It all started with a bet, as these things usually seem to do. Until a week ago, I had never cared too much about Xbox 360 achievements in the competitive sense. In the abstract, I’ve been a fan because they motivate me to get a lot more out of my games than I otherwise might. But I never quite understood why people looked at points like an arms race. After all, even a quick glance at Trueachievements.com makes it clear that people hack achievements, and find other ways to illegitimately bolster their score (Fallout 3 PC, anyone?). Then again, as gamers we do maintain an impeccable ability to make a competition out of ANYthing. I remember during the earliest days of Giant Bomb, people were gaming the Wiki submission points on pages to try and increase their “score” on the page. Yeesh…
Even though I have always enjoyed earning points (or trophies) in games, I never played games for the mere sake of getting them. But then the bet happened. I was at a bar with a good buddy of mine; we were talking about Duke Nukem Forever, and then he pulled up his phone and said “wow man, you’re finally about to catch me,” showing that I was about 200 points behind him, and that we were both less than a full game away from 70,000. The conversation continued until eventually we wagered on who could hit 70k fastest.
I figured I was a shoe-in to win. My friend had been an achievement booster since day one, and had played virtually every title with an easy 1000 gamerscore. I, on the other hand, never played an “easy achievement game” for the sake of the points, meaning that there was a veritable library of titles that would allow me a quick thousand, and theoretically an easy win. So, I did my research, looked up the simplest games on TrueAchievements, and went to Gamestop. I picked up “King Kong,” and developed a strategy. To make the whole thing more palatable (or worse maybe), I explained my situation to the store manager. In an amazing (and somewhat unique) display of assistance, she told me I could knock out the games, return them within seven days, and she’d be happy to help with the process. Perfect.
Five hours later, I finished “Peter Jackson’s King Kong,” or whatever the title of that thing is, and I felt dirty. I mean, dirty; after all, 5 hours should not result in 1000 points, yet it did. I think I would have been happier about it if the game wasn’t painfully terrible, but man, this wasn’t exactly Shadow of the Colossus, or even Duke Nukem. Still, I figured I had won the bet, so 50 bucks was worth my shame (I suppose that makes me a cheap whore? I dunno). Unfortunately, my stint with achievement-based prostitution didn’t pan out: my buddy managed to clear 70k in the same night, so the bet was a wash.
True to my plan, I returned the game to the store. However, instead of calling it a day, I decided to pick up “Gun” instead (which also has easy achievements) and go from there. So what happened? Did I finally succumb to the achievement arms race? Not really. No, somewhere, deep in the terribleness of King Kong, I realized I could experience some truly awful relics of past game design. Maybe, somewhere in the doldrums of summer releases, I could experience licensed games, kid-friendly titles, and older launch titles that I would never otherwise examine. Maybe I realized that by completing clunkers, I could have something to talk about. Hell, maybe there’s some unexpected gems in there.
So instead of showering off, I’m going to get dirty, really, really dirty. In the months before I enter law school, I’m going to play as many of these easy achievement games as I can, and write about them in some manner, starting with King Kong, and ending wherever. God help me, this is probably not a good idea, but there’s only one way to find out. right?
That said, has anyone else ever gone this route? Any recommendations for me along the way?