A reader explains how he used the promise of an Xbox Series X to motivate his son and how long downloads almost ruined his birthday.
This story goes back to April this year, it was my boy’s sixth birthday. He’d been using my old Xbox 360 to play Lego Batman, Lego Star Wars (original and number 3), Lego Indiana Jones, and other kids games. He also had a bash at some of my old back catalogue. Unfortunately, the Xbox really started to show its age and the ability to purchase new games was getting harder and sometimes what arrived was an unplayable scratched disc.
This also coincided with the controller battery backs dying, the controllers wearing out and his friends at school all talking about the latest games they were playing on their various consoles. He begged and begged to get a new games console. I asked what one he’d like and he wanted the new Xbox, he just had this thing that gaming to him was an Xbox and he wanted the new one. I tried offering the Switch but he just wanted the Xbox.
So after discussions with the wife and looking online we settled on the Xbox Series X, the biggest reasons were the larger storage and the fact it had a physical drive, so we could load the old Xbox 360 games on it. Being a six-year-old his concept of how much things cost doesn’t really exist and when downloading something he doesn’t understand the true value of it. However, if he physically buys something and hands over hard cash he feels he has bought something. This we learned via his tablet he has.
The other bonus was it was more powerful and around this time devs were complaining about the lack of power in the Xbox Series S. Now we can’t just go and buy a child a £500 games console plus the inevitable accessories for Christmas (he was asking in October/November for it), as we’d already sorted his Xmas presents with one such present being a new bike. So we said he could for his birthday but – a big but – he would have to earn half the cost.
We set out a star pot, every star put in the pot was worth a pound, to earn the £1 he’d have to do helpful stuff around the house, like feed the cat. He’d get a couple of stars just for being very well behaved and he also earned stars for good school reports, school certificates, etc. So it was game on from November through to his birthday in April.
He worked so hard to earn that money in time for his birthday, the week before his birthday he managed to earn £250 stars (this was quite literally the easiest six months of parenting we’ve had and likely will ever have, any slight misbehaviour the threat of us taking a few stars away would gain instant obedience). So, the day of his birthday I phoned the local game store to make sure they had stock.
We took him for pizza lunch round the corner to the game store, he wolfed his pizza down so fast he finished before me and without any messing around (this is quite a feat for a six-year-old) he even insisted we skip pudding (if anyone knows my boy they know that never happens even, if he’s ill he must have pudding) the little mite was so excited at finally getting this new Xbox.
So we go and collect it, he’s beaming from ear to ear, telling everyone we pass it’s his birthday and he’s just got a new Xbox. We get home set it up and…
Download update… No option to skip.
We live in a village, the broadband is OK but not really suited to downloading thinks quickly, it’s barely fast enough to watch 4K Netflix.
Finally it downloads, then there is approximately another 30-45 minutes of setup and account loading and parental controls, etc. Finally put in the physical copy of the new Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga and it asks to confirm we want the Xbox Series X version installed, I click yes… to my dismay this then starts a download. Despite the box advising it was for Xbox Series X, it transpired it only had the Xbox One version on the disc and the Series X version was a digital download.
I tried all I could to change my decision but, alas, there appeared no way to just use what was stored on the disc and we had to wait for the download to complete. We tried other games while we were waiting but guess what? They all had to have downloads as well, even the old Xbox 360 games we needed special downloads to make them work.
My boy was doing his pieces by this point, all he wanted to do was play Lego Star Wars on his new games console on his birthday. Three and a half hours later, after having got it home, he finally managed to start playing. However, he only got 40 minutes before then having to go to bed due to the time. I’ve never felt so bad.
I felt like a terrible parent, we couldn’t extend his bedtime further as he was just so exhausted from the excitement and stress of the day. So me and the wife agreed that the next day he could play on it all day to make up for it (it was a result for me as I got to play with him for the whole day).
Why can’t games consoles be like the old days? I had a Mega Drive, a Saturn, a PlayStation, original Xbox, and various others – and they just worked. Within 20 minutes of getting home it was plugged in and running, the games generally just worked. The Xbox 360 was the same if you didn’t connect it to the internet, it just worked without the need for a download.
Following the above I could go on about my disdain for the poor health of the gaming industry today but best I leave it here for now.
By reader Ricky
PS: The Xbox is still used as a behavioural tool, if he plays up at school he loses the Xbox, if he plays up at home he loses the Xbox. Purchasing the Xbox was an awful lot of money but overall it’s actually been quite a good investment (although we could do with less downloading requirements).
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