A Year of Achievements

365 Day StreakLast night, I completed the goal I set out for myself last year – to score at least one achievement per day.

Looking back at it, I’m not so sure that was time well spent.

I know there are plenty of gamers out there that put absolutely no stock in Microsoft’s reward system (or in any of the many copycats that followed in the years since its introduction), but I happen to like earning them. There is something about the little dopamine hit every time that ding sounded.

Was, actually. It was fun. When I started last February, it was supposed to be for a month. Maybe two. Before I knew it, I wouldn’t stop forcing myself to get another one each day until I finished out the year. Game time wasn’t about enjoying myself anymore; it was more like a job. Instead of smiling when the alert popped up, I would sigh “finally” under my breath and immediately save and quit in fear of popping a second one in the same session. This behavior ruined story-heavy games like The Walking Dead and caused me to spend more time with mobile games on my Windows Phone.

Even though I know how much this is messing with my favorite pastime, after meeting that year-long goal last night I started heavily considering going for another year.

So, this is it. I’m going to bed tonight without getting another achievement.  Once I break this hobby-wrecking habit, I’ll be able to actually resume having fun with my games and those achievements will finally have meaning again.

Wait… wasn’t 2012 a leap year?

2009 Games

In picking my 2010 FGOTY, I realized just how many games I still play that were released in 2009! Forza Motorsport 3, Borderlands and Assassin’s Creed 2 top my list. Am I the only one?

How Weak I’ve Become

Whenever I intend on buying an XBLA game, I always download the demo first, no matter how sure I am that I will love the title. This is to avoid contributing to the many “I think this game was going to be like this, but it was like that!” posts that I see on gaming-related forums. No matter how sure I am of a game’s quality, I always try the demo first.

Except for Perfect Dark.

I’m not sure what possessed me to skip that step. It isn’t like I have to redownload the game after trying the demo. Buying the full version of an XBLA game from the demo is pretty easy and quick to do.

Luckily, Perfect Dark is just as great as it was when I played in on my N64 all those years ago. I haven’t finished it yet, so I won’t be writing a review right now, but I wanted to mention how much more difficult this game is when compared to modern FPS games. I don’t mean in terms of the AI, but in how little guidance the game gives you.

While walking through the Carrington Institute (the hub area that missions are launched from), I couldn’t figure out how to actually begin a mission. None of the terminals were lit up or had a floating button above it or any sort of indication of what to do with them, so I assumed I couldn’t interact with them. That isn’t the case at all; most of them can be used in some way. I just had to hit the A button. In the years since I have played Perfect Dark, I had forgotten about that.

I was off on my first mission. After infiltrating dataDyne’s tower, I saw a light switch on the wall. “Hmm… what happens if I hit A on it?” I hit the button, and the lights went out. I pulled down on the left analog, moving away from the wall. All of a sudden, I was lost. There was no way to get back to the switch, forcing me to restart the mission.

During the three missions that take place in the tower, I learned the following:

  • Joanna’s health will not regenerate.
  • There are no maps to guide me.
  • There are no checkpoints, so when I die, I start the mission all over again.
  • The game will not auto-select items for me; if I need the Data Uplink to hack into a computer, and I don’t think to use it, then I will be stuck until I figure it out.
  • As mentioned before, anything I can interact with will not be called out in any special way, forcing me to figure it out on my own.

The more I play this game, the more I realize that modern FPSes (and games in general) have all these crutches in them that I have come to rely on, and I am a “softer” gamer as a result. I plan on playing through Perfect Dark a few times. I hope to finish it on Perfect Agent difficultly; a feat I was never able to accomplish in the N64 version. Perhaps this game will toughen me up a bit.

On a related note, the auto-aim feature is insane. Most FPSes will nudge the reticle a little to line up your shot. This game jerks the reticule halfway across the screen to make sure you hit your target. While it is a little much, it makes me feel like a secret agent when I one-shot a room full of dataDyne agents. I don’t recall the original doing anything like this.

I Feel So Weak

I was all ready to take a stance against Microsoft. “No, I will NOT buy another one of your 360s! I already bought two, and had them each replaced twice, only to have them both die!” is what I imagined myself yelling at MS while shaking my fist. After only three days, I caved in and picked one up at Best Buy. Having a $40 coupon and getting Dragon Age: Origins for free helped to ease my bruised ego.

What did you dress as for Halloween?

Chill Penguin as an ODST
I didn’t dress up for Halloween, but my Xbox Avatar did.

The ODST armor is courtesy of Halo Waypoint, which was released this weekend for those in the Preview Program. I was awarded nine Halo-related pieces of Avatar clothing for my various Halo-related achievements! I’m one of the few people who think that it is okay to spend real money on virtual clothing, but not too much; 80 MSP is a fair price for a shirt, but 400 MSP for a light saber is just too much.

I did think about buying that light saber though. Just for a second.