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Monday, April 5, 2010

Life's little achievements

I'm nearing a milestone and, unlike most aspects in my life, I will know when I achieve it. There is no gray area when it comes to this milestone as it is gauged by points. Achievement points.


In 2005 when the Xbox 360 was released, Microsoft unleashed an almost demonic creation on society. This creation was achievement points. At first I thought it was the most asinine system ever. What are these points? My first taste of the "bloop, bloop" noise the game makes when you achieve an achievement was when I won my first race on Project Gotham Racing 3. As I won an image like this appeared:







What started out as an annoyance on the screen slowly transformed into a new reason to play games.

Every game on the 360 has points that can be earned. Some of the game's makers make them easy and fun to get, and others make them impossible, but they are always there. Each time the wonderful noise, "bloop, bloop" appears I know I just did something that increased my overall gamer score.

Typically, a game has 1,000 points that can be earned and from the life of an account there is a running total. I am nearing a milestone as I just went over 74,000 and am headed to the 75,000 mark.

There's a problem with gamer score though. Last year I bought a PS3 an had no motivation to play it as the games on there didn't affect my Xbox gamer score. Whoever created this gamer score concept better have been given a promotion because it entrenched me in terms of brand loyalty. This might not 100% be a good thing though.

The gamer score concept has given me motivation to play certain games, but overall, in life, it has made it where I want my reward NOW. Gamer score allows me to know I did something worth rewarding immediately. Instant gratification has never been, well, gratifying. Is this a good thing though?

Most of my friends over Xbox laugh at my seemingly obsessive tendencies towards the wonderful world of gamer score, but it's more than just increasing my score. Through each achievement I am positively reinforced that I did something good. Outside of Xbox I can do things and what reinforcement do I get? It's certainly not an increase of gamer score, and if it is it isn't instant.

Don't get me wrong in that I do nothing in life. I just want to make the point, about achievement points, that they might not be a great thing because it can create a mind set of instant rewarding of a task or deed. If you leave the house on a day you aren't rewarded, but do the simple task of "Pressing Start" in the "The Simpsons Game" and you are instantly rewarded with five points. Five! Just for pressing start! What can I do outside of video games that will reward me for doing nothing?

And that's the problem, life doesn't have points. There's one person on my friends list that is far worse than me in terms of points. He LIVES for them. I like them, he needs them. It's an addictive system. In racing games an achievement may be "finish a race without damaging your car" but in the real world will you be rewarded for proper use of a turn signal?

It's a challenge to play games for the sake of playing them once I've earned the points. Much like a swarm of locusts, once the points have been reaped it is time to move on. Speaking of which, I think I've got all the points I've wanted to make in this entry, so I certainly deserve...

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