They call Xbox One the all-in-one entertainment system, but that can’t possibly be true, right? In an age where there’s a gadget to cover any human need – you can get a trouser belt that tells you when you’re getting fat – the idea of a machine that condenses ‘all’ needs into a single box would be a godsend. I raise this point to the team and am soon challenged to live an entire month on Xbox One. No phone. No PC. I’m not even meant to leave my home. Can a human possibly survive on Xbox alone?
Day 1: I survey the options available to me. I have a Domino’s Pizza app to keep me fed. I have Xbox Fitness to keep me in peak physical condition without having to set foot near a gym. As for entertainment – ha! This is the Xbox One, the unstoppable media machine that has access to games, movies and TV shows. I’ll be amazed if I ever feel boredom again. This month trapped indoors is going to be the best experience of my life.
Day 2: You don’t become the healthiest member of Team OXM by just idly watching the editors drink gravy all day. I plan to keep my health on the level by using Xbox Fitness. It’s the app icon with the unsmiling goateed man staring at you. I try not to get too intimidated and open it.
Mr Goatee McNosmiles is just the start, as even the names of these workouts are intimidating. Extreme Combat. Knockout Body. One is just called Insanity. Even calm, lovely yoga has been pumped with adrenaline, here called Yoga Inferno. I try a six-minute workout that gives me a taste of everything. A one-star taste, as that’s what I score in all disciplines from combat to jumping jacks. Well, except the Disco Warmup, where I nail a five-star ranking. I was born to dance. After six minutes, I’m told I’ve burned a whopping 39 calories. Result.
Day 3: With those 39 calories in my pocket and house supplies running out, I start to plan my weekly shop. I open the Domino’s Pizza app, put in my postcode, then peruse a wall of meat ’n’ sauce discs – it’s like food Netflix. I also buy ice cream (breakfast) to go with the pizzas (lunch, dinner, brunch, snacktime, second breakfast) and several bottles of cola (mouthwash).
Several doctors/my mum warn me this is not sensible for my health, but they’re just jealous of my delicious new life. With Xbox Fitness on my side, if anything, I am going to lose weight. I make sure to wash my clothes at higher heats so they shrink to fit my rake-thin frame. Good to be prepared.
Day 4: After a few days, I start to crave the great outdoors. The GoPro Channel is a collection of video clips, shot using head-mounted cams, that cover everything from extreme snowboarding to extreme watching-a-cat-ride-a-skateboard. Stand close to the TV and it feels like you’re really there. Suddenly I’m surfing in Hawaii, driving a Formula 1 car and running alongside the beasts of the jungle. Why did I bother to leave the house before this challenge?
Day 5: Work beckons. Using Skype, I conference call in with my editors for our issue planning meeting. I explain that since I’m stuck at home, I probably shouldn’t do any writing this issue. They strongly – some might say violently – disagree. So I pretend I can’t hear them by making crackling noises with my mouth and claim they are breaking up. They remind me that Skype is a video call, and a startlingly clear one at that. Kinect has stitched me right up.
Eventually I start pitching some brilliant features (‘Is Xbox One more fun on a luxury cruise? We sent Tom to find out!’) but a few minutes into explaining why they should pay for first class and let me be ship’s captain, something feels off. Squinting at the screen, I realise they've snuck off to play Gears 4. One of the benefits of living on Xbox One is that you can stalk your bosses through the friend list. I send a message to complain. They change their privacy settings.
Day 8: I’m starting to wonder if my all-pizza diet is such a good idea. Xbox Fitness can monitor your heartbeat. I no longer have one. That doesn’t sound healthy. With three weeks still to go, it’s time to explore other culinary options. Exploring the app store, I discover that the supermarket Sainsbury’s have an app, Sainsbury’s Entertainment. My stomach is literally screaming with joy.
Oddly, the homepage for Sainsbury’s Entertainment just has movies and TV shows, so I use the search bar and type in ‘food’. The only result is a 1992 movie called Gas Food Lodging. Desperate for grub, I pay up and download it. I’m about 90 minutes through the movie when I start to suspect this isn’t going to help me get any food. At least the story of two sisters growing up in small town America has warmed my heart. Although, that warm heart could be another symptom of eating nothing but pizza for a week.
Day 9: Obviously I have millions of friends. Unfortunately, none of my (definitely real) friends are on Xbox One. If I have any hope of someone sending me non-pizza food, I need new friends, fast. I download Overdog, an app with an idea as nice as its name is horrible. You create a profile, adding the games you play and films you like. Then Overdog matches you up with people who share similar interests. Games are a touchy subject for me right now, considering that my lack of submitted work this month could have me fired from OXM any day. So I add Gas Film Lodging, the only film I’ve ever seen.
I don’t find anyone else who shares my love of the 1992 coming-of-age drama. Pfft, who needs friends anyway, when you’ve got boxes of stale pizza and a review deadline that’s impossible to meet? Help.
Day 10: I decide to be more proactive in my hunt for friends and go to a place famed for its hospitality, Call of Duty: Black Ops III. I soon team up with a band of murderous Spanish players, but they don’t speak enough English to understand my pleas for food over Xbox Live. Luckily, there’s an app for that. Rosetta Stone is a language-learning app that would have me speaking Spanish in no time. I don’t need to be fluent. I just want to learn the words for ‘hello’, ‘friend’ and ‘Tom is starving to death, please send delicious ham’.
I start on a static picture of an airport, full of people and objects that can be interacted with. Selecting an object lets me hear the word for it in Spanish. I select a pair of jeans lying on the ground outside an airport (apparently public nudity isn’t as big a deal in Spain), and learn ‘los jeans’. After pressing repeat translation (los jeans) a few thousand times to sink it in, I realised this wasn’t going to help me ask for food. Te maldigo los jeans!
I select a cartoon of a person, and they leave their animated realm, terrifyingly transforming into a flesh-and-blood human. They start talking to me and then give a selection of words and letters to build a response from. It gives you a ridiculously limited phrasebook (a lot of the learning is through trial and error), and helps you by making these Spaniards the most patient people in the world, grinning happily at me for multiple hours as I try to remember ‘take me to the hotel’. It’s a great app, one that soon teaches me ‘la comida’ – food! Armed with two Spanish words, I close the app, proud of five days well spent.
I just don’t get it. I send my Spanish friends at least 60 messages begging ‘la comida’. But instead of receiving any food, I receive a warning from Xbox Live and my so-called ‘friends’ block me. My stomach howls with despair. Te maldigo Rosetta Stone.
Day 11: Desperate times call for desperate measures. I download the Twitch app, and try to hijack a conversation in a chatroom to see if I can get someone to send me some food:
HungryTom: Hey guys!
HungryTom: Could anyone send me some food?
HungryTom: You know, since I can’t leave the house. Gee, sure does suck being trapped inside! Amirite?
HungryTom: You know. Not being allowed to go out, having to live through the Xbox, running out of food, wishing you’d paid the water bill before taking on this challenge.
Spongebob59: is someone imprisoning you?
Dunkmeister: I’m calling the police.
That could’ve gone better. Good thing this ridiculous challenge is only until the end of the month, because I might need to be in court soon for wasting police time.
Day 12: Without access to my computer, I haven’t submitted any writing to the mag. My only hope is somehow getting my Dark Souls III review through the Xbox and into the office. My solution lies in the game – you can leave notes for other heroes online, warning of dangers ahead. All I have to do is leave 1,500 words worth of notes. Job done.
I now go into the Dark Souls III game hub and browse my shares and captures. Then I select Share and upload my beautiful creations to Twitter, making sure to tag my boss in every tweet. Unfortunately, the limited amount of words allowed in Dark Souls III’s notes makes my review tricky. I have to take out my descriptions of the combat, graphics, level design, gameplay, whether it was worth playing and what the game was called. Apart from that, though, I think the review went pretty well.
Day 16: Time to treat myself to some R&R. Between Amazon Video, Netflix and Now TV, I am spoilt for choice for streaming services on Xbox One. At least I would be, had I not blown all my streaming budget on pizza. Luckily there is one streaming service that is completely free. You don’t even need to sign up. So what’s the catch, Popcornflix?
There is no catch, so long as you have no taste. Popcornflix has a wide library of movies I’d never heard of, with titles including Who’s Your Monkey, Sherlock Bones: Ace Detective (about a detective that’s also a dog), Santa with Muscles, Dusting Cliff 7, The Prince of Kissing and Yonkers Joe. How can a movie called Yonkers Joe not be brilliant? That’s what they should’ve called Citizen Kane.
Day 18: Having confirmed that cinema is dead, I start my next fool-proof scheme to get food. Back to Xbox Live, this time with a more communal experience. Rainbow Six Siege is an excellent game about saving a hostage who’s been trapped in a building by a maniac. It’s relatable too. It relies on good communication and listening to your team-mates, which is why I use my headset to beg my fellow counter-terrorists for grub.
After I get us murdered for the 14th time, I ask my team-mates to mail me food. In exchange, I promise not to play Rainbow Six Siege again. They refuse on the grounds that parcels are expensive to post. I suggest they find foods that would comfortably fit inside a cheap envelope. How about ham or lasagne sheets? With just ten days left, I could easily ration these treasures. Sadly, no one bites – least of all me.
Day 21: My stomach skips a beat (my heart is long out of the picture) when I see an app called Crunchyroll. Crunchy rolls! Finally I’d be free of pizza. But it turns out that Crunchyroll is actually a streaming app for anime and Japanese television. It has a vast library you can watch for free, so long as you don’t mind putting up with odd ads.
One second I’m being advertised a show about flying schoolgirls, then one with glamorous shots of food. Okay, I used to enjoy food, I’m sort of getting into the groove with this and – oh lord, why is no one wearing clothes now? Anime’s confusing at the best of times, so watching quick-cut trailers for multiple shows is like being beaten to death by a screaming rainbow.
I also discover my new favourite drama, Mr Nietzsche in the Convenience Store. It’s about a man dubbed Mr Nietzsche, who works in a... Look, it’s too complicated to sum up here. Just download Crunchyroll and watch it yourself. You won’t be disappointed. Unless you were counting on the app to deliver food as much as I was.
Day 23: The boss messages me constructive feedback of my Dark Souls III review: “Redo it or you’re fired.” I’m all out of options, so it is clearly time to look for a new career. I decide to enrol at the Khan Academy. This app has lots of educational (boo!) and free (yay!) programmes designed to teach you maths, chemistry and how your body works.
After two weeks of pizza, I think it might be useful to swot up on health and medicine to see if I am going to die. Alas, learning about viruses and disease makes me terrified of germs and I turn into a paranoid wreck and refuse to leave the house. I receive an angry message from the boss reminding me I’m not allowed to leave anyway. Phew!
Day 25: Having expelled myself from the Khan Academy, I start formulating a new scheme. I decide to once again enroll in Rosetta Stone. Surely if I learn a foreign tongue I could apply to work for OXM’s Brazilian edition, Revista Oficial Xbox. It’d be tough to adjust to decent weather and new colleagues, but at least I wouldn’t look like a terrifying ghost boy in my next photoshoot.
Day 30: With one day to go until my release, I decide to finally try out the on-console web browser Microsoft Edge. You can’t eat edges, so I hadn’t felt compelled to try it out before. It is something of a revelation. It works with my Outlook account, which, paired with a Chatpad or SmartGlass add-on, lets me type my 1,500 words into Word Online and zap them to my editor. That’s one crisis averted.
It also means I can buy actual food, using online deliveries, and hop on to IMDB to see if Santa with Muscles was a real film or just a pepperoni-induced fever dream. Shame I discovered this so late in the challenge, but at least my job is secure and I don’t die of starvation. That’s a double win. Is it a sound replacement for a traditional PC or tablet? I wouldn’t recommend throwing those away just yet. But you might be surprised by how versatile that browser is. Turns out Microsoft know a thing or two about these things.
Day 31: I emerge, blinking, into the light. A whole month survived on pizza, Xbox and no physical human contact. I do not recommend you follow in my footsteps, but do dig a little deeper into the box on the TV. It might not be a replacement for every gadget, but you’ll be surprised by what it can handle.
This article originally appeared in Xbox: The Official Magazine. For more great Xbox coverage, you can subscribe here.