By David Wiszniowski
This is the third and final entry of a series of blogs in which I focus on the semiotics associated with the different generations of Microsoft’s Xbox. This blog concerns the latest Xbox to hit the market, the Xbox One. If you haven’t read the first two entries of this series I recommend starting with the Xbox and then progressing towards the Xbox 360.
Part Three: The Xbox One
The Xbox One is scheduled to launch its Day One edition on November 22nd, 2013. As of now, all Day One editions and Standard editions of the console are sold out, with some saying that the next shipment of Standard editions will not be available for purchase until December. The Xbox webpage heralds the arrival of the Xbox One as a “new generation of games and entertainment. Where games push the boundaries of realism. And television obeys your every command. Where listening to music while playing a game is a snap. And you can jump from TV to movies to music to a game in an instant. Where your experience is custom tailored to you. And the entertainment you love is all in one place”. However, this article is not concerned with all of the ‘cool’ things the new machine can do. When I left off in the blog I wrote about the Xbox 360, I touched on how, from a semiotic perspective, the machine was changing, or even losing much of the inherent femininity. In terms of the Xbox One, it is apparent that the raw, dangerous sexuality – which was originally a defining attribute for the system – has been replaced with a clean, streamlined and definitively masculine nature.
Simply by looking at the Xbox One’s console, one can already see that the feminine element of its predecessors is nowhere to be found. Gone are the days of the seductively terrifying green thing breaking through the machine, as well as the highly sexualized and curvaceous hour-glass figures with their anthropomorphised, anatomically referenced power ‘button’s. Instead, what we are presented with is a box, literally.
Straight lines and hard edges have always been a reference to the masculine in terms of semiotics. While I could give a thousand examples, the one that first comes to mind is that of a sword (the sword and the sheath is its own semiotic analysis, and that’s a different article). Similar to a sword however, the Xbox One is made up of gleaming, glossy elements, even with its own metallic accents adorned on the front of the machine. Even the ‘curve’ of the machine (from the bottom of the consoles face to its base) has been left intentionally angular, making the feminine nature of the Xbox or Xbox 360 seem as though they are merely distant memories.
The Xbox logo, also featured on the face of the machine, is now a solid, silvery-metallic etching. The green, with its undertones of seductive power throughout the consoles lineage, has been replaced. Instead, players are greeted with a stark, strong Xbox emblem when they first set eyes on the machine. This machine is a beast. The Amazonian instincts that go hand in hand with the femininity of the previous Xbox’s have been replaced with an inherently male warrior. Gleaming armour and powerful clashes of black and silver make the console masculine in the eyes of the beholder.
The Xbox One also retains its now masculine appearance with the introduction of different textures on its façade. The once smooth machine is now rough and segmented. This juxtaposition of the smooth and the hard is, in itself, a masculine aspect. Again here, the gamer is presented with a series of hard edges, opposed to the relative soft and flowing appearance of the Xbox 360.
So, the Xbox One is masculine. But why the change? Why lose the femininity that has been so successful for the brand throughout its history. The answer to these questions can be summed up in stating that the Xbox One is simply a manlier machine. Throughout my other postings on subjects surrounding the femininity of different Xbox’s, I’ve never actually mentioned the mechanical aspects of the machines. The Xbox and the Xbox 360 are feminine because, despite appearance, you have to slip a disk into the machine to play with it. They are self-contained machines, complete with a design to protect what they hold inside. The Xbox One however, is not like this at all.
The Xbox One is an outward machine, it can interact with other devices externally, which also aids in making it a projection of masculinity. It is capable of ‘erecting’ bonds with other machines, and has the ability to move itself in and out of different devices. The machine is more about ‘overpowering’ than it is about power. As I said before, the machine is a beast; a strong, brutish, hostile, mechanical and intrinsically male beast.
The Xbox logo has undergone some minor changes (even though no change is minor in semiotics) from the advent of the 360 to the introduction of the Xbox One. I have already touched on the stark metallurgy of the logo on the machine itself, but what of the logo associated with the company? Has that also taken on a masculine nature?
As you can see, no, not really. The logo had lost its alien and predatory green with the introduction of the 360, and currently, doesn’t appear to be very different. There is however, still a significant difference in the shading of the circle (which I’ve previously compared to an egg) and the colour of the word “Xbox”. We are now presented with a deeper, forest green in lieu of a green which brings up emotions of a foreign terror. The ‘egg’ itself has become white, again inferring the stark nature of contrasting colours.
While writing this blog I tried to come up with a reason for the deeper green, and part of me wanted to infer that it was just to keep up with the Xbox history. However, when I wrote that it was a forest green, not five minutes ago, I was struck by the image of an armoured knight slaying a dark wolf, or beast, in a forest. Now, it’s important to note that I’m not a trained semiotician, and also that part of my job last month was playing World of Warcraft. However, I think that this may have been what Xbox One was going for. A deep forest is often where you kill monsters in different games, and being that the Xbox One is a monstrous powerhouse in itself, the colour variance in the new logo could have some underlying influence of ‘the white, killing the black, in the green’. Or, it could just be because Xbox One wanted to be less feminine, but still wanted to keep its company traditions.
That about sums it up, I don’t have much more to say on the subject and probably won’t until the next Xbox makes its debut. That said, I am excited to see where the company takes the device in a semiotic context. Will we see more masculine versions of the console come from Microsoft? Or, will we continue to fade in and out between one gender and the other. Knowing Xbox, it will probably be something completely different, but I look forward to it nonetheless.