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!