You’d think that, being a Videogame Journalist Extraordinaire and All-Around Cool Guy (it says so on my personal Web site, so you know it must be true), I would know everything about the Xbox 360. You’d be wrong. True, I can rattle off a selection of the system’s hit games, its pros and cons versus competing systems, its various retail configurations and their features and prices, and lots of other information ranging from important to trivial.

But being a game journalist means there’s one perspective on the Xbox I struggle with: that of a normal videogame consumer.

While I did buy my first Xbox 360 (a Pro system) at retail, Microsoft has since sent me the upgraded Elite system, a debug unit to play unreleased games, three of my four Xbox 360 controllers, and enough Xbox Live Gold membership cards to last me through 2012. A majority of the games I play on the Xbox 360 are provided by publishers hoping I’ll review them, and the nature of my job lets me play games during the work day, rather than just during free time. All these things skew my experience with the system in some small way. Intellectually I know the true costs of the Xbox 360; but personally, I’m shielded from having to make the tough economic decisions most gamers face every day.

Which is why I’m grateful for my family. In the past six months, my sister and cousin, both teenagers, have gone through the process of purchasing Xbox 360s. Throughout this process, they both consulted me, the videogame expert in the family, for advice on everything, from what hardware they need to what games to buy. The process of guiding them into the world of a new (and, as you’ll see, somewhat bewildering) game system made me realize some things about the Xbox 360 that I hadn’t considered before.

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