Once a Whore, Always a Whore...

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It is often said that the first step to dealing with an addiction problem, be it drugs or alcohol, is admitting that you actually have a problem in the first place.

My gamertag is TTDog666… and I’m hooked on Achievements.

Everyone who has ever found themselves in this position has their own story… and this is mine.

Truth be told I’m not as bad as I have been in the past… most of the time… and I’ve long since stopped searching Ebay for cheap copies of Lego games because they offer up a relatively easy 1,000 Gamerscore.

Why bother with Lego games and Ebay when there are dozens of ID@Xbox titles that now offer the same reward for a fraction of the effort?

Let’s go back to the beginning… while I can’t remember the exact amount of Gamerscore I had at the time, what does stick in my mind was that I thought it was a fairly decent total to have, I didn’t expect to be up there with the best in the world… but I expected (rather foolishly it turns out) to be up there close.

I turned to the source of all knowledge, where everybody goes to with a bizarre question they want answering… Google… and I was in for a shock and a half.

Seems my score (which, as stated, I can’t rightly remember but it would have been between 25,000 and 30,000 based on statistical information available which shows I hit 30,000 in April 2010 and had less than 1,250 total Achievements) was the sort of score a dedicated player could knock out in a month… ego takes a severe hammering.

The answer to my question came from TrueAchievements.com which is, when it comes to gaming, one of my favourite websites… it’s inhabited by thousands of other gamers with an unhealthy obsession with Gamerscore, and it serves a dual purpose of a “safe haven” for those who play not just for the enjoyment… no one will ridicule you for playing “Hannah Montana” for the points on the site… because half of them probably played it for the exact same reason.

It wasn’t until later that I got hooked on the damn things… playing Lego game after Lego game for the points, going so far as to order the infamous “Avatar Aang: Legend of the Burning Earth” for the quick points fix… a game where I put it up for sale on Ebay as soon as I had ordered it from a different online retailer… a game where I even put a stopwatch on the time between the disk being put in the tray and the disk being removed again at the end of the process… under 3 minutes.

I discovered the site had complete guides for some games, detailing the best way to reduce your playing time, to make the harvesting of the 1,000 points on offer for each retail game as efficient as possible, games where I had been trying to collect the last 2 or 3 Achievements for completion were quickly finished thanks to hints and guides to individual Achievements, sessions were joined to help with some of the more bizarre or awkward online criteria needed to unlock them.

Take Forza Motorsport 7 as an example, a game where I’ve written about boosting one particular online Achievement that would be near on impossible without help… there’s an Achievement for owning, at one time, 700 cars in that game… what it doesn’t mention is that this can be the same car 700 times, which makes it considerably easier than trying to own 700 different ones.

While hunting Achievements can lead to some pretty unhealthy practices gaming wise… mainly where playing games stops being the fun hobby it really should be, chasing a completion on a game can take you places in a game where you wouldn’t previously have gone before.

Having completed Fallout 3 for example a check of the Achievement list after revealed a host of Achievements for completing quests that I hadn’t uncovered yet… I didn’t stumble across the “Kingdom of Dave” until I was hunting the last few missing Bobbleheads for an Achievement, because I didn’t like the noise from having my radio on I had missed the radio broadcasts that would lead me to Oasis and dear old Harold the Tree… a couple of great areas in that game way off the beaten track.

Hunting rare Achievements will often send you to areas of a game you would have missed, or made you change your play style to one that takes you out of your comfort zone but which ends up opening a whole new way of playing a game you would have missed… with Eternal Sonata my single run through became three as I worked on the trade chain Achievement, which in turn lead to my collecting all the tunes, which lead to severe anger when I was spent 30 minutes looking around a village for a character named “Solitary String” because the collectible guide I’d been using neglected to mention the key piece of information of that particular character being a sodding cat.

Deep breaths… even several years later that one still stings a little.

Even though I consider myself reformed the habit never really goes away.

When we get the monthly announcement of “Games with Gold” my first thoughts are whether the new titles will be games I actually want to play… my second thoughts are whether or not they’re an easy 1,000 points.

I’ve stopped buying games based on easy Achievements… well… I’ve stopped buying so many… when a game like “Dear Esther” appears in a sale for a few coins then I’m right at the front of the queue with my bank card in hand… but I try to stick to games I figure I’ll enjoy… Tacoma, Oxenfree and Inside being prime examples.

There will always be that diamond in the rough game that you wouldn’t have gone anywhere near without the lure of easy Achievements (last one for me being Refunct where finally popping the “complete game in under 4 minutes” Achievement felt practically orgasmic) but I’ve moved away from deliberately buying the dross that I know is out there.

It’s a compromise… I’ll spend months playing a huge open world RPG and have no problem with the relatively low return rate for the time I put in… because I know there will be a time not long after where I hammer through 3 games in a weekend to compensate.

For Reference: At time of writing it’s mid December, I’ve just replayed South Park: The Stick of Truth on the One and my Gamerscore sits just under 169,000 which I expect to hit pretty soon… I set myself a goal of around 20,000 a year to keep myself amused,

Mark Schutz

Based in the heart of the United Kingdom and old enough to remember when “old school” was just “school”. Multi-console owner who has never understood why some people feel the need to defend one console just because of the name on the box. Former IGN moderator (but much better now thanks) who has come out of that with a much improved outlook on video games. Can be found on Xbox Live or PSN under the name TTDog666