My Xbox One has been precariously balanced on top of a stack of books for almost two weeks and will probably stay that way for several more because I am a monster with a million other things on his to-do list.
I’d like to say I originally saw this set-up as an art installation, a video game console posing as a work of found object art, but to be honest I stopped thinking about it three minutes after I stuck it there. I didn’t think about it again until I had a bunch of people over for a New Year’s Eve party that several people commented on how totally messed up it was and reminded me that I should probably take care of that. I then proceeded not to.
Of course, there are reasons for why this is my current Xbox one setup, but while they explain the phenomenon in a neat and tidy chain of cause and effect, they fail to offer up any deeper, more satisfying logic. My partner’s parents were visiting for the holiday and wanted to watch a movie. None of the movies on Hulu, the only major streaming app on Nintendo’s Switch, looked any good. My partner’s dad remembered that 6 Underground, a $150 million dollar car crash starring Ryan Reynolds, was a thing and suggested we watch that. But it was only on Netflix. Tired, indecisive, and wanting to be a good host, I ran upstairs and grabbed my Xbox One out of my home office so we could watch director Michael Bay light Netflix’s cash on fire.
I might have tried to find a better spot for the Xbox had it not immediately balanced so perfectly atop hardbound copies of Gertrude Stein’s Three Lives and Mark Greif’s Against Everything. The mantel above my fireplace is barely half a foot deep, so I had to sit the console at an angle, and because it has a big, fat, external power supply in the middle of its power cord, I had to let that dangle in mid-air like some brutalist clock pendulum. The cord still didn’t reach the power outlet, though, so I also had to use a surge protector to meet it the last part of the way. I did all of this in about 30 seconds.
My partner’s parents departed on December 23. After that, I had several days off from work, during which I could have figured out what to do with my goddamn Xbox. Those days came and went. Instead of taking it back up into my office, I watched all eight glorious episodes of The Witcher, used the disc drive to play some blu-rays, and even used the holiday doldrums to dip my toes into Age Of Wonders: Planetfall because playing games on my couch in my living room feels more comfortable and less isolating, even if it means barely being able to read the words that are appearing on my TV screen.
Then on December 31 at approximately 10:45 p.m., some friends took me aside and told me I really needed to stop this madness. First someone pointed and squinted their eyes. Another person unintentionally replicated the white guy blinking GIF. “Ethan, is that...what I think it is,” one said. “What the hell dude?!” Another person took a Polaroid to mark my shame in material form for posterity. Two days later, the Xbox One has not moved.
While other human beings are sharing beautiful pictures of their gaming setups, some simple, others maximalist, all of them sensible, to mark the start of a new year and a new decade, I’m still grappling with this mini-organizational disaster of 2019. And you know why? Because it fucking works. While my partner might take wire cutters to the power cord if I don’t do something about it soon, the truth of the matter is that the leaning black obelisk effect suits me. I’m still figuring out my ideal office setup for 2020, so it’s nice having the Xbox One out of the way while I rearrange stuff. It’s also nice having it hooked up to the ethernet cord while I clear out my hard drive and re-download games I haven’t finished but still plan to.
Mostly I like knowing that my Xbox One is in a position it cannot possibly stay in for much longer, forcing my hand in a way that wouldn’t happen if I properly sat the console directly on the mantel, power brick properly attached to an extension cord. It’s the gaming equivalent of leaving boxes in front of the stairs that need to go up to the attic. Sooner or later I’ll have to deal with them. Surely there’s no way I’ll spend the next 12 months simply stepping over them.