Addiction Unlocked: When Achievement Hunting Goes Too Far

I've been known to jokingly tell my friends "Don't talk to me until you have at least 10,000 Gamerscore."

I’m a Gamerscore addict. Now don’t get me wrong -- it’s not as serious as any real addiction, but it certainly does impact my gaming habits. Between Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows Phone, Games for Windows Live, and Windows 10 games, I’ve amassed a whopping 83,771 Gamerscore, as of this article’s publication. I’m sure that might sound measly to some of you, but in my circle of friends, it’s over double that of my closest competitor. I’m no Stallion83, but it’s safe to say I have much more than a passing interest in Achievements -- check out some of my 2015 Xbox Year In Review stats if you don't believe me.

A few months ago, a friend asked me why I still insist on pursuing these ultimately pointless badges.

My answer to this question has always been the same.

Achievements provide some continuity to my gaming experience, a gamer’s resumé, if you will. I’ve always enjoyed being able to pop open the Achievements menu, so I can fondly look back on some great games and particularly difficult accomplishments. It provides some structure to my overall gaming experience, and makes me feel like I’ve done something truly meaningful with every play session.

But lately, I’ve started to question that explanation more and more - is it all really worth it?

Achievement hunting isn’t harmless, and sometimes it can really take the fun out of a game. Take my experience with BioShock Infinite, for example. All of my friends and the online community praised the game for its great story, but it didn’t do much for me personally. I’m not trying to bash the game -- I’m actually really upset that it didn’t “wow” me like it did for everyone else. But I think back on my time with Infinite, and I suspect it has something to do with my Achievement hunting tendencies.

When I first acquired the Paddywhacker Hand Cannon in the game, I wasn’t thinking about the fate of Columbia and the personal tale of Booker DeWitt. I was only concerned with killing 25 enemies with the gun as soon as possible, receiving the “Loose Cannon” Achievement and the accompanying 5 Gamerscore. Although this alone was a minor distraction, I was in this Achievement-crazed state of mind for my entire playthrough of Infinite, and I feel like my overall experience with the game suffered because of that.

And in the end, what did I really get out of it? My overall Gamerscore ticker certainly increased, sure. But as a result, I look back on the game with little to no impactful memories of the game’s often-lauded story. Many gamers love to wax poetic about games as art, but I feel like I am often disqualified from this conversation because of the way I mindlessly play games.

I also feel as if my attachment to my Achievement resumé has given me an unhealthy level of brand loyalty -- I bought an Xbox One without even considering the PS4 as an option. Even worse, from 2013 to mid-2015 I used a Windows Phone, solely because that meant more Achievements. Allow me to repeat that for emphasis - I owned a Windows Phone.

So yeah, that’s what I have to share about my personal Gamerscore addiction. It’s still a prevalent part of my gaming experience, but lately I’ve been challenging myself to pop the Achievements menu less and less often. Hearing that glorious unlock noise will always hold a special place in my heart, but I'm beginning to learn that the hunt for Gs should never overshadow the fun of the game itself.

I can't be alone in this struggle. Have any of you ever felt overly-addicted to Achievements, Trophies, or other unlockables?

[Images sourced from Microsoft, Irrational Games, and]


Lover of RPGs, Adam Sandler, couch co-op, and most importantly, Gamerscore.

Published Aug. 4th 2017

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