In less than a week, I will be utterly swept away by a piece of gaming software. I'm all caught up in the hype and ready to inflict carpal tunnel syndrome on myself while I fight to the death—repeatedly—with a few willing, sadomasochistic coworkers here at Windows IT Pro and Connected Home Media. We're all giggly smiles about our forthcoming deathmatches. Yes, Halo 3 will be spinning in our respective Xbox 360s, and we'll be deaf and blind to everything in the real world, including family, meals, world news, good food, and bathroom breaks.

It's a strange feeling. Half of my friends think I'm insane. My family pouts at me. How do I find the time to play silly games while the real world beckons? "What about your kids?" my friends ask, "what about your wife? What about that novel you're writing? What about all that work you wanted to do around the house?" I answer calmly, "All those things mean nothing." My kids claw at me, asking me to read them a story or take them for a piggyback ride. I scoff at them. I urge these people to invest in the Xbox 360 console, sign up to Xbox Live, and dive in, and they will understand. They shout, "Hell no!" I offer to let them just try it out at my home, and they fumble along for a while, become quickly frustrated, and go back home, comfortable beyond the tech-fun sway of gaming. They just have no interest. Which baffles me.

Maybe it's because I grew up with video games, from the old Atari 2600 home system to countless afternoons spent at the local arcade feeding quarters to Space Invaders, Asteroids, Pac-Man, and Centipede. Maybe it's just a part of me. And as video games have gotten larger and more graphically and sonically impressive, the more enthusiastic I've become. I want to be surrounded by my games. I love that I can use my home-theater technology for my game setup and crank up my sound system so that my home thunders with the game. I love that the graphics have become razor sharp, gorgeous on my HD monitor. These are things that make me very happy. And confound most of my friends and family.

Yeah, if only I could get them to sign up to Xbox Live, they'd understand. They'd get it after a while, wouldn't they? It's such a great burst of joy, playing these games. They can be enormous stress relievers, as well as terrific outlets for pent-up steam. So, I'm ready to dive in. And after a number of hours slaughtering and maiming aliens, and whooping with savage joy with my assorted online Halo 3 buddies, all my supposed friends and family members, with their confused, almost pitying looks, will cease to matter at all. All that will matter is Master Chief. Yeah, that's right. Master Chief.

Me.