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Reach out and insult someone

Recently my girlfriend bought me – and apparently now “us” – an XBox 360 video game unit, if it can still be called that.This thing is apparently the mother of all gaming units (or so said the guy in the electronics department at Target). Also, it was the only gaming unit I could find; the Nintendo Wii, released a while back, is still almost impossible to find on retail shelves. And, c’mon, the PlayStation 3 is $599. I like video games – which have come a long way since my original Coleco’s Intellivision – but not that much.All of this kind of made me wish I wouldn’t have pawned my regular XBox back in Kansas City. But, I did have my new unit – and she got me “Madden 2007” – so I was set. And, mostly because of that dude at Target, I signed up for the Internet through Comcast. I tried it out online a few times, but I wasn’t impressed. Moreover, I wasn’t impressed with the Madden. To me, it didn’t seem much different than the regular XBox version. And, it even omits a few features I liked from previous versions. What a bummer. And, after getting knocked out three times in a row by Manny Pacquiao – all 130 pounds of him – on “Fight Night: Round 3” by another gamer, I said to hell with it. Suddenly, I was back demolishing the computer on Madden, 77-14. And, how did I give up 14?I guess I wasn’t ready to be a gamer.Then, about three weeks ago, Lynn shows up with “Burnout Revenge,” a high-speed car racing game where crashing is encouraged, and even rewarded. Although I wasn’t keen on it at the beginning – I was hoping for baseball or basketball or maybe Tiger Woods golf – the thought of crashing into other online gamers became my new passion. This was just the type of instant gratification I was looking for. So I plugged my little plastic aircraft controller headphones in and entered my online derby. I quickly got into a race and finished dead last – really last, like laps behind. Hey, I figured, I just needed some practice.There were things I didn’t figure on, however. I never thought, by playing online games, that I could learn how to build something called a “flowing volcano,” which, apparently, is used – quite effectively – to smoke hash.Among the other tidbits I learned about the online gaming community. Apparently, there’s nothing to do in the United Kingdom except for drink Bass Ale and play XBox 360. There’s a 110-pound guy in West Virginia who gets threatened with knives on a daily basis by his 180-pound girlfriend. But, in his defense, he says, “That’s pretty normal for West Virginia.” There’s not a single person in the online gaming community that can do a Borat imitation. Believe me, I heard hundreds. There is a worldwide debate raging over the most reasonable and productive way to smoke herb. You got your pipers, your rollers and your bongers – take your pick. I guess there’s nothing like having five strangers hear you rip a three-foot bong. The players who create the races (for others to join) are snobs. They’ll boot you from the game if your “gamer ranking” isn’t high enough. Hey, this is serious business, people, and nobody want’s to race Mr. 75,500. The international swear of choice is “f…,” followed closely by “motherf……” My favorite, “crap,” doesn’t even rank. But I did learn to say its more vile cousin, “sh..,” in Portuguese. There coup de grâce, however, is the sheer volume of trash-talking. You got to be on your game. I thought, “This is going to require some research.” I mean, I’m going to need regional putdowns, international slams and comebacks. There are no blanket putdowns here. These people are sharp and quick, and you’ll have the whole room laughing at you before the final lap if you’re not careful.Clearly, this is not a place for kids. Too bad, because the youngest gamer I played against – who claimed to be 14 – ran circles around me and everyone else on the track. In fact, at age 31, I was probably the median age of the gamers I challenged. But age means nothing when you’re talking gamer score.Kevin Burton – gamer tag “pennyoak” – can be reached on XBox Live, or at kburton@aspentimes.com


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