There are probably plenty of people that wouldn’t consider me a gamer.
My gamertag profile is Recreational, not Underground. I’ve never played through all the Halo games, the Call of Duty has gone unanswered on my consoles, and the Gears of War stopped turning after about 45 minutes. I rarely play online multiplayer, and when I do, I don’t scream slanderous imprecations.
I’ve never played Madden (or any of the 2K sports games), the only RPG I ever finished had Mario in it, and in case you skipped the first section, I’m not a big fan of shooters (BioShock excepted).
These reasons would be held against me in a court of gaming.
I still feel like a gamer, though. I grew up playing video games like Metroid, Zelda, Tetris, Mega Man, Contra, Ninja Gaiden, and of course, the Mario suite (We only ever had Nintendo consoles until I bought a PS2 in college). For the first time in my life, I have all the current-generation consoles. I have an Xbox Live Gold account (hamm0ndeggs; yes, that’s a zero), a PlayStation Plus account, (hamm0ndeggs610; again, zero), and a GameFly membership. I play whenever I get a chance, and I find myself wishing I had more time to play, since I have a stack of games that have barely been touched, if they’ve been touched at all.
But I find myself enjoying it less and less. I don’t know if it’s just that I’m getting old and curmudgeonly, and these new games <old man voice> AREN’T LIKE THE ONES WE HAD WHEN I WAS A KID, </old man voice> or if I’m seeing it as less of a worthy expenditure of my time.
I’m leaning toward the latter.
Now, I never thought I would have even entertained the idea that I would ever outgrow video games. That would be ridiculous. Even now, I’m not entirely sure that I have, or I ever will. My wife will attest to my regular rendezvous with my consoles. I’m still active. But I’ve felt a definite shift in the attitude I have toward my games. It’s almost like I view them as a chore now, instead of the diversion they’re supposed to be. The conclusion I’ve come to is this:
Achievements are ruining my game experience.
Call them achievements, call them trophies, call it gamerscore… it’s all the same thing. Collection trophies, completion achievements, these are all arbitrary numbers attached to arbitrary actions, and those numbers add up to a poor paycheck for jobs that are designed to be tedious.
But it’s a paycheck I line up for like a lab rat hitting a feeder bar. Like a junkie chasing the high. And that’s exactly what it is. Don’t believe me? Cracked published an article about 5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying to Get You Addicted. You should read it, especially if you’re a gamer.
The idea of achievements is an effort/reward system, and it makes you want more. And more. And more.
When I was a kid, we didn’t give a crap about achievements. We had points, which you could say were similar, but it at least changed with every new game you played. With gamerscore and whatever the trophy quotient formula Sony uses is, it becomes part of you. It’s your gamer CV. And it’s killing my inner child.
I don’t play games that don’t have trophies on my Ps3. Because I don’t see the point. Because I think of it as time spent without compensation. Do I expect some kind of compensation when I go to the movies? When I read a book? No, but I’m sure I would if I was using an app like Glue or trying to become the mayor of some place on FourSquare. And that’s in real life.
The chase for achievements has robbed me of games I’m sure I would have enjoyed. Metal Gear Solid 4, for example. I didn’t play it despite the amazing things I’ve heard about it solely because there weren’t trophies for it.
Games are not the only thing I believe achievements are snatching from my life. I think that I’m not only becoming addicted to them, but I’m also finding a sense of accomplishment through something that has no value in the real world.
That’s right: I’m letting video game achievements stop me from achieving things that will improve my life.
That has to stop.
Maybe that means I’ll play less video games. Maybe I’ll just care less about harvesting achievements and trophies, and play games I enjoy. One of my recent goals is to start writing more. And I’m doing that now. Talking about something that’s fighting for my attention seemed only natural.
So if you made it this far, thanks for reading.
Want more? I did a guest post on my wife’s blog. Check it out.