The Gaming Memories of Paul: The Achievement Years
Achievements – the little carrot on the end of a big stick, given to us by Microsoft. Adding yet another social aspect to gaming, the idea has since been emulated on other platforms, grabbing us one by one! Are they worthwhile? Are they a necessary part of this and future gaming generations, or are they just a way to hook us into the games whether they are worthy of our attention or belong in a pile of manure left to rot! Before you decide, let me tell you about my little addiction…
Achievements began life with the launch of the 360, designed to give us extra bragging rights. I think we can all remember our first taste of the “achievement complex”; sat there playing a game when that little tune plays and a notification appears – achievement unlocked. The first time I saw it appear upon my monitor I admit i felt a little rush, a little excitement overtook me, urging me on to unlock the next one! Racking up points to show off on my gamer card soon became addictive – pushing me to buy more games, complete them and go for the fabled 1k completion! They also added a new dimension to getting more out of your games. The more difficult achievements depend upon time and loads of replays before perfecting the requirements. It’s a great way of getting that extra mile from a single player game. Anyone remember the mile high club achievement? Yeah! i do too, I spent hours and hours trying to nail that damn thing…. sanity prevailed though and I left it behind whilst cursing my lack of skills. I admit I soon became hooked on the achievements, collecting them like one would collect trading cards. With a whole new social group growing, it soon became clear to the likes of Sony that once again Microsoft had hit onto something rather big.
It became a new addiction… yes I was addicted to this new carrot being dangled in front of me. Don’t judge me yet though, for my craving is now under control to a degree. The achievements were mine to be won and with a few friends who had become addicted as well it soon became clear that we were all under the spell. We chatted to each other whilst hunting down as many achievements as we could, even buying the games at the same time with ambitions of racing to see who could earn the most achievements in the quickest time. I admit I look back now and cringe, yet at the time it gave me an insane buzz. The bragging rights were awesome, throwing my gamer score at my mates to tease them and at the time being a complete and utter prick, yet I couldn’t get enough. I wanted my gamer score to increase to an astronomical amount, hitting it into the stratosphere.
My hunger grew and with that I wanted more of the buzz, more of the bragging rights, so I began to look around the net for inspiration. After many hours inspiration found me in the form several websites, allowing me to signup for the ultimate gamer score challenges. You had the choice to join either 7 day or 30 day challenges and the rules simple – score as many points as possible during that time. The person who had earned the most would be crowned the victor, with full bragging rights. My excitement grew as I signed up for the first one! I chose a 30 day challenge thinking it would give me plenty of time to pick up some games and continue my gamer score growth!
I was ready to get all competitive and shoot my mouth off, but I was shocked to find that most of the community were mainly interested in growing their scores. There was friendly banter and a little competition between some groups, they were all helpful and used the challenges to team up and earn multiplayer achievements – it was a great community, one that I felt at home in. It was at the time a great way to talk to fellow gamers; one that looking back I should have stayed in touch with.
However, there was one drawback to all this – a vicious spiral that grabbed hold of me like a poison! One that I now look upon with disgust, a sense of shame spreads over me whenever I recall those moments. Sanity seemed to leave me and my decisions on games were not for the quality but for the ease of achievements. I began to read up on the games that would get my that 1k score with the least of hassles. I’m not proud of myself; it was a phase though, where my sense of what was right and wrong in gaming seemed to have grown wings and left me completely senseless. It began with King Kong – not a bad game but it left a lot to be desired. Some form of sanity seemed to return to me as I never managed to actually have the guts to complete the whole game. It ended with a measly score of 800 points. Next I found myself plying a few hours of my life into TMNT, a game that I should have never taken out of the case. One that is now forever on my gamer card highlighting my shame and silly choices. Again, during the course of playing the game some sort of sixth sense kicked in making me stop and dispose of the game before I accomplished the 1k score. Was it my subconscious kicking in? Who knows… what I do know is that for the next game chosen, it never bloody well kicked in till it was too late…
Step up CSI, a bog standard TV tie in game. It should have been confined to the bargain bins, wallowing in there with Avatar. It that was never really worthy of the Xbox. For that cheap thrill I picked it up and wilfully grabbed the 1k gamer score on offer. I was at a gaming low, succumbed to the will of achievements….looking for easy scores! However I did wake up…thanks to one game in particular. It was one Saturday looking around the games shops – Avatar, possibly the worst game ever created was staring at me from the bottom of the bargain bin. Five minutes and my score could be boosted by a lovely 1k! I was tempted and for the price I very nearly grabbed the damn thing, until my senses returned and I suddenly found myself asking “what the fuck am I doing?”
I stopped myself there and then, spent some time taking a look at where I was going, why I was playing games this way and why I began playing them in the first place. It was then I realised that perhaps I was going a little over board on my hunt for achievements. I soon began buying games once more for the right reasons and began collecting trophies on my PS3. I still get the same buzz from unlocking achievements/trophies but now it’s purely for the enjoyment from the game. If it’s one I’m not enjoying I’ll stop playing it there and then… simples!
Now, I didn’t write this piece to say achievements are silly, that they dont belong… nor did I write this for sympathy. Achievements/trophies are a piece of the gaming social experience there for us to discuss and giving games a little extra life. They are a great part of the gaming community now, with some like myself getting sucked in perhaps a little too far!
So there you have it. My name’s Paul and I was an achievement whore.