Confessions of a Whore

If you have something to confess, do it now. Give yourself some peace“.

Last night I Achievement Whored.

Zoey_Witch_Recolor_by_ScottWite

Well, sort of, as we’ll see… however more accurately I helped out a friend by setting up his attempt to ‘glitch’ Left 4 Dead to allow him to get an Achievement that is very difficult to unlock under normal play conditions. I actually only agreed to do this, because this particular glitch would only affect him – only he’d get the Achievement, and I wouldn’t. Which was exactly what I wanted, because if I unlocked this Achievement I would only find any satisfaction in it by doing it under proper play conditions – so I actively want to leave it locked as a potential goal for another time.

As I discussed the Achievements of L4D more with him, it was obvious there was quite a few “workaround” ways to get many of the Achievements on this game. Glitches like this were pretty complicated, but there were the far more obvious ones like putting it on the easiest difficulty setting, specifically playing solo, or with a group of 4, or the classic the ‘2nd controller’ offline ‘multiplayer’ mode. My friend was quite willing to use any or all of these techniques in The Quest for the Holy Unlock.

However, to defend my friend, as he’s not exactly an iWin controller-using baboon, he specifically didn’t ruin anyone else’s play session in his self-admitted Achievement Whoring, in fact, he explained he doesn’t like playing online competitive or even co-operative  games at all in general – due the the problem of most ‘pick up group’ players being total dickshits – a problem I do sympathise with entirely. So he actually chooses to get even the “Versus” mode Achievements via ‘exploits’ in only offline play where he can.

I came to the firmer conclusion that as I’d already suspected, and like so many games, L4D has some very poorly conceived Achievements.  So it won’t really interest me to try and get some of them at all because of this failure in the game’s design. However, it got me thinking further; why does my “Whoring” friend do it? Whereas I see this gamerscore meta-game as one not worth playing, except in particular circumstances, for the reasons explained in my previous take on Achievements (and also covered in an excellent post on Not Rocket Science too), my friend here was actively engaged in this meta-game and clearly deriving fun from it. I got the sense that he enjoyed for the feeling of completeness he got from getting the Achievements – even via any ‘unintended’ means necessary. Regardless of the method it still made him feel like he’d ‘finished’ the game (or finished a greater portion of). When I asked him about it more, this seemed to fit. He’s the type of player, of which I know many, that generally just plays any game through once, just to ‘see the story’ and finish the game, and won’t care if he does it on easy mode or whatever as he doesn’t really necessary want the challenge or the potential frustration along with it. As for collecting achievements he said he mostly did it on a whim, as if it was almost an unconcious decision – and that he doesn’t do it for most games. But for certain games, like L4D, he’d decided he wanted to try to get as many Achievements as he possibly could – and any he was frustrated by not being able to get via ‘normal play’ he was happy to try and unlock via any other method, not for the gamerscore but just because he wanted to and he could. To me this was more the stance of a “collector”, and although surely not mutually exclusive, it does seem to be somewhat different than the ‘badge of honour’ (or skill or knowledge if you like) motivation that is more typical of the Achievement ‘hunter’. Which, when it results in ‘boosting’ play, I see as merely a cheaters perversion of  my own attitude to Achievements. Ie: potentially fun sub-goals and also records of what I consider real fun accomplishments in a game – hence why I refuse to take any measures to shortcut the fun I find in working towards those records.

nicaragua

Hmm, wrong image search...

Once the L4D unlock glitch had been ‘acheived’ though, I started having a quick play on the free demo of Ikaruga. It is on offer to Gold members this week for the paltry sum of 400 MSP, which is only about 3 pounds. I commented at the time in XBL chat that it seems almost rude not to buy it for such a cheap price as it’s a pretty good game that once-upon-a-time I had been totally hyped about… however that’s exactly the issue with it for me. I had it on the Dreamcast, I played it on the Dreamcast, and I still have a Dreamcast hooked up, right there next to my XBox 360 (albeit on an SD-TV as the DC’s lower resolution tends to look better). So really, why was I even  seriously considering spending extra cash on this game, that I could play for no additional cost, and could’ve played ‘for free’ at any point before now too?

Was it just for the higher fidelity graphics? Was it just for the online multiplayer, or the convenience of having it on my “main” console (& TV).. ? Perhaps… but when I found myself actually opening up the Achievements list to decide whether to buy the game or not it hit me. Had I unwittingly turned into some lesser varient of an Achievement Whore myself.. ? Was I really considering spending money just to get some gamerscore? With some relief as I analysed myself, I realised this wasn’t the case.

The main reason I cared about the Achievements was to see if they would give me a new viable “goal” that would make me want to re-play the game again, but the other more surprising reason to me, was that the Achievements, and the online nature of my XBL account itself, were also providing a means for me to to potentially be able to show my respect for the game & it’s developers in a very tangible fashion. If I bought & played the game it would show on my gamercard online on things like this blog and social networks. XBL Friends would see me playing the game. Ikaruga! It’s friggin’ hardcore Treasure shmup! Or if I unlocked an Achievement, I would be able to post it to my facebook newsfeed, and friends would see I was playing this game. I could easily display my liking for Treasure, others might see it and comment, ask what it is, or choose to play the game co-operatively with me or challenge my scores and the like…. I realised it was all of this that was actually the deciding factor in getting the game and playing it again. I don’t know what this says about my style of play – I suspect nothing really. The fact that such non-game features feature into my buying & playing decisions probably says more about me as a person than a gamer really – and just how much I like games in general! 😉

Ikaruga_Kagari

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