Thursday, August 4, 2011

Analysis Editorial: The restrictions we place upon ourselves

Everyone has their reasons why they play. In the achievement community, everyone has their reasons for how they score. But if everyone knew that the time they had to play was finite, would they prevent themselves from playing what they wanted to play?
I was playing the BGM of the Stray Sheep Bar as I was reflecting on the ideals presented in the Atlus game Catherine. The melodramatic weight the music provides creates an incredible atmosphere that heightens the emotional connections felt with the characters in the game and has left a lingering imprint on me every time I played this game. (Your results may vary.) The entire game experience was successfully designed as a metaphor to the moral of the story; if you gave the game the opportunity, many aspects of this game would impact you at a personal level. It does one hell of a job of illustrating feelings on topics better than I could ever express them. It was a real shame that I was the only one among the 80 people that I track (and who tracks me) on TA that played the game for the first week it was released. This was probably because the game had a reputation of being, “too hard” and scared people away from even giving it a try. It was kinda sad to have seen all the endings to an incredibly well developed single player experience, and to have absolutely no one to discuss it with.
The reasons people don’t play certain games varies from player to player, and it wouldn’t be too strange to categorize them into general gaming “Disciplines.” The disciplines are what define the play style of the gamer whose primary focus is achievements, which describes the gamerscore communities that frequent x360a, 360v and TA. We’ve all heard the categories before. There is the achievement hunter, who pursues only the most difficult of achievements, which was finally given an identity thanks to the efforts of Trueachievements. The Completionist, whose primary concern is their percentage. These types were given a home when 360voice and  mygamercard provided the platforms that tracked, organized and compared the achievements of one against many. Then finally there is the Scorewhore, who chooses to sacrifice the satisfaction of completion and difficulty in pursuit of the low-lying fruit of achievement based videogames. x360a has the largest community of them all of this type of gamer, because of its seniority compared to the other currently existing achievement websites and its broad achievement appeal which also caters to completionists and hunters alike.
The disciplines that define the characteristics of a gamer are also create the restrictions that generally prevent people from playing the games they would play if achievements were not a factor. Completionists will not touch games with broken achievements for fear of ruining their percentage. Hunters won’t look at easy games because every gamer has, “Been there, done that.” Even the Scorewhores can’t be bothered with particular games because particular genre games such as RPGs and Strategy will not provide low-lying fruit for that fast achievement score fix.
The gamer disciplines should not be such an issue. But the disciplines manifest particular “gaming taboos” that prevent us as gamers from fully enjoying games because of the artificial obligation that we create for ourselves.
“I can’t play that game until I finish this one.”
“I’d probably play that one, but the achievements are too hard.”
“I won’t play that until they fix the achievements.”
“Multiplayer achievements? Screw that.”
I had to make a change when I realized I was not playing the games I wanted to play because of my personal hang-ups. I used to be a slave to the completionist and hunter disciplines, maintaining an 80% completion percentage until I broke free from it, slamming 262 achievements in 117 different games in June 2010, dropping the percentage down to 49% to give Trueachievements a chance to milestone 50%. (And still earning 4000 gamer score in the process. By the way bean-dippers, THAT is how you drop a completion percentage. I lost quite a few TA followers that month…) Then a dear friend and gamer colleague, Roxy x360a, provided me an opportunity I could not pass up, a chance to address additional personal restrictions I placed upon myself in x360a’s 9th GSL. During those eight weeks I played sports games, foreign games and kids’ games, genre taboos that other gamers generally stay away from as well. Finally, I tackled what seems to be the worst established achievement taboo of all; I added games with broken achievements to the gamer tag. Doing such a thing forever sabotaged my card from true completion, but gave me the freedom to not put so much emphasis on the completion of my games.
But there still seems to be one more taboo that I can’t seem to shake, despite all the personal hang-ups I’ve overcome. This wasn’t realized until the day before, when my fellow gamer Botafogo007, (Who seems to be the habitual enabler in my unusual and pointless gamer goals) mentioned that someone should massacre their TA ratio. The thought led me to an interesting self-realization, I have always shunned away from easy games.
With that in mind, Stallion83 hits 600k today as well, a significant milestone for everyone active in the achievement community. I scroll down not only Stallion’s games list, but also other scoring leaders such as Deez, Rand al, Smrnov, Tjayars, Majinfro, and StophJ. I realize that these gamers have each overcame the gaming taboos that hunters, whores and completionists alike have created for themselves. And despite the absolute disregard for the type of games they play, each individual players percentage, TA ratio and gamer score are still higher than most proclaimed completionists, hunters, and scorewhores. This is why these gamers are leaders in the meta-game, and the meta-game is the reason why the gaming disciplines even exist in the first place. I would have loved to be a Machine, but following the example they set is good enough. The leaders in the meta-game do not need Gamer Scoring Leagues or organized competitions to earn their points, or excuses to save their easy games. These gamers score simply because the points are there. They play because they want to.
People are the masters of their own destinies, and gamers have the freedom to choose to play what they want to play. This also includes the restrictions that they place upon themselves. I would love everyone to experience the game Catherine. But chances are slim. It is a real shame because the restrictions that my friends place upon themselves are their own obstacles to overcome.
Tomorrow I will begin to address my own final hang-up. GSLs were a great reason to score achievement points, but Smrnov said once before, “[To him] Every day is a GSL.” The meta-race has always been an individual effort and existed even before GSLs were organized. In the end, the gamer score is what is truly recognized as the benchmarks of excellence by the achievement community, regardless of the disciplines they choose to follow.  The irony of it all is that even as I try to attempt to drop my TA ratio, the effort will only cause other parameters such as completion percentage, gamer score, and TA score to rise anyway. The satisfaction of accomplishing goals that others fear to attempt will always appeal to me, but the mountains will always be there to conquer. Every game should be considered a challenge, regardless of the difficulty. Those willing to be indiscriminate in the challenges they attempt are the ones who are the most successful in the meta-game. But even after all that analysis, in essence it doesn’t even boil down to the gamer score, but providing oneself the permission to simply play and not allowing intangible numbers and statistics to prevent you from enjoying the experiences that all games strive to provide. After all, this enjoyment is why we as gamers became gamers in the first place, isn’t it? Achievements were meant to be earned, not feared. Time is not unlimited, and one should not provide themselves reasons not to play.
Trueachievement ratio, watch out. Effectively beginning at a 1.57 TA ratio. You have been identified as the final frontier. The excuses I have given myself will stop and as a result, I am going to drop the shit out of you.
The irony if it all, is that numerically speaking, it’s an impossibility. Time is short. Play games.

Endnote: The BGM I listened to while writing this editorial was titled, "Lamb game between ♂ and ♀" but"Also Sprach Brooks" makes a good alternative. But the music won't make as strong an impact as it would until you play the game.


  1. Amazing post Ryot; personally I fall under the whore but also hunter. I am no completionist 43 percent completion will vouch for that. the whore in me will play anything regardless of the feminity or difficulty. And the hunter in me has boosting games like table tennis and riddick for the satisfaction of doing that particular feat.
    I do limit myself when it comes to whoring before a GSL this is habit and its something I have tried to curtail. I still whore easy gmes just not as actively. I vent through some easy 1ks or shit easy 650 like Vampire Rain and Arcades. I study others habits such yours; stallions; smrnovs etc... to see the how and the style behind the whoring. something I told myself that will stop is the holding back but that is a fight I am still fighting.