19K Achievements

When I bought my Xbox 360 last July I thought that it would be quite nice if I reached 20,000 Gamerscore during my first year playing on Live. I’m therefore happy to have recently hit the 19,000 mark, which leaves me with under a thousand points to obtain during the next few months.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an achievement junkie but I do really like the Gamerscore system.

What does that 19,000 score mean to me? Has it been an excuse for me to play? Is it a reward for all the time I’ve spent on games? Does it really stand for anything in the real world other than some indication of nerdiness?

I think that it is nice to have a record of the games that you’ve played and the progress you’ve made on each one. When I look at my list of achievements it brings back memories of all the Xbox 360 games that I’ve enjoyed.

There are so many great games that I’ve played on the PC and other consoles that I’ve completely forgotten. I have no record of all the time I spent playing old-school text adventures. I’ve got nothing that shows which how well I did in Jedi Knight. I can’t even remember how much of Dungeon Keeper 2 I actually completed.

It is nice to have something that documents your gaming “life”. That’s what Microsoft’s Gamerscore system does for me.

Achievements also provide me with an added incentive to keep working through a title to the end. When they are well implemented I’m encouraged to try new play-styles or explore new areas of the game.

Microsoft certainly hit on a winning idea when they came up with Gamerscore but it’s not the first time that I’ve bought into such a system.

One of my main time sinks of the past few years has been the MMO game City of Heroes. Early into the life of the game they introduced the concept of badges that rewarded players for reaching milestones, completing certain tasks & missions and taking part in special events.

Like Microsoft’s Gamerscore, the idea of badges was widely ridiculed by many players before they had the chance to test it out. Virtually everyone wrote them off as pointless visually fluff. Why would people spend time working on something that had no in-game effect? Why were the developers spending time adding a system that could, at best, only be used as a way of bragging about what you’ve done. Surely adding more content to the proper game was more important?

It’s a system that’s been very important to COH though. A lot of people centre their gaming around obtaining badges. It has encouraged many players to stay loyal to City of Heroes during the times when interest in the game was lower because of the lack of new updates. The act of obtaining badges became a game in it’s own right and new badges were the content that many people were most interested in. In my mind the badge system is the addition that has had the most long term impact to the game.

Gamerscore has, I think, been equally important for Microsoft. Gamers have really bought into the system. They have invested their time into it. For many it tips the balance as to which console they play the latest releases on. For some, if the game isn’t contributing to their Gamerscore then it’s not worth playing.

Achievements started out as a throwaway last minute addition. Now most developers seem to spend time and effort working on their achievements. There is apparently evidence to suggest that games with open achievements sell better than those with lots of secret ones. A sure sign that achievements have become important for many players.

If Sony are really serious about their Home platform I think that they really should force developers to include rewards and other Home content in their titles. They need to make their achievement system accessible from the web and allow gamers to share their accomplishments with others outside the Home environment. Only then will they have something that rivals Microsoft’s Gamerscore and will entice achievement junkies to spend their time elsewhere.

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