wrenching sadness of The Walking Dead; the beauty and depth of emotion in Enslaved Odyssey to the West.
But mostly, the Xbox 360, for me, will be the place I discovered Minecraft. I’d heard about it before, of course, but at a Microsoft preview event just before the game’s release on the console, I sat down with producer Rog Carpenter who patiently gave me a tour of the game, and I remember saying that my young son would like it. I did not know then the journey that was opening up ahead of us.
Games consoles are always about more than mere technology, more than the content of the games they display. We spend so long with these machines, often with friends and family, that they become part of our shared memories. Games take us back and put us together.
I will always own an Xbox 360 with Minecraft installed.
But what are your memories of this mighty machine?
This article was written by Keith Stuart, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 2nd December 2015 11.39 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010