Nielsen: Gaming enters the prime time

The Nielsen Company, best known for  measuring U.S. television audiences ("the Nielsen ratings"), published a new report yesterday on video game usage.  Based on data collected from Nielsen's national TV panel of more than 10,000 homes,  the report includes a deep dive into Xbox 1 vs 100 usage.  I have highlighted a few of the key findings below; the full report can be found here.   

  • More than half (56%) of Xbox 360 users are 18 or older -- an indication that console video games aren't "just for kids" anymore
  • Almost a quarter of Xbox 360's are active during prime time hours (8-11pm) in Nielsen homes -- a sign of the multimedia capabilities of this generation of game consoles.
  • The average length of play for a 1 vs 100 session on Xbox Live is 71 minutes, and nearly 90 minutes for the "Live" game show editions -- impressive figures, especially for advertisers who place commercials during periodic "game breaks"

What do people think about these findings?

 

      My two cents: it's good to see another report that vindicates gaming as a mainstream activity, rather than a fringe hobby.

  

 

 *  Source :  Nielsen Wire, "Who, When and How? A Closer Look at Video Game Measurement," 21 April 2010.

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Mass Effect: The best sci-fi book I ever read

With Mass Effect 2 calling out to me from the store shelf, I finally caved and picked up the original Mass Effect (I just can't bring myself to jump right into the middle of the trilogy without playing through the first campaign).  I'm enjoying the game so far, with about 14 hours under my belt, but I laughed when I read this online observation about the game's wordiness: 

Seriously, you'll exchange more words with your enemies than you will bullets. It's like a 12 Angry Men simulator, only in space, and sans Tony Danza.  [ Joystiq ]

 
Still, Mass Effect doesn't hold a candle to Oblivion in that regard, and I put it on par with Fallout 3 in terms of amount of dialogue/reading material in the game. 

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Assassin's Greed

Can Xbox 360 Achievements undermine the oldest gaming achievement of all? 
  
Last night I did the video game equivalent of spring cleaning by plowing through the final few sections of the original Assassin's Creed .  "Spring cleaning" is probably an overly harsh description; even 30 months after its initial release, AC still amazed me with its dazzling graphics, free-flowing mechanics, and intriguing storyline.  That being said, the only thing driving me to scour the map for that one last Saracen flag or that one elusive Templar was an Xbox 360 Achievement. 
 
Now don't get me wrong -- I don't regret the countless hours collecting 400+ flags and tracking down sometimes glitchy Templar locations.  I've only played a handful of games to 100% completion, so it's worth it to try for 1000 gamerscore on a game I really like.   
 
But the thing that bugged me most about my final AC  session was that my achievement hunt overshadowed my enjoyment of the game's climactic ending.  As the final cinematic played, I was actually frustrated  rather than fulfilled because I thought I had failed to obtain a missable achievement (Creed of the Disciple) that would require starting over from the beginning!  (In fact, I had unlocked that achievement with another one a few minutes earlier, and the final 50-pointer unlocked after the final scene of the game.)  Should the possibility of finishing the game with 950 points instead of 1000 really have consumed my mind at that moment?  At the culmination of more than 24 hours worth of playtime?
 Keep your eyes on the prize...what's the real prize?
Growing up in the NES/SNES/Genesis generation, the only real (single-player) achievement that gamers sought was to "beat the game."  Most kids could recite the list of games they had completed from memory.  Some games tracked how quickly you finished the campaign, but the real bragging rights still came from taking down a game's final boss. 
 
Fast forward to March 2008, when I bought my Xbox 360, and it was no longer "the play's the thing."  Rather than just playing a game from start to finish, gamers could earn achievements (or trophies) for accomplishing tasks both central and peripheral to the story.  I assume this was a byproduct of the Internet Revolution, which allowed gamers to see how they stack up with friends on gaming leaderboards.  was never a PC gamer and kind of missed out on the online gaming scene of the late '90s and 2000s.  All of a sudden, I found myself greedily pursuing achievements and comparing my gamerscore to my peers' as if I had been a lifelong achievement hunter. 
 
Does the addition of Xbox 360 Achievements and PS3 Trophies undermine the gaming experience?  I think in general that it enhances it, adding replayability to games that would otherwise collect dust on my shelf (Dead Space, for example).  However, I do think achievement hunting can run counter to the true spirit of a game, detracting from the authenticity and immersiveness of a game's story.   Would Altair really pause at the penultimate stage of his quest so that he could go collect his 100th King Richard flag?  Would he risk exposing his identity to city guards in order to steal his 200th throwing knife?   
 
I'm fine with suspending disbelief when it comes to these video-gamey side activities, but in the future I'm going to try not to obsess about achievements at the cost of a game's story payoff.  My new mantra: Embrace your achievement greed so long as it's secondary to your enjoyment of the game itself.
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I Just Got Bombed

My name is Pete. I'm 28, live in New Jersey, and work in the Big Apple. I'm struggling with the whole "being an adult but wanting to play video games" thing, but I've decided to embrace my chosen lifestyle and let the chips fall where they may. 
 
Feel free to add me as a friend on Xbox Live: Rock Blackstone

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