Paid to Play

Paid to Play
Not Just Another Pretty Face(plate)

Susan Arendt | 22 Jul 2008 13:05
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As artistic mediums go, a glowing green Yoda figurine is a bit unusual, but it was just the touch Ed Webb needed to complete his vision. Added to a tree stump sculpted out of epoxy putty and a background of the swamp on Dagobah, it was the crown jewel in Webb's "Spirit of Yoda." Though other artists might have been content to use any old toy Yoda, the glow was key to the success of Webb's piece. Not only because it evoked the serenity and power of Master Yoda, but also because it would be nearly impossible to tell if the Xbox 360's power was on without it. The Spirit of Yoda is a faceplate, you see.

Xbox 360 owners can personalize their consoles by swapping out the removable plate that snaps on to the front of the unit. You can find faceplates featuring art from games like Assassin's Creed or a simulated wood grain finish quite easily online or in retails stores. Other, more exotic designs are available from Japanese sellers. True collectors lust after the limited edition faceplates that PR firms hand out at industry events such as E3 - they often go for big bucks on auction sites like eBay. But why settle for something ordinary or pay a fortune for a limited edition model when you pay a pittance for something that's truly one of a kind?

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To date, Webb has made more than 170 distinct plates and nearly 300 plates total. His work, which can be found in the faceplate database on XboxAddict.com, honors everything from the Dallas Cowboys to My Little Pony to Pokémon, and of course lots and lots of Halo 3. Although his efforts have earned him a certain amount of recognition in the Xbox community, Webb didn't set out to become known as an artist. He was just trying to give some stuff away.

Microsoft bestowed Webb, who's known as "SpaceGhost2K" online, with one of its MVP Awards as thanks for his positive contributions to the Xbox community, such as lending a helping hand to organizers at Microsoft events and taking pictures of the Xbox 360 "Zero Hour" launch for the Xbox forums. Besides bragging rights, MVPs also sometimes get free games from Microsoft, and Webb thought it might be fun to celebrate the launch of the 360 Elite by sharing the wealth.

"I offered to give away a few of the games to the best custom faceplate that would look good on the black console," he explains, but nobody seemed up to the challenge. "There were lots of Photochopped submissions, but no one actually made a faceplate, so I did." Webb took a few days to make a Heroes-themed plate, a simple design using the lettering and the eclipse featured in the show's opening credits. The community's response was immediate and overwhelmingly positive - everyone wanted Webb to make them their own custom plate.

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