As I mentioned in the last “System Update”, I have been playing my Xbox 360 more and more. One of the main reasons I’ve been playing the game system is because of the achievement system. If you don’t know what an Xbox achievement is, here is the main idea. The achievement system is an additional reward system that goes beyond the game itself. The gamer score is associated with your profile and other players can see it – as well as your individual achievements. The end result is that players tend to spend extra time within the games in order to get these achievements.
Microsoft does an excellent job with this concept. Even the simple “two tone” popping sound can make the player feel rewarded. The achievement often has a creative name and it can be associated with an unusual accomplishment such as driving on every road in Forza Horizon’s map. Points can also be given for beating a certain enemy or reaching a higher level. The possibilities are endless.
Why are people wired like this? Three words: Quantification of Self. Quantification of self is a relatively modern phenomenon and it isn’t only associated with video game players. For example, people who are into fitness can be obsessed with quantification of self. Going for a simple jog may involve a GPS device, a heart-rate monitor, and a pedometer. By the end of the run, the jogger knows how far she has run, how many steps she has taken, and how many calories she has burned.
Once upon a time, tracking such statistics was only possible in the world of professional sports, but now technology has made it possible to track so many things. Now add the video game player to the concept. It is the perfect fit, a combination of technology and recreation.
I like getting these achievements. In fact, it has almost become a distraction to me and has sometimes overshadowed the game itself. I must give a true confession. I have played at least two games not because I had fun with them, but because I wanted those points. You see, back in the early days of the 360, the achievement craze had not really started yet. Game developers did not have any idea of how popular it would become and gave out achievement points like crazy. I would like to discuss two of those games.
King Kong: The Movie – This early game based on the movie directed by Peter Jackson made it pretty easy for gamers to get 1000 points. You only have to beat the game. After you get past certain levels, it gives out 100 points at a time. So, if you are a pretty good gamer you can earn those points in about 6 to 8 hours. Fortunately, my son was visiting for the weekend, and he played most of it for me. Is the game any good? Well, it shows how far programmers have come in game design and graphics – but now this game is looking a little dated.
Avatar, the Last Airbender: The Burning Earth – In addition to having a lengthy title, you can reach 1000 achievement points in less that 5 minutes. The secret? Just go to the left side of the screen and hit the B button. That’s it. Don’t believe me? My friend Squiggly came over with the game and I made a short video. It would have even taken less time but I had forgotten to log into Xbox Live.
What do you think of achievements? Are you aware of any games that you can get them easily? It has almost become a side quest for me. Of course, all of this is just having good fun – sort of a gamers version of fantasy football. I would not want my real life based on earning achievement points – I wouldn’t be able to get my son to do it for me!
Have you ever taken a break from playing a modern game system? Then you go back to play a game on it, and on the screen is a message saying, “An update is available”. You think to yourself, “Why not go ahead? How long can it take?” Thirty minutes later you are still staring at the screen, watching that progress bar slowly go from left to right. At this point, you can’t even remember what game you were going to play when you turned the blasted thing on. In this modern era of gaming, updates are a fact of life.
I think it is time to give you an update about what has been going on in my life. As many of you know, in addition to a full time time job as a Technology Manager at Anuvia in Charlotte, I also have been inching my way toward a Masters of Divinity at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. I have been taking one class per semester and recently finished a course called “The Teacher and the Teaching Task”. The class involved a paper as well as an extensive project – so the summer has gone by very quickly. The “progress bar” on my education is moving slowing but steadily, and I estimate that I am one third of the way through. My next class is about the Gospel of John and it involves a lot of translation work from the original Koine Greek as well as exegesis. I am looking forward to it.
I have been playing some games though. Lately, my system of choice has been the Xbox 360. There are two reasons why I have been playing it so much. The first reason is an excellent seamless online experience. I have written before about my trepidation of playing online games – I am slowly getting over it. Two games that I have been playing online are Forza Horizon and Diablo III. The second reason is ACHIEVEMENTS. I love it when that little message pops up announcing to me (and maybe the world?) that I have just reached a new level or performed a certain task. I wish I could get achievements at work. I could be typing an email and all of a sudden. “Bink! You have earned a new achievement. Ten million emails written. Prolific Writer” – that would be so cool. I have even played a couple of older Xbox 360 games ONLY for the purpose of getting achievements. Examples include: King Kong the Movie and The Last Avatar. On the Avatar game I got one thousand points in less than five minutes. I will be writing about that experience on my next post.
So it has been a busy summer of work, school, some disc golf, an eleven mile hike, and time with family. I love sharing my thoughts on this blog, so keep your eyes open for more. Update Complete.