This Gaming Life: Confessions of an Achievement Whore

My name is Ryan and I am an achievement whore.  Hi, Ryan! I have willingly offered up my soul to the gods of gaming in trade for gamerscore.  It’s pitiful.  I can say truthfully that in the last year alone I have knowingly played more bad games than good ones.  Have I gone crazy?  So many AAA titles and thinly veiled God of War knockoffs to choose from, I am playing Ben 10:  Vilgax Attacks.  There is a plethora of good games available, so why is it that I have regulated myself into a gaming routine that involves slogging through the likes of licensed trash by THQ (Disney’s Cars I’m looking at you)?  It has a been a journey coming to this point in my life long pursuit of gaming excellence, but the answer is a simple one.

The need for recognition.  Growing up as a gamer, I’m sure that some can remember telling tall tales of gaming exploits that their peers weren’t privy to witness.  The number of hits in an absurd combo in Killer Instinct.  Beating Sonic the Hedgehog with all chaos emeralds in tow.  Maxing out your characters in a Final Fantasy title.  Beating a game without dying.  The ways to share these exploits were fairly limited in scope and in some cases, being able to efficiently prove your prowess even more elusive.  The advent of online console gaming has changed that quite a bit.  By implementing achievements (trophies, etc.), these systems give us an opportunity to do just that.

I balked at the idea of achievements when I first heard about it.  The idea of playing for any other reason aside from the joy of playing itself seemed silly to me.  I should change my gamertag to “hypocrite”.  Two games paved the way for my achievement addiction.  The first, Assassin’s Creed.  It was a day one purchase for me.   I was a big believer in the Playstation 3 right out of the gate and so that was the platform I played it on.  It was played and summarily beat.  I really enjoyed it to say the least.  There was something that nagged at me though.  I collected every flag in the game.  No small task, as those who have played it are surely aware.  I got nothing.  No bonus.  No extras.  Nothing.  That bugged me.  Months later, Devil May Cry 4 hit the shelves.  I show up to claim my game and Gamestop has miscalculated their inventory and sold my copy of the game.  However, they did have a spare copy for the 360.  As I was playing, I really enjoyed unlocking achievements for playing like a bad ass.  The switch was thrown and my needs for completion and competition set in and haven’t fully let up since.

So gamers like to prove themselves.  Most people will buy that for a dollar.  How does that justify the fact that I played Avatar:  The Last Airbender:  The Burning Earth, a game so generous with its achievements it practically gives them to you for breathing?  Well, if you are LIVE-stalking the gamercards of your friends and feeling competitive, you might notice that one of them has played that game.  It hardly seems fair that you are pushing towards completion on the 100+ hour trek of Lost Odyssey and he’s nudging you out of the running by playing shovelware, does it?  So you give it a try.  You discover that patiently wading through a couple hours worth of crap gameplay awards you with a nice sexy 1000 points and another notch in your games completed belt.  Feels good.  Feels real good.  So you try another and another.  You leave your friends in the dust.  You’re playing TMNT, Cloudy with a Chance at Meatballs, and Hannah Montana the Movie.  100k starts to sound like a goal  you can hit.  Maybe sports games aren’t all that bad.  One day you realize that you have a Madden disc in hand and it is about to soil your Xbox.  An epiphany occurs.  What are you doing?  You hate sports games.  You loathe Madden and everything it represents.  It takes being a stone’s throw away from joining the ranks of gaming bros to make you realize that you aren’t even playing games to have fun anymore.  You’ve lost the joy of the game.

That wasn’t my tale.  My story isn’t that different though.  In my self imposed task to prove my gaming prowess, I have lost my gaming spirit.  Games have seen me through many of the best and worst times in my life.  Playing with friends.  Playing to have fun.  Playing to challenge yourself.  I have definitely been reduced to playing for a score (which in itself is just a visual representation of arbitrary tasks and a point of discussion for another time).  I’m seeking to reclaim my gaming life.  I still plan on playing some garbage.  I can’t quit cold turkey, but I want to get back to that love of games I used to have.  When gaming meant something to me.  The fun of a good combat system enticed me to explore its depths.  The savory ambrosia of a good story kept me playing long after I should have stopped, just to see what happens next.  Picking up a game again, even though you’ve played it into the ground, just have another good round with your friends.  I think I can get back there.  Part of this conundrum is me.  The other, the games of today.

Tuesdays will provide a look into my gaming chronicles.  My successes.  My failures.  The tricks that I turn to boost that score of mine.  Hopefully I’ll be able to entertain with my anecdotes on gaming, my life, and how it all comes together.  In the meantime…  Them games ain’t gonna play themselves.

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11 Responses to This Gaming Life: Confessions of an Achievement Whore

  1. nostalgiatape says:

    Dude, I remember the first time I was messing around on your Arcade and I saw Ben 10. At first I thought, What the fuuuuuck? But then I started thinking maybe I’m sleeping on a gem and I need to get up on my Ben 10.

    Apparently, not. Haha.

    • ryandill says:

      That game was mind numbingly awful. I would go so far as to argue that earning achievements in terrible broken games is a feat, but one of mental fortuity as opposed to skill or time investment. Your life will forever be better than mine because I have played that game, while you remain untainted.

  2. mattersundermind says:

    I can’t really get my head around the fact that people actually look at gamerscores.

    If achievements netted me anything tangible, I might bother giving a fuck, but instead of unlocking anything, they just exist. No new costumes, colors, skins, characters, levels, endings… nothing. I mean hell, as sad as warcraft is, many of their achievements at least give you mounts and titles [which people tend to use to display extremity rather than aesthetic preference, but that’s at least some of the issue here anyways].

    So… no.

    I laughed when they were first coming out with the idea, but they’ve taken a disappointing, if not particularly surprising hold on the ‘gaming community’. since.

    I mean, people play farmville, so why wouldn’t they cultivate gamerscore? And yes, I’m aware of the chronology; I’m just saying.

    • ryandill says:

      Actually there are certain games that have unlockable content attached to achievements. Dead Rising comes to mind immediately. The best weapons in the game are tied to achievement completion. Gears of War 2 also does something similar. Having achievements unlocked or game data from the first game on your hard drive unlocks more characters for multiplayer. Sadly, these two are the only ones that really seem to shine as examples in the murky territory of extra content. I’m afraid Microsoft is especially fond of putting policy in place that nickle and dimes gamers.

      Recently, games have started to feature “awards”. Awards are earned in a similar fashion to achievements and give you game related attire to adorn your avatar. Its a nice little side incentive. Kind of a middle ground.

      I can’t really give unbiased commentary on WoW. Never played. Never will. I have an extreme distaste for paying month after month for a game that essentially ceases to exist the second they decide to cut server support. I suppose the same could be said of Microsoft’s achievement system, but with support for it being cross platform on Games for Windows LIVE and the latest generation of Windows phones, I feel infinitely more confident in its staying power.

      Subsequently, comparing Farmville to farming gamerscore is a matter of apples and oranges. Farmville is an endlessly redundant experience. If you aren’t whoring trash titles, you are still able to earn a score by playing a variety of really enjoyable games. Historically, as a community we put great emphasis on “score”. Perhaps that’s why its taken the hold that it has. Whether it is score in a sports title or points in a rail shooter, scoring is in place in some incarnation in virtually every game ever made. Gamerscore is simply a “metagame” that ties all of those point values together.

      • mattersundermind says:

        Then you should be quite fond of how the gaming model is turning towards byte-sized pay as you go models that will preclude games being defined as any sort of singular entity, so that they, like mmo’s, can enjoy the rolling income of a never complete product that can be dropped at a pre-determined curve in the profit cycle.

        A bit doomy, I guess. It probably won’t ever eliminate a counter-culture that would spring from that enveloping the industry -but it is the stated push of the high end megcons, and should be disturbing even as a direction. Especially a proven one that will inevitably eclipse traditional gaming, even if the counter-culture goes all ouroboros [as it will].

        Anyways, you’ve decided to bypass basically all of what I was talking about; the issue here is that it’s attempting [well, I guess we’re pretty far past attempting, by now] to connect these things, outside of the context of a game itself. Creating an economy of arbitrary worth, the returns of which have no cost balancing their profit. Nothing in, everything out.

        Also, you strawmanned my farmville backhand. Huzzah.

        I don’t guess I really spoke too much about all of this until my next comment though, to be fair.

        —-

        “scoring is in place in some incarnation in virtually every game ever made.”

        Negative.

        “Gamerscore is simply a “metagame” that ties all of those point values together.”

        It does no such thing. It doesn’t do, isn’t from, cannot tie, and in now way defines anything about gaming other than you do it. There is no game in being a gamer, and that’s where this all goes retarded. Reverse engineering on the basis of mere correlation nets you an ass backwards origin, devoid of the essence that propagated the result drawn from in the first place.

      • mattersundermind says:

        Mm, typos. And no edit button!

        Anyways, I don’t see where we particularly disagree here. Your entry came out condemning [or lamenting, perhaps] the sort of scorewhoring we’re arguing about now, at least from a perspective of personal priority.

        This all seems more semantic than idealogical, in that context.

        Also, I can’t reply to my own comment, so the ordering is awesome.

  3. nostalgiatape says:

    A lot of “extras” have to be bought these days. $4 for alt costumes and $8 bucks for new characters (SSIV and BlazBlue CC). It’s kind of ridiculous.

    But this reminds of the documentary The King of Kong. It’s not really about the points but that you had to be THAT good to be able to get that many points. There’s a real satisfaction in being one of the few to get there.

    Donkey Kong has only 3 people to ever break a million. They truly stand above everyone in gaming. No bonuses. And once their man dies they go straight back to the beginning and start at zero. But damn if they don’t feel good about themselves. Their mastery of the game can be nothing but respected.

    Looking at the score is so deep in gaming culture. But as gaming becomes more and more easy mode, the emptiness and lack of satisfaction in that score becomes all the more evident.

  4. mattersundermind says:

    Yeah, dlc extras has really been a disheartening trend in modern gaming, for me.

    If the score was tied to the goal of the game, I’d understand. What they’re trying to do is make gaming itself a score based game, only without the game. They’re exploiting the fact that we’re embedded with the correlation between scoring and skill, assuming a causality that doesn’t exist. The simple fact that more is a definition of better, as we lazily understand it.

    I wouldn’t say it’s because gaming is becoming easy mode. I don’t really see a decline in difficulty, in the extremes. Casual gamers and the options available to include many games in their demographic have certainly flooded the median, but I think that’s beside the point. I’d feel this way if every game was as difficult as battle-toads, or whatever. Converting the point of gaming into a score that doesn’t come from actually gaming is cynical and empty.

    They could just make games with replayability instead, but I think we’re past that marker, in general. Much easier and more productive to invent a competition based on a self-worth that is made up of how many games you’ll purchase [or gamefly, whatever], and whether or not you’ll seek community success by attaining more of that self-worth than your million neighbors. They’ve turned the playing of games into a currency, and that upsets me.

    See bobby kotick to find out where this goes. Heh.

  5. nostalgiatape says:

    I think you guys are talking about the same thing, haha.

    • mattersundermind says:

      Yar. I can’t really find a serious disagreement from either side, going back to the article itself.

  6. loxr says:

    confessions of an achievement whore…yes, i think that’s a suitable title (or was). i love how i could recall all your specific references and think back to our convos on the subjects at hand. so many times i criticized your methods and logic fallacies. the biggest thing that comes to mind now is “i told you so”.

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