The psychology of the Xbox Live Gamerscore (for those to whom it matters) has been pretty widely analyzed. Verdicts range anywhere from it being an arbitrary number with no value, to it being a brilliant tally to which the success of Microsoft’s Xbox can be at least partially attributed.
For the uninitiated, let me give you the Reader’s Digest summary of just what this number is. From the moment you power on your Xbox 360 and play your first game, you have a gamerscore. A new player has zero at the outset, and additional points are doled out by the games you play for performing specific tasks or reaching goals. This can range from the obvious “reach this point in the game” goal to the more obscure “drive an entire race in reverse” sort of I-never-would-have-thought-of-that-on-my-own type.
Commercial games (on a disc) can award you up to 1000 points while Live Arcade (downloadable) can dole out 200 gamerpoints.
That’s the system in broad strokes. If it doesn’t make sense I’m sure you can find a more detailed decription elsewhere online, but let’s get to the point.
As I mentioned, not everyone places any value in the gamerscore number, but I do value mine. It’s true that it has no tangible value — I can’t redeem points for cash and prizes, and they don’t have any direct impact on life outside of the Xbox Live environment. Instead I see gamerscore as a badge of accomplishment and a sort of running tally of my own gaming enjoyment. As my own number climbs, achievement by achievement, it reminds me of all the ones I’ve gotten before, and just gives me a little gratification. Even if you don’t know what
I played, and for how long, and how well I did, you know I did something because you can see the gamerscore value I extracted from it. It’s nerd cred distilled down to a number.
So, that being said, my gamerscore broke the 35,000 mark yesterday. And it wasn’t an accident. As I noticed my score approaching the 35k mark I started deliberitely considering what game I wanted to be playing to get the final 100 or so points I needed to break the barrier. I thought about going back to big-name titles that I had yet complete, like Grand Theft Auto IV or Gears of War 2, when an unassuming Live Arcade game called The Maw appeared in the game marketplace.
I read a few reviews, tried the demo, and bought the full game. It seeemed to be beyond the standard fare for a Live Arcade game — a full 3D platformer with some interesting mechanics (incidentally, this isn’t a review of The Maw, so I’m going into any depth here on the gameplay) and a lot of charm.
After tearing through the first two levels of The Maw, I decided that this would be the game I’d use to push me oer the 35,000 mark. It’s not a perfect game, nor one I’ll likely go back to time and time again, but it did lots of things right, and really spoke to what m
ade me love video games in the first place.
So in no particular order, here are the things I appreciated about The Maw:
- Bright & colorful art design, reminiscent of early arcade characters (Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, etc.)
- Characters have tons of personality without a line of dialog (unless you count Frank saying, “Maaaaaawww” over & over)
- Freebies! Twice in the game you’re awarded free gamerpics, and for finishing, you’re awarded a free premium NXE theme
- Just the right length for a adult gamer with a family & job. These days some games are too long for my own good — I lose interest before I find enough time to finish them.
- Fun. Just fun.
- Good challenge. Not too hard, not too easy, but satisfying.
- Realistic collecting! I’m not a fan of collect-a-thons in games (find all of the coins, find all of the hidden scrolls, find all of the impossibly obscured widgets), but this was just right. You were asked to have The Maw eat every edible creature in each level, and it was a challenge, but certainly easily do-able.
- Great value. At only $10, I got several hours of play out of it (not to mention the points!).
Essentially, The Maw did so much right, that I was easily able to overlook the things it did poorly (camera control, clipping). I still have 20 points left to milk out of the Maw (it’s one of those silly ones, and it requires I play the game at various times of the day, not accomplish a certain gameplay goal), but I played through the entire story yesterday, finding all of the hidden bugs and eating all of the edible creatures for 180 gamerpoints, pushing me right over the 35,000 mark.
In the end, I feel like The Maw was a worthy game for crossing a barrier like this. I would have been embarassed if it had been the Doritos advergame with dinosaurs eating delivery trucks that carried me over the line.
My 360Voice Blog congratulates me for 35,000.