Achievments in gaming

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?


penguin zombies said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dustin said…
A couple weeks ago, after finishing Mass Effect 2, I realized how close I was to breaking 10k. Like you, I had that initial achievement drive when I first got my 360, and then I grew past it. Coming up on a milestone though brought that drive back, and I played games like crazy until I got the achievement.

And then I stopped caring. Immediately after reaching 10k, I didn't care about achievements at all. I used to buy all multiplatform games on 360 because of achievements alone, but I really don't care any more. The drive to get achievements can really diminish the impact a game has on you.

For example, I'm personally extremely reserved when it comes to online gaming. Talking to strangers is something I almost always refuse to do. Xbox Live is pretty notorious for some really obnoxious and stupid people. Anyways, going back to the achievement drive, for a while I bought all multiplatform games on 360 because I liked achievements, and didn't give a rat's sack about trophies. This lead to me buying online games on 360, and then ultimately refusing to play them online due to my extreme hatred of twelve year olds commenting on my skill level.

Now, I prefer to play online games on PS3. Jackass are still abound, of course, but the PS3 doesn't come with a headset, so vocal jackasses are few and far. I've been playing a lot of Bad Company 2 lately, which is a stellar game, and it doesn't even let you communicate with your team unless you choose to become a squad with them. I found that to be a pretty clever way to handle voice chat. Anyways, I'm getting off track.

I just realized that this comment is entirely way too long. To bring it back around to my point, I like achievements to an extent. They stand as proof of some of the crazy/bordering impossible tasks we do in games sometimes. No longer do you have to waste hours with friends, trying to convince them that you really were able to beat Contra III. Now you can just say "Bam motherfucker, I got the achievement to prove it. Choke on my nuts. Good day sir." However, the lust to increase your gamerscore for bragging rights is stupid, and can really detract from a game's enjoyment.

ZeroAnd09 said…
I felt the same rush when I hit my 10k mark. I started going through all of my older games to grind for achievments. Then it started to wear off yet again. Now I'm kind of embarassed by my gamerscore. It's the highest out of all my friends and I don't want to be labeled as "that guy". You know the one where it's no longer fun to play with him because you don't think you'll win.
I don't have any multiplatform experience at the moment because stores around here still can't stock a PS3.
Insightful writing on your part as always. When can we see a return to the loneliest website?
Dustin said…
I wouldn't be embarrassed at all. Yours and mine are pretty low in comparison to a lot of people's. Almost everyone on my friends list has well over 10k - I'm one of the lowest.

I definitely recommend getting a PS3 as soon as possible. Some of the exclusives on it are some of the best games released this generation, in my opinion (Uncharted 2 and LittleBigPlanet are two of my favorite games of all time. Infamous is quite good as well).

I stopped writing at my website for a couple reasons. First, school picked up, and I didn't have time to play the games and write about them the way I wanted to. Then I got into film - screenwriting specifically - and started devoting all of my writing efforts into that. Also, a lot of times the things I want to express are covered on Giant Bomb, my favorite gaming website. If/when I get back to it, I've had this thought brewing in my head about Mass Effect 1 and 2, and how I feel they are changing the world of narrative in video games completely. I recommend playing both if you haven't.
ZeroAnd09 said…
I was playing through the first Mass Effect, but it seems kind of dull. Not terrible, but the driving sequences and lack of originality in map design are killing the experience. The story is fantastic, but it was easy to get distracted with Borderlands.

I definitely want a PS3, but stocking in stores around here is non existant. Amazon has some, but they're overpriced by $50-$100. I think God of War 3 will be my first purchase for the system, but I'm more interested in learning the tech behind it. The processor and the overall how and why are fascinating.