By: Michael Beiter
Twenty years ago today, Microsoft released the first Xbox entertainment system.
I grew up playing video games. My brother is eight years older than me, and we pooled money or would-be Christmas gifts together to get whatever the latest and greatest gaming system was. Initially, Nintendo dominated. We had all the Playstations as well. But in 2001, I converted to Microsoft and have been a loyal fan ever since.
This year I spent several thousand dollars building my dream PC right after buying the newest Microsoft console, the Xbox Series X.
Until I was well into adulthood, I felt terrible about being a ‘gamer.’ Parents and coaches throughout my youth believed in the stigma that video games rotted the brain and led to violence or delinquency.
They could not have been further from the truth. Today, video games are used to teach resilience and problem-solving. Several of the colleges in my state have E-sports programs that award scholarships to students with exceptional abilities in digital spaces, the same way they pay student-athletes who perform on physical playing fields. There are Ph.D. programs in multiple branches of video game study. My favorite is video game psychology. The leaders in the field use games to teach those with traumatic brain injuries how to think again.
In November of 2005, the Xbox 360 was released. I was a sophomore in high school. The night of the release, there was a giant party at one of my buddies’ houses. The line of cars stretched around the block. I dropped a couple of my friends off as they begged me to come with them. Fortunately for me, no persuasion was going to convince me to skip release night. I told them to have fun and that I would see them the next day; my 360 was sitting in the backset, ready to be opened.
I played Xbox into the wee hours of the morning that night. More than a dozen of my friends were given citations for underage drinking and had to sit out several sports games as a result. They drank the night away, and before they could stumble home, they had over a dozen Urbandale police knocking on their door. I dodged a bullet thanks to Xbox.
My mom would later go on to tell me that she secretly loved every second of it. Here were all the upstanding athletes and studs of our high school athletics teams getting into trouble while her ‘nerd gamer’ son chose to play with tech instead. “I may not have understood what the gaming thing was all about. But the one thing I did know was that it kept you in my home, safe and away from the troubles and temptations of youth.”
Twenty years later, I’m still playing. So are many friends that were busted that night which are now a couple of decades wiser.
Our father’s card table night is not mirrored with our generation. Instead, we meet on digital playing fields in the comfort of our own cribs while we chat and laugh together.
I attribute success in my business, where I help people eat and exercise better through an app to early tech adoption. I am sure this would not be possible without my gaming roots and Microsoft.
So here is a nod to the gamers, the nerds, and those who may prefer digital space to physical.
Microsoft rules. So does gaming.
Pictured here is the original Xbox, released in 2001, the Xbox 360 (I had 4 of these, thanks to red-ring of death), released in 2005, the Xbox One, released in 2013, and the Xbox Series X, released in 2020.
Twenty years down. Fire up twenty more.