By David Wiszniowski
This is the second entry in a trilogy of blogs (first one posted here) examining the different generations of the Xbox through a semiotic lens. This entry in concerned with the Xbox 360.
Part Two: The Xbox 360
The Xbox 360 was released November 22nd, 2005 (in North America), only four years after the release of the first Xbox gaming system. However, during those four years, Xbox had changed the style and shape of the console as well as the Xbox logo. I’ve written previously on the inherent femininity represented within the design of the Xbox, and how this femininity was not sweet and coy, but instead powerful, sexy and dangerous. With the next evolution of the Xbox, I will explore whether or not this comparison is still applicable by once again focusing on the Xbox console and logo.
In the first entry of this series, I made reference to the Xbox’s feminine symbolism but comparing it to an egg. The console for the Xbox 360 however, was very different. The femininity in this console is understated, however it remains apparent if you examine the structure of the console.
The first thing we can notice about the 360 console are the changes made to its shape and functionality. Where the previous version was boxy and surrounded by hard edges, the 360’s curvature softens the violent nature of its predecessor. I don’t believe it is coincidence that the Xbox 360 has a rounded, hour-glass frame and instead see another instance of anthropomorphism. Similarities can be drawn here in reference to the female form and anatomy yes, but what happened to the Xbox’s Amazonian nature? Has it been replaced with a more sexualized version of femininity within the second generation console?
The answer to these questions requires a second glance at the front of the 360. It too has an interior green glow; however it is much less pronounced. The sense of alien power in this instance comes only from the power button. Again, references can be made to the symbolism of the egg as a feminine vestige. I believe it should be noted that the power button on the system is purposefully placed low on the Xbox 360, and is situated near the ‘hips’ or widening base of the systems frame. Here we have a more sexually overt sense of playfulness where the gamers are concerned. Where in the original console, we were unsure of the power emerging forth from the top of the Xbox; here we simply fiddle with a button to turn her on. However, I suppose that’s what we wanted from her, we’ve traded in the boxy, dangerous Xbox, for a newer, sexier and more powerful version. And, now that we’ve got her, we just want to play. She has also lost her sense of motherhood with it introduction of the wireless controller, remaining unattached in all senses of the word.
To me, this represents the loss of the Xbox’s foreign and dangerous femininity in order to create a more supple and sensationalized experience for the gamer. Elements of the originals Xbox femininity still exist, primarily in bright, spherical power button which pays homage to the egg in its womblike placement, but also inspires a more sexual allegory. I guess what I’m trying to say here then, is that the Xbox 360 has lost her sense of danger. With the original Xbox, it was unclear whether or not she wanted to devour an individual sexually, or mortally. With the Xbox 360, her intentions are clear.
The Xbox logo also evolved in tandem with the release of the Xbox 360. Here too we can see the loss of the dangerously seductive elements present within the first generations logo.
The first change we notice is the color, the black , square logo that seemed to have some sort of creature bursting from it, has been replaced with a lighter sphere which is spreading open much more than it is being broken through. Thus our minds are drawn to a more blooming and gently opening aspect of the 360 than they are to the hatching, clawing emersion coming from the original Xbox console. Again, this sphere can be compared to an egg, but I think what it is truly trying to represent is a seed, which once more has strong sexual connotations in linguistic circles. The font here has been rounded, and is more refined than the previous logo, losing its other-worldly imagery in the process.
With the introduction of the Xbox 360, it is clear that the Xbox’s femininity is under attack, that is not to say that the 360 isn’t also inherently feminine, but it is the type of femininity embodied with the separate systems that is changing.
As the Xbox becomes sexier, it loses its dangerous draw, thus in my opinion losing its woman-hood more so than its femininity. With the release of the Xbox One released, it will be interesting to see if the heightened sexuality will remain a trend, if the Xbox will go back to her dark origins, or if the company will produce something entirely different in nature.
The Xbox One will be analyzed in the final entry of this series on Xbox semiotics.