It was either Spring or Summer of 2011 when I was accepted into the Preview Program for a new Xbox 360 dashboard. Back then you signed up every update, so it was a bit different than the current Preview model. Browsing the forums, people were chatting about the new Ambassadors Program, which I knew nothing about, but hey, it was something new on the Xbox console so of course I wanted to give it a go (even without knowing what it was). I checked out the website and saw it was a way to help other gamers. Honestly, I didn’t know how I felt about that, but I’m a techie so I submitted all the stuff to see what the Program was actually like.
I think a month after submitting my info I received an email from “Xbox Community Ambassadors” titled “ACCEPTED: Xbox Community Ambassadors Program.” I still remember getting pretty excited, sort of the feeling you got when you were accepted for the new dashboard back in the day. Opening the email the first line was “w00t! You’re IN because you’re awesome!” followed by some instructions for taking chats. However, the best part of the email was the no-reply section which said “Please note: Do not reply to this message, which was sent from an evil sea-monster in the Pacific. We cannot answer e-mail sent to this or any other sea-monster. No, not even Cthulhu.”
So now that I was in the Program, it was time to start helping people. In the earlier stages of the Program, the chat support was done via Windows Live Messenger (way before Skype). You had a friend request sent to you from a chat bot, and when it was time to take a chat you’d get a message from Chatbot 1 through 10 (I think). After becoming friends with the famous Chatbot it wasn’t long before I got my first message. I pressed “Y” to accept the message boom and connected with the other gamer, who had a question about something.
We didn’t have the Academy back then, so if the immediate solution you provided them didn’t work, you were hunting for the solution. I remember so many of the chats back then had that pressure to help the person, and usually after some quick research and Q&A with the gamer, they’d be fixed. This is definitely what got me hooked with the Ambassadors. The great feeling of helping the gamer on the other end with the “Thank you” and the “You’re awesome” replies, mixed with the challenge it took to find the solution. For a techie person like me, the challenge is part of the fun!
Where the current system includes Tiers and XP leveling, back in the early days of the Community Ambassadors Program, we had a different set of tiers that would sometimes give you a small bonus. Tier 2, for example, would unlock a couple of Avatar items (Steampunk Robot and a Sombrero Hat). It wasn’t much, but it was still a fun perk. Early Rewards also included giveaways on the forums and other little fun things. It was just another added bonus for helping the rest of the community out.
From 2011 to 2012 the Program really had some BIG changes and started taking off with a lot of people signing up. This first year easily had the biggest improvements to the Program and added a ton of things that are still being used, like the Ambassaor leveling system, the Amabassaor Playdates, and The Ambassador Shoutouts. The former tier based system became a leveling system (1-10), each giving a reward. They started a “The More You Know” section in the forums with posts from the @XboxSupport tweet fleet, which has since been spun into the University. Ambassadors added the Playdates, which has now morphed into the Twitch playdates stream. The Ambassador forum split into The Ambassy, Ambassador Support, and the XA Hall of Infinite Wisdom led by Miss Portia, which are all still there and being used. The Ambassador was Twitter shout-out from @XboxSupport (now from @xboxambassadors).
It was for sure a super exciting time to be an Ambassador, and because it was so exciting I kept taking more and more questions, till eventually I was at the top of the Leaderboard and had maxed out all Ambassador Levels to be had. I hit the max level (10) in July of 2012. Shortly after I received an email saying “Congratulations Hydro Skillet! We’re currently building a 600 foot statue in your honor, but in the meantime, let us just say this: CONGRATU-FREAKING-LATIONS!”, and also confirming my Shout-Out. I’ve not visited the Xbox campus in Redmond as of yet, but I’d sure love to see that 600 foot statue of mine! LOL J . At the very end of 2012 the program added 5 new levels giving a new total of 15, and also gave the community a new level to strive for! If you made the top you got an Xbox Community Ambassador Spacesuit, which I’m still putting on my avatar from time to time.
Over the next year there weren’t a lot of major changes to the program itself, but there were some very exciting things happening to me as an Ambassador. The site changed a bit, our beloved Chatbot morphed into MegaBot (no it’s not a Transformer lol), and then in 2013 I got an email from “Gamer Spotlight” saying “We want YOU for a Gamer Spotlight.” The Gamer Spotlight was deployed back in the Xbox 360 days. If you were chosen to have a spotlight you would fill out a bit of a biography on yourself. Some of the items in the biography where hobbies, why you picked your gamertag, and other small personal items you wished to share with the public. This was a full section on the 360 dashboard, so I was super excited. My first thought was no way. I had seen these spotlights on the 360 dashboards before, but it was certainly nothing I thought I’d be considered for. After I filled out my mini-biography I emailed it back to the team at Microsoft. Honestly I thought it would be months, if ever, and figured I had a lot of people in front of me before I would be featured. Two weeks later I logged into my Xbox and saw my Message box was full. I had tons of messages from random gamers with friend requests, lots of questions, lots of comments, so I immediately checked out the dashboard on the 360, and sure enough I was on it. This may have been the most exciting part of the Program to date, for me! I certainly felt like a nerdy rockstar!
Recently the Ambassadors Program and Ambassador Site have seen quite a few great changes, and is now a super cool place to go daily. Now you can accept missions with the Missions Page to help people via chat or forum posts. The more people you help the more rewards you get. Some rewards are earned and automatically given to you like Holiday Ornaments, Ambassador Socks (which by the way are SUPER WARM), and other fun things like that. They’ve added the Ambassadors Rewards Page, where you can enter AMAZING drawings for things like Xbox One consoles, new game titles, DesignLab controllers, and a plethora of other things. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I’d see these things like that when I became an Ambassador. You can also now you can chat with all your fellow Ambassadors in the Lounge to make friends, and get help with a chat you may be stumped on. Finally they added the Community Blog, which is a spot you can go and read about program updates, Xbox Support Spotlights, and read blog posts by Ambassadors. Overall what was a program for gamers to help other games, has turned into a community of great people and friends helping gamers!
Over the years, I’ve made tons of friends through the Program (both gamers and Xbox Staff), which I’m super thankful for. I think the thing that keeps bringing me back to the Program at the end of the day is helping people. It’s super rewarding when you’re hammering at a problem for 30 minutes, and then suddenly you see the “Thank You” from the person at the other end.
Hydro Skillet is a husband and father of six. He’s also a long-time Ambassador, who’s able to share a great deal of knowledge about the early years of the Program. Hydro Skillet is passionate about technology and helping out the Xbox community, and these two interests play a big part in his role as an Xbox Ambassador. He readily admits to playing more Overwatch than he should, with some Gears of War and Halo mixed in for good measure.