Until 1999, I was a very causual gamer. Hell, I wouldn't have even considered myself a gamer. It was something to do when I was done with homework and there was nothing on TV. I owned a NES, SNES, and N64, but I didn't own more than 10 games per system. It wasn't until I saw a commercial for Final Fantasy VIII that I was truly excited for a game. I purchased everything that had a hint of information. I sat in awe each time I saw a trailer on TV or at the movies. When release day finally came around, I went out and purchased it. It was an overcast day and I had french toast with milk that morning. I did all of this and I didn't even own a Playstation. It took bartering and the loss of presents for my birthday and Christmas, but I did get one. That was when gaming became something more to me.
From that opening cinematic to the finale, I had experienced something profound. This was the first game I had played that was so story driven. It was beautiful and perfect in every aspect. From that day forward, I started reading game magazines regularly. I broadened my horizons and tried new genres. The Christmas that I unwrapped my PS2 was another hallmark in my journey of gaming. The day I bought the last Dreamcast my town ever sold taught me the value of Sega. These were times when I began to learn about the developers and publishers behind the games I loved so much.
I finally made my move into this generation with the purchase of my Xbox 360 last April. A few weeks later I took it online. This was my first experience that connected gaming and the online world. It was fascinating. As I played my new games, I was greeted by the occasional pop up telling me I had done something worthy of note. I was acheiving things with my gaming. It felt wonderful, like a way to rate myself as a player. Soon, I started buying more games and played them obsessively to unlock more of these acheivments. Then one day, I stopped. I sat back onto the couch and thought to myself, "Am I playing this for the enjoyment the game brings me? Or am I playing it to ratchet up a score that ultimately means nothing?"
It was then that I remembered why I played games. It brought me back to that kid who picked up a copy of FFVIII because he was so enthralled with the story it had to tell. Every now and then I read about those obsessed with gamerscore or trophies. They play games until everything is completed. I have to wonder if they truly enjoy the game at that point or if it is a compulsion that drives them. Is it a need to conquer or prove one's worth and aptitude to others? I found myself going down that path, and thankfully I caught myself. Still I wonder, at what point do you stop playing the game for enjoyment and start playing for the score?