Privilege comes with being a celebrity. Walking the red carpet at star-studded screenings, securing a table at the hottest restaurants, and holding court behind velvet VIP ropes are all benefits bestowed upon those with the hottest movies, coolest albums and hit TV shows.
However, a new level of exclusivity admits its members based more on their ability to wield a Covenant plasma sword than their own star power.
It's called the "Halo 2" Council, a seven-member celebrity clique of fanatics of the video game "Halo." For their love of the game, council members Hoobastank, Incubus, Linkin Park; actors Wilmer Valderrama ("That '70s Show"), Benjamin McKenzie ("The O.C."), and Aisha Tyler ("Friends"); and New York Giants star Jeremy Shockey will soon be rewarded with the greatest gift one could give to a "Halo" obsessive: an early copy of "Halo 2," the sequel to the groundbreaking 2001 first-person shooter that the rest of us must wait until November 9 to take home.
|Click for photos from "Halo 2"|
Advance copies of "Halo 2," as well as just about every other Xbox game, are only the tip of the iceberg for council members. A more coveted prize is the "Halo 2" Pelican Case, a portable Xbox console enclosed in a suitcase personalized with a bronze placard. Inside, a 15-inch, flat-screen, high-definition TV is supported by a pair of hydraulic lifts that push the screen forward when the case is opened. Two controllers, an Xbox live headset and Ethernet connection are also included for online and head-to-head play.
"Think about it: There are only seven of these in the world," Hoobastank's Doug Robb said when the band was formally inducted into the "Halo 2" Council last month. "There are probably a lot of bands that would kill for this briefcase."
Both Hoobastank and Incubus contributed "Halo"-inspired songs to the Halo 2: Original Soundtrack Volume One album, which is also due November 9 (see "Incubus, Hoobastank, Breaking Benjamin On 'Halo 2' Soundtrack").
Although the creation of the council was the brainchild of Xbox executives, the idea for the Pelican Case actually sprung from the members of Incubus and Linkin Park.
"They told us that they loved Xbox, but it was hard for them to play on the road because they're traveling so much," explained Xbox product manager Carlos De Leon. "And that got us thinking about making a completely portable Xbox."
In addition to the advance copies, which can be shipped to bands on the road so that they can keep current, council members are also rewarded with their choice of one of four Microsoft devices (Smartphone, Tablet PC, Pocket PC or Media Center PC), and an invitation to meet the developers and take a tour of their Bungie Studios.
The "Halo 2" Council is an offshoot of another Xbox group, the Playaz Club. This one's a little less exclusive, but by no means open to everyone. Its 50 members — which include Britney Spears, Charlize Theron, Hilary Duff, Jack Osbourne, Jimmy Fallon, John Mayer, Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg and even adult-film star Jenna Jameson — don't get a Pelican Case, hardware or an invitation to Bungie, though they will receive free games and invitations to Xbox parties and events.
"To be a member of the Playaz Club, you have to have a religious, fanatical addiction to gaming," De Leon said. "But this is Hollywood, and a lot of people think of themselves as VIPs. We had to creatively dodge some phone calls."
In the three years that it's been out, "Halo" has become one of the more popular games that bands play on their tour buses. Therefore, some bands, perhaps mistakenly, think they're the best. Over the summer, Story of the Year reinforced that fact with Hoobastank when they boarded Hoobastank's bus with their own controllers and mopped the floor with Robb and guitarist Dan Estrin.
"You're only as good as your competition," Robb said. "So when we started playing other bands, we realized how behind we were. But we're picking it up."
Although the "Halo 2" Council members have gone head-to-head to determine who the true champ is (admittedly, it's not Hoobastank), De Leon, who's seen them all play, has a pretty good notion of where the smart money is.
"I have to give props to Aisha [Tyler], because she is so beautiful and so nice that she disarms a lot of these boy gamers that think that they can destroy everyone," he said. "She walks around with a shirt that says, 'I can kick your ass in "Halo 2." ' That's not an opinion, that's a fact."