"Those people are rather unsightly, gross, hounding for attention. Pathetic is an understatement." When Stallion83 broke the 500,000 gamerscore milestone, I was in GameStop discussing the feat with a good friend of mine and an employee. Just casually praising his efforts and dedication and how much hard work it possibly took to accumulate such a high total. Then the strangest thing happened. An older woman, maybe mid-forties and apparently a gaming fan, came in and said the above quote. That Stallion83 was a homely attention-seeker with no future. Actually, he's married, holds a steady job and clean shaven. I can't blame the woman, and while we can get into the whole debate of the perception of our beloved industry in society, my initial thought upon hearing the 500,000 gamerscore feat was just "Woah."
Being the world record holder, I feel obligated to use him as an example for the topic at hand. What he's doing is amicable and a completionist's wet dream, but is he addicted or purely a hardcore gaming fan? I just sent him an email requesting an interview, and all of his efforts can be found at http://www.1milliongamerscore.com.
When Microsoft first brought forward this idea of "achievements", certain feats in games measured by a collective score, people were skeptical. Tons of words were thrown around: innovative, stupid, useless, productive; take your pick. The gaming masses were vocal and heavily questioned Microsoft's intention. Back in 2005, I can't remember the website but I vividly remember a debate raging on for thousands of comments about the whole subject and seemingly the audience was split. Half embraced the new concept, saying it will increase the life of certain games, while others cited the potential addictiveness of the new concept and how it will slowly destroy gaming.
Five years later, the debate has quieted but the questions still haven't been answered. How exactly has the notion of achievements affected the gaming populous? Was the implementation actually harmful for our state of mind? Have gaming fanatics taken the idea way overboard? To a certain extent, yes.
Achievements tell the player about game mechanics they probably didn't know existed, and let them wholly experience what the developer has laid on the table. But in specific cases these mechanics are annoying, some unplayable, or maybe too difficult for the player to enjoy. And every game enthusiast is a completionist somehow, so we fill almost obligated to fulfill the task necessary to get the achievement. Doing so takes the fun right out of the game and it's a cheap tactic by developers to keep people playing.
The addition of achievements, I think, has made many of us (myself included) lazy and/or easily frustrated. Doing painstakingly repetitious acts for the sake of an invisible number just so we can boast. Putting it that way makes it sound pathetic. We've become slaves, mindless zombies, hungry for a higher total, willing to sacrifice our precious time and resources for a brief moment of satisfaction. Once the alert disappears, we drop quickly from our ethereal standpoint and realize how much time we've wasted.
Being close to maxing out gamerscore is like an unquenchable thirst. What we need to realize is it's not our responsibility to slave ourselves into acting this way. Some achievements are near impossible (like achieving the number one spot on the global leaderboard or beating Ninja Gaiden on the hardest difficulty). Simply, there are some challenges not worth the trouble.