I’ve written before about the Xbox 360’s Achievements system, which rewards you for performing certain tasks in videogames and adds points to your overall Gamerscore. It’s arguably an old-fashioned idea, a return to the days of the arcades when players wanted to get their initials in the #1 spot on that Space Invaders cabinet.

But other than that, there’s no real use to one’s Gamerscore. It’s just one more way videogamers can compete with one another. Videogamers are a competitive lot, to be sure, so I suppose I should not have been surprised by the existence of But I was, nonetheless.

I won’t deny that I get a certain Pavlovian satisfaction whenever I hear that little “pop” sound and a round box opens up at the bottom of my screen, informing that I’ve done something impressive (some of my recent achievements, in the game Crackdown, include “Airtime Assassin: Shoot and kill 5 gang members in a single jump” and “Body Juggler: Use explosives to keep a body up in the air for 10 seconds”).

But you get nothing for a high Gamerscore other than, supposedly, the respect of your fellow gamers. But let’s examine that idea. How much respect do you really get? Sure, I’ve got one person in my gaming group who happens to have a Gamerscore close to mine, and I find it fun to keep track of which of us is currently on top. But paying to get far ahead of him would obviously remove any enjoyment I’m getting out of it. The rest of my friends are either so far ahead or so far behind that it doesn’t matter to me.

Again, I’d have a hard time ponying up my hard-earned cash for something like this without a clear idea of whom I’m going to impress. Other than a few of my friends, I don’t care about anyone else’s Gamerscore. And the one or two players out there who have the highest Gamerscores of all–100,000 points or more? My reaction to them is, “Wow–they must have a lot of time on their hands.” Or, “I guess that’s what this person has decided they want to be in life–they want to be in the guy with the highest Gamerscore.” Someone has to be, I guess.

While I’d never pay money for it myself, I can understand why some people pay to get their World of Warcraft characters leveled up. Maybe they started late and their friends are all level 50. Or maybe they want a richer gaming experience and just don’t have the time to grind. Again, I’d never pay money for something like that, but at least it affects your gameplay experience. You get a clearly useful benefit.

But your Gamerscore? Utterly useless. It’s like paying someone to take your place in the town softball league?what’s the point? The only person who could justifiably do this is Hedonism-Bot.


  1. Ed and I were having a discussion, albeit a short one, on this topic the other night as we were enduring another 2 hour masochismfest in a GRAW2 Co-op mission. We are spending a significant amount of time to get 30 points per the six missions, for a grand total of 180 points in 18 hours (likely) time spent!

    Is 10 points an hour worth it? On face value, no it is not. But, we both agreed that the personal satisfaction of watching our scores go up, even without competition amongst ourselves, is enough. It is a measure of success and you are right, we gamers love it and it does go back to getting your chance to put “ASS” on the Asteroids box.

    Now, I’m sure there are plenty of gamers out there that look at it as some kind of cred, but they are also all pale and oily from not seeing enough sun or shower while whittling away their days in their Momma’s basement.

    However, they aren’t the lowest form of gamer… no, that right would be reserved for any clown that actually paid to have some third party increase their score for them. These guys are Achievement Whores of the highest order. (You can thank Ed for coining that term.)

    So, outside of achievement totals, they are kind of fun though, right? I mean, some of the ones they put in some of the games are pretty clever and fun (or painful) to try and achieve, and for that, I am thankful for this system that Microsoft put in place.

    I don’t think I’ll ever have the skillz to Head Chomp 50 enemy in Alien Hominid, but it sure is fun to try…

  2. Agreed on all points, Sean.

    Especially that 50 head-chomp achievement. Most of the AH achievements are difficult, but that one is crazy.

    But yeah, achievements are lots of fun. One thing I do hate, though, are all the achievements that can only be unlocked in ranked matches. I guess the idea is to prevent friends from getting together and having one of them stand there while the other shoots them repeatedly to up their gamerscore. But have you ever tried playing a GoW ranked match? It’s nothing but jerks running around saying, “No one take the Torque Bow, I’m trying to get the achievement!” Blecch. Multiplayer games are often bad enough without adding the arguments over who gets what achievement.

    MS needs to keep in mind the same point I make above—the Gamerscore isn’t actually worth anything. They lose nothing by allowing people to get points in non-ranked competitive matches. I hate playing ranked GoW, which means I have to give up almost half the achievement points the game offers.

  3. This coming from the same guy who once wrote:

    “It?s an amazing return to the earliest days of videogaming, when earning the most points and getting your three-letter initials (or maybe just ?ASS?) at the top of the Space Invaders arcade machine was the only worthwhile goal in life.”

    Me thinks one may have spied my Gamerscore – which has risen by 2,000 points in the one month I’ve owned the 360 – and suddenly decided that in fact, Achievement Points suck – but only when you do not wield the highest. Mwa Ha Ha Ha. Kneel before your master!!! (Oh, and remember, I’m the 34 year old dude with a house and two kids who doesn’t get on XBL most days until 10-ish and punches out by midnight – so the reason for my rise can’t be tied to excessive amounts of Gaming. I’m just that good, baby!!! Hail to the King.

    Truth be told, you do raise some good points. The multiplayer Achievements can be a bitch to attain and they only serve to degrade the online experience as all sense of teamwork is thrown out the window in favor of the numerous renegades who are working on their Achievements. Granted it’s a dual-edged sword – if MS opened the Achievements to non-ranked matches than suddenly the flood gates are opened to cheaters who can just staff a room with a bunch of buddies, whack them 100 times, then allow another buddy the chance to do the same – rinse and repeat. BTW Those guys with 100,000 points most likely have cheated on numerous games (Host a Ranked Game with Only Friends Invited and then do exactly what I detailed above) as well as rented a number of the games that give you easy Achievements (you can score the full 1,000 just by playing through the short 8-hour campaigns of TMNT and King Kong).

    While I don’t care so much to attain every Achievement or wield a higher Gamerscore than everyone else (including my frieds – despite the hyperbole above), I do get a great feeling seeing my personal score rise and I do feel the Achievements lend longevity to so many solo campaigns as they coerce me to seek out every little secret and play through the games numerous times. By that notion, I am getting a little more bang for my buck.

    But rest assured – you can coddle yourself all you want with little self-assuring phrases like “…I don?t care about anyone else?s Gamerscore.”

    Keep telling yourself that. ‘Cause you ain’t never gonna stop the Plow.

    Oh YEAH!!! It’s ON!!!!

  4. @Ed—

    Me thinks one may have spied my Gamerscore – which has risen by 2,000 points in the one month I’ve owned the 360 – and suddenly decided that in fact, Achievement Points suck – but only when you do not wield the highest.

    Hey, I never said Achievement Points suck. In fact, I said just the opposite, several times. What I do say is one’s Gamerscore has no real usefulness other than as a representational by-product of how much enjoyment you’ve had—so paying money to increase it is stupid.

    Oh, and remember, I’m the 34 year old dude with a house and two kids who doesn’t get on XBL most days until 10-ish and punches out by midnight – so the reason for my rise can’t be tied to excessive amounts of Gaming. I’m just that good, baby!!!

    Gotta give props to those mad Viva Piñata skillz.

  5. Let’s see, I have a 3 year old son who enjoys playing Viva Pinata with his Daddy. Hence, the time logged on the game. You try denying him when he comes up and precociously asks – “Can we buy another lakehouse for the Flutterflies?”

    Incidentally, Pinata is a fairly challenging strategy game in its own right – on par with a Sim City or Command & Conquer in terms of deftly managing resources – and it is a lot of fun. Actually, based on the depth of the game mechanics, I don’t see how this is a kid game. It is fairly complex and has vexed me quite a bit therefore it’s good that Colin’s Daddy is the one jockeying the controller. I’ll say this, the Achievements in VP have been harder to earn than those I’ve earned in GoW. More puzzle oriented resulting in quite a few brain-benders to get them. As the name implies, I really felt we have Achieved something in earning some of these.

    “Gotta give props to those mad Viva Pinata skillz.”

    So sayeth the man who has Big Bumpin and Sneak King on his resume.

  6. For your information, Big Bumpin and Sneak King happen to be richly nuanced interactive theses on the racing and stalking habits of indigenous fast-food mascots.

    And I can just see Cecil Cocoadile commanding a tank division…”I’m in ur garden, blastin ur vegetablez.”

  7. I’m sorry, but if you are going to talk BK games, then they are more likely interactive feces than theses, if only because a meal at BK gives you just that…

  8. I do think there’s a degree to which the Achievements become an end unto themselves. I find myself wanting to play Wii games but thinking in the back of my mind that I won’t “get” anything for playing them and that I should focus on getting Achievements on the 360. That’s the Pavlovian effect right there.

    It’s a brilliant way to make sure players get the most out of their gaming experience, but there’s another edge to the sword, where the enjoyment of the game can sometimes take a backseat to the Achievements. For instance, I ended up not really enjoying Splinter Cell: Double Agent that much, but I played it through to get the main Achievements.

  9. I am in complete agreement with you on the Wii. I have Super Paper Mario completely collecting dust even though a month back I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. The reason for my current bout of abstinence – I won’t get any Achievement Points for playing it so it feels like I am wasting my time.

    Whatever happened to playing a game for the experience? Now I must be rewarded for my effort.

    Gotta go’ – I’m still working on luring a Horstachio into my graden and mating it with a Cocoadile to either get the sickest Achievement I’ve evr earned or a one way ticket to Chris Hansen’s lil’ prime time show.

  10. @Ed—Ha ha! *runs to look up who Chris Hansen is*

  11. You better know who Chris Hansen is… The last thing you want is to walk into his kitchen completely unaware.

  12. I enjoyed playing Splinter Cell. I thought it was one of the better games in the series, if a little different, and lacking, than its predecessors. I will admit that I didn’t play this one thru a second time on Hard, which is unlike any of the others. I think the reason was because the achievement points to be had for doing so just weren’t worth it, so I turned my attention elsewhere. I think when that happens, it is not a good thing. That said, I’ll probably still go back and play it again assuming nothing else of interest comes out soon and I am done getting my arse kicked by the Rainbow Six: Vegas campaign on Realistic.

    That reminds me, my numbers on the GRAW2 co-op achievements were wrong. We only got 20 per map. It is 30 for R6V, but these don’t seem worth it to me either. I spent 8.5 hours on the fifth map. It’s not that the game is that hard, although it is hard, it is that they have a horrible save system.

  13. See, I’m not interested in playing Rainbow Six on realistic mode. I have a pretty low frustration tolerance as it is–that would drive me nuts.

  14. Sean left a comment on May 1, 2007 at 1:13 am

    A wise choice… I am very stuck towards the end of the sixth map. It is horribly frustrating and if the TV didn’t cost so damned much, the controller would have smashed into it long ago. All of this for an extra 100 achievement points…

  15. JFCC left a comment on May 8, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    For me, there definitely comes a point where the frustration isn’t worth the Achievement points. I’m pretty much done with Crackdown…I may try to finish the road races, but one of them is INSANELY difficult, much harder than any of the other races. I’m not sure I want to spend hours on that until I get it right.

    Lately I’ve been playing Metroid games…no Achievements in sight, but I’m enjoying myself just as much. (For the record, I played Metroid: Zero Mission, a remake of the original game, on the DS, and now I’m playing Metroid Prime).

  16. Ed left a comment on May 8, 2007 at 9:33 pm


    Metroid Prime is a fantastic game and its sequel is equally well-done, albeit not the complete revelation that Prime was.

    The third game, Corruption, is supposedly due on the Wii by November and the word on the street is the control scheme they cooked up for the game works so well – it will become the blueprint for FPS games on the Wii.

    As for handhelds, if you enjoyed Zero Mission, you might want to hunt down Metroid Fusion which was an original Metroid 2D side-scroller for the GBA.

    Also, all of the 2D Castlevania titles since Symphony of the Night bear the nickname, Metroidvania, as they share a lot in common with Metorid in terms of game design. I’m currently playing through SotN on XBL and love it.

  17. I have to admit, the control scheme on Prime drives me crazy. It’s just not as intuitive as Halo et al. They’ve got the two sticks there–why the heck can’t I use ’em? I would have gladly given up a couple of the myriad viewscreen options in favor of double-analog-stick movement.

    And it’s not just that–I turn into a morphball when I want to fire a missile, I fire a missile when I want to jump, I enter free-look when I want to see the map, and so forth. I’ve been playing for two hours gametime so far and I still can’t get the hang of it.

  18. Ed left a comment on May 9, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    You need to unlearn what you have learned – only then will your mind be open to learn.

  19. […] Fortunately, one’s Achievements are archived on Microsoft’s server, so his gamerscore is […]

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