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Written by Thomas "CigDangle" Balistreri   
Monday, 05 May 2008


Contrary to what some of you may think, game journalists have personal lives – portions of which don’t even involve gaming.  And just like anyone else, sometimes our personal lives don’t “go according to plan”.  So in an effort to escape reality, if just for the weekend, I began scouring travel sites looking for somewhere to go. 

Alaska was my initial thought, Anchorage specifically, and I nearly purchased the trip, but decided to not click “Confirm Purchase” when I realized I would spend two-thirds of my time on a plane.  After seeing a commercial for Utah, I contemplated a trip to Salt Lake City, and then remembered seeing SLC Punk.  If memory serves, according to the movie, that city sucked, so I looked elsewhere.  Denver seemed like a nice option, but just didn’t seem worth the cost of the trip.  So after spending a few hours searching, I thought I would save some money on travel costs, and instead opt for deluxe accommodations in Chicago.  Because I live just 100 miles from Chicago, I did not need plane tickets, but chose the train over driving.

Reaching the hotel, I was surprised by the changes.  I had booked at the former House of Blues Hotel, a favorite destination of mine in Chi-town.  Since my last visit, the hotel had changed hands, and had been completely remodeled.  Described as having “the eclectic aura of a 17th-century French salon but with a 21st-century twist”, the Hotel Sax , as it is now called, is a gamer’s paradise.

The first thing I noticed after check in, was a business card included with my room keys, describing something called, “The Studio”.  The Studio was some sort of techie lounge I learned by glancing over the card.  I thought it was something I would definitely have to check out.

Arriving in my room, I immediately noticed the presence of two 42-inch HDTVs, quite an impressive sight for a hotel room.  Apparently the days of a 27-inch tube connected to a Nintendo 64 controller are over, because sitting just below my television was an Xbox 360 Elite, complete with customized “Hotel Sax” faceplate.  (Note: Not every room has two TVs and a 360.) Calling guest services connects you with a short, but ample list of games for the system, including Halo 3, Gears of War, Guitar Hero III, and even Grand Theft Auto IV.   Also available for complimentary use, are Microsoft Zune Media Players, preloaded with a variety of music and videos for use in the room’s Zune dock.

After settling into my room, I took a trip to the “The Studio”.  The room, a “home-away-from-home theater experience”, is a gamer lounge created by Microsoft, using some of their technology.  Upon arrival, I was asked to sign in by the The Studio’s concierge, who is there to assist you with anything you may needed.  Walk through the glass doors, and be transported to “Gamer Shagri-La”.

Scattered throughout the bisected room, were five Zunes with headphones for use while in The Studio.  Half of the room housed four 42-inch High Definition televisions, identical to the ones in my room, each connected to an Xbox 360 and filled with comfy, low-profile seating.  The other half contains a much larger seating area, and sole TV and Xbox 360 connected to a surround sound system.  This side was utilized almost exclusively for showing movies during my stay, but could be used for gaming as well.

 Directly behind the seating were two high-end HP laptops running Windows Vista, designated as Internet access stations.  The laptops made an excellent addition to the already cool lounge, but those traveling with a laptop, could connect to wireless Internet anywhere in the hotel, offered free of charge.  It may sound like a minor detail, but far too often in my travels I have found that many hotels charge for the service, and even those that don’t, seem to have poor signal strengths.  This was not the case.

Couple all this technology with the really cool Crimson Lounge, filled with “elegant touches, rich fabrics and textures, and a whimsical ambience”, and The Hotel Sax is the perfect lodging for a any displaced gamer or techie.  I was very pleased with my stay, and recommend it to anyone traveling to Chicago.


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Last Updated ( Monday, 05 May 2008 )

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