Saturday, October 8, 2011

Tales of an Achievement Point Junkie

4 1/2 years ago Microsoft presented Xbox 360 owners with the Old Spice Challenge, a contest which inspired gamers to acquire 1500 Achievement Points over a two month period to win prizes like t-shirts, free XBLA games, and MS points. Here's my repost of my original piece where I regale readers with how cool it is too have an unhealthy addiction to collecting imaginary points.

Unfortunately, the word "challenge" does to me what the word "chicken" does for Marty McFly. It makes me do things I wouldn't normally do. So when my good friend Bill Gates threw down the gauntlet and challenged (there's that word again) yours truly to earn 1,500 Achievement Points in two months, I was in.

The Old Spice Experience Challenge (evidentally Billy was short on funds and needed a little sponsorship money) kicked off February 12 and was to run until April 12, but has recently been extended to April 22. This gives gamers a little over two months to earn prizes from Old Spice and Microsoft for earning 1,500 Achievement Points.

Hoping to win a new soap-on-a-rope and after shave I headed over to to learn what the prizes were. For a level three gamer like myself, I saw that I could win a free Old Spice t-shirt, a copy of "Fuzion Frenzy 2", 200 Microsoft Points, an XBLA "Contra" download code and an exclusive Old Spice gamer picture. All I can say is, YOU HAD ME AT FREE T-SHIRT!
I'm one of those guys who pushes over little kids at basketball games when cheerleaders with giant rubber bands launch free tees into the stands.

Did I hear the words "challenge" and "free" being used together?!? And there's a deadline that meets my anal retentive obsession with doing tasks in a timely manner?!? Game on!

I signed up February 17, meaning other level 3's had a 5 day head start. Some of the prizes are of limited supply so they're awarded on a first-to-1,500-first-to-be-given basis. Not good news for me. I had also just earned 60 points the day before I signed up. D'oh! Oh, well. I'm not concerned. I can earn 1,500 points in my sleep. Here's the day to day breakdown of my road to 1,500.

Feb 17: Earned 60 points each from "Rainbow Six Vegas" and "Winning Eleven 2007" so I'm feeling pretty good about myself. At this rate, I'll have this wrapped up in a week.

Feb 18: Feeling nostalgic I buy "Paperboy" on Xbox Live Arcade and quickly earn 50 points. I soon realize that I never really got that far on the arcade version of this game back in the day and that I'm lucky I got as many points as I did. Pick up another 80 points from "Winning Eleven". I've now earned 250 points in two days and I'm laughing at my framed, autographed picture of Bill Gates that sits on top of my TV. The phone rings right at that moment and I quickly apologize to the picture. The phone stops ringing. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Feb 19: It takes me forever but I get another 30 points out of "Vegas". This game is really making me earn its points.

Feb 20: I'm up until 3am to earn 35 frickin' points from "Crackdown". I love the game but what the heck is up with the way points are doled out in games nowadays? The last two days hard fought points are starting to worry me.

Feb 21: In a move that makes me feel more desperate than Britney Spears with a pair of hair clippers I buy all three Burger King games while out to eat with my son. I now know the exact minute he has lost all respect for me. Despite my shame, I still earn a quick 50 points from "Pocket Bike Racer".

Feb 22: Can't play games today. Still trying to wash the unclean feeling from my hands for buying video games at a fast food restaurant. My dog now barks at me, she doesn't know who I am anymore.

Feb 23: Just found out that the t-shirt, 200 Microsoft Points and "Fuzion Frenzy 2" have all been grabbed by guys even more point crazy than me. I don't care about "FF2" because I already have a copy but the loss of the Old Spice t-shirt is crushing. Severe desperation sets in. I have to earn these damn points before I end up with nothing. I now know no shame and will resort to whatever means necessary to get to 1,500 as quickly as possible.

Feb 24: Earn 30 points each from "Crackdown" and "Sneak King", 60 points from "Vegas" and 40 from "Winning Eleven".

Feb 25: Grab 250 huge points from "Fuzion Frenzy 2". I guess the game is good for something as my total now stands at 775.

Feb 26: In order to avoid getting divorce papers served, I take a day off.

Feb 27: Sneak in 40 quick points from "Crackdown" while the wife's back is turned. (Quick aside: I'm not exactly sure why but I love this game. Its a good game, not a great one but for some reason jumping around the city is like catnip for me. On the rare days that I find myself outside, I look at buildings and think about how I would get to the top. I may need psychiatric help when this is over.)

Feb 28: A big day for me as I earn 50 points from "Crackdown" and another 250 from the point generous "Fuzion Frenzy 2". I'm now at 1,115 and feeling like the King Kong of Achievements. Using my jumping powers I've absorbed from playing "Crackdown" I leap on top of the tallest building in downtown Colorado Springs. Since its only 15 stories tall, I make it in two leaps. 

March 1: The calendar flips but I don't notice as I earn 20 points from the game about my life, "Crackdown".

March 2: Day off. Wife insists I shower and moves around the cushions of the couch during my 2 minute abscence. I miss my ass groove.

March 3: Earn another 30 from my beloved "Crackdown" but these small point Achievements are killing me. I decide I need a heavy hitter to get to the finish line.

March 4: I have no idea what happened March 4. I don't think it exists, the number 4 is overrated anyway. Or perhaps the magic that makes my 360 wireless controller work shorted out my brain and erased my memory like one of those Men in Black flashy thingys. I'm getting punchy, I don't know anything anymore.

March 5: Today I've found my bazooka as I play "NBA Street Homecourt" and quickly earn 390 points giving me 1,555. Or maybe not. When I go to the Xbox rewards website to click "I'm finished" they tell me I'm 65 points short! Gaah!!! I have no idea where my math went wrong! Then I remember that I suck at math and decide to take the website's word for it. Seeing how I'm so close I continue to play "Street" but soon realized those first 390 points come a lot easier than any others. I earn 70 more points and it only takes me 50 wins to get it.

Final Tally: 1,505 points (or 1,625 if you use REAL math) earned by playing 7 games.

And what did I learn? - I earn my 1,500 with over a month to spare but was it worth it? Hmm, lets see. For all of my effort I earned Contra on XBLA, an Old Spice gamer pic and the logo of the Old Spice sailboat on my gamertag. While I do love sailboats, this task left me exhausted and questioning why I love Achievement Points so much. Besides rubbing it in my brother's face (he only has 8,120 points - loser!) what's the point?

I'm not sure, but after a few days off I realized that I don't care if Achievement Points have a purpose or not. Its just something I like to do when I'm playing games. And as with anything about gaming, if you like to do it (or play it) I don't see anything wrong with it. I'm certainly not as maniacal as most point fiends, so I don't plan to make a habit of buying games like "Pocket Bike Racer" just for the points. In fact, after this experience I'm less likely to play a game just to earn some easy points.

Does this mean I'll never do another reward promotion? That depends if it has the word "challenge" in it.

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