The date is 10th November 2012, around 10.13 pm, and you’re squatting in your sweaty, lice-infested shithole of an apartment, contemplating the catastrophic facepalm that is your Project Natal unit. There’s no longer sufficient liquid in your body for tears, but you still have breath enough to curse, thank God.
Over the past two gruelling years, this sleek, innocuous-looking, ruinously gimmicky strip of spare parts has destroyed your life, made you the laughing stock of your small, hard-earned circle of gaming buddies, the punchline to every geek joke. It has killed your romantic career, too. Women with no more knowledge of Xbox than a Daily Mail headline shun your presence as they would that of a plague doctor, compelled by some mysterious, unquantifiable sense of dismay and disgust.
Even the flies that buzz idly around the room refuse to settle on your tainted flesh. Your XBL friends list is a glacial landscape, empty of life. Dogs howl as you quit your refuge in search of the supermarket brand vodka that has become your only source of comfort. When you totter unsteadily past the local game rental shop, the guy at the till makes the sign of the Cross.
Fire up the Tardis. Hit the rewind button. Cast your mind back, back to that fateful morning a lifetime ago when you leaned over the counter, giggling like the lamb to the slaughter you were, and slapped down 80 big ones. Dude, what the hell happened? Where did it all go wrong?
Like all history’s greatest disasters – Simon Cowell’s producing career, the Matrix films, the fall of the Roman Empire – Project Natal’s collapse into infamy was a gradual process.
When you arrived home, box cradled tenderly in both arms, stripped the device of its shrink-wrap with trembling fingers and plugged it into your Xbox, the results were everything you’d hoped for and more. Spastic hand gestures were transformed into fluid kung fu punches, feeble flicks of the ankle became surgical butterfly kicks.
The appeal was infectious. At some point during that initial session your girlfriend (yes, poor fool, you once had a girlfriend) walked past the sofa, and the Natal camera immediately plucked her features out of thin air and folded them round the physique of a CPU fighter. Battle commenced. It was, she exclaimed, better than sex. You chose to take this as a compliment.