Reaching Objectives

Apparently the new version of pong uses cell shadding, 10,000 polygons per bat and the latest Physx engine... just to make sure it looks like the original. Honest.

The first gaming console (if you could call it that) I owned was a simple little device.  The two controllers were long, squarish, and silver with a yellowy orange slider bar going up and down.  The main controller had the options of choosing which game to play and all were variations of Pong.

There was the straight-forward version of Pong, Tennis, which was Pong with a tennis shaped grid in the background.  Squash: both bats, side by side, taking turns hitting the square ball around a court with three walls to bounce off, and then there was football – the edges of the screen walled off with only the goal on each side of the screen with an opening.  Here you controlled two bats, one acting as a goalkeeper and the other as a striker.  This is the variation that was mostly played between my dad and I.

Sure, it didn’t have fancy graphics and consisted of one sound effect as the ball bounced off the bats or the surrounding walls, but it was fun for me as a child growing up.  I couldn’t always get someone to play against, but whenever I would play my dad, he always won.  That was many years ago and I cannot recall if I ever beat my dad at that game.  It was, however, my first gaming experience and my first objective to aim for.

As I grew up, I had many different computers/consoles and played countless games.  The first game I can recall playing and beating was on the Commodore 16 and was a game called Punchy.  Based loosely, on the character from Punch and Judy, it was a simple game where you started on the left hand side of the screen and had to make it to the exit on the right hand side of the screen.  The only controls were moving left and right and jump.  Each screen was its own level and there were 16 levels in total.

Not having many games or friends with the same computer, I would urge my friend to connect his Spectrum 48k up to his spare TV.  Here, I learned about configuring certain keys for actions.  Q, A, O, P and space were the standard keys used for up, down, left, right and jump/fire.  The first game I recall beating on the Spectrum was Bruce Lee.  One day I watched as my friend completed it, placed back at the start and beat it again.  This was something I planned to do too.

A Link To The Past saw Zelda return to the overhead view of the original

And so the gaming objectives grew.  Beating the game was no longer the only goal, playing IK+ on the Commodore 64, I desperately tried to beat the bonus stage by deflecting the bouncing balls coming at you from either side.  Playing The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past on the Super Nintendo, I not only wanted to beat the game, but to collect all the heart containers, the bottles, the weapons, the items, the spells.  I once spent an entire Sunday playing through the whole game, beating all the bosses, saving the kingdom of Hyrule and collecting everything there was to collect, and doing so in one save.

The Nintendo 64, Playstation, Dreamcast, Playstation 2, GameCube, Xbox all followed.  My friends also owned similar consoles and sharing games between us meant more games to play and share.

Resident Evil 4 on the GameCube was the first game I enjoyed so much that, once completed, I immediately started to play it again, being able to carry my stats and inventory over from my previous completed save.  Previously, most games were beaten once and then I moved onto the next.  Various Zelda games or Mario games would have had a few playthroughs but always spaced out over time.  The thought of beating a game and then going back to play it again on a harder difficulty was never given a second thought.

Over the years the different objectives in gaming developed, beating games, beating them multiple times while the lives lasted, second playthroughs, the collector, the completionist, the survivalist.  All these different objectives, some set by me and not the game, all set me up for my perfect match in my next console, the Xbox 360.  The reason I say “perfect match” is because with this console, Microsoft had come up with achievements and gamerscore.

Now all those things that I had done either through game requirements or my own personal objectives were actual targets set by the developers,  each being rewarded with an achievement, and each achievement earning a certain amount of gamerscore.  All of a sudden, I was playing the games again on harder difficulties or playing through again to pick up achievements I had missed out on the first time round.

Everyone's favourite Bond villain reflects on his latest gaming conquests and watches his gamerscore increase rapidly, in much the same way as offshore bank balances do in dodgy spy movies

Not only was I enjoying playing bigger and better looking games, but I was being rewarded for it too.  And with the multiple playthroughs, I was getting more life out of the games, which was great as I was getting more value for my money as the games are still pricey.  (The most expensive game I have bought would be Turok on the Nintendo 64 at £70, which required a memory card to save at another £20. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 may have cost me £120 but it did come with the latest game in steelbook case, night vision goggles, a moulded head to display them on, the original Call Of Duty game and an art book).

I do have the Playstation 3 and have only played a few games on it.  It has trophies which are Sony’s answer to Microsoft’s achievements but with no gamerscore attached.  And for me, that counts towards recognition of reaching a certain gaming objectives as well, so my primary gaming occurs on the Xbox 360.

So here I am – a gamer of many years, and all those little objectives I set myself, it seems, I was not alone in doing so.  Who knows what lies ahead, whether I will find other objectives beyond the familiar ‘achievement unlocked’ scenario.  For now, I am happy playing games, and enjoy being rewarded for it.

Last five articles by The Rook



  1. Ste says:

    Great article, I’m becoming more and more of an achievement/trophy whore every day. The current consoles along with Steam have really tapped into the OCD in me. I feel compelled nowadays to finsh a game on the hardest difficulty so that I can unlock that extra acheievement where in the past I would have been content to just doing it on normal difficulty as I had no reason to do otherwise.

    I agree with you when you say it extends the life of my games, and that can only be a good thing. The only thing I have difficulty with now is choosing which game to invest my time in as some games take a considerable amount of time to max out. For example, I’m currently playing through Batman: AA on Hard whilst trying to pick up all the Riddler stuff, then I’ll be on to the challenges. I just hope I dont get sick of the game by the time I’m finished with it.

  2. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    It takes a lot for a game to pull me in to the point where I either A) won’t put it down or B) continue playing it after “completion” (ie main objective achieved therefore main storyline put to rest) to the point where I’M happy to class it as completed. It’s not the corporate achievements that drive me forwards though, but the personal achievements. The first game I played to death was UFO: Enemy Unknown and it was to the point where the “Cydonia” button was a permanent fixture on my screen for weeks, or perhaps even months. Technically speaking, this meant that I could dive straight into the last battle and complete the game within the space of maybe another 30 minutes… but I didn’t want to. Instead, I wanted to make sure I’d exhausted every last possible research item available whether it was the alien origins or even the most mundane weaponry. Either way… that was the game that first got me hooked as a completionist.

    I have to throw in a little caveat here though… games have to be DAMN good to hold my attention at all in the first place. If I don’t get that buzz within the first 5-6 hours then it gets put aside and I’ll likely never play it again.

    Fallout New Vegas and Elder Scrolls V…. are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet??

  3. Kat says:

    I do admire peoples perseverance in games, I’m the laziest gamer and rarely spurred into reaching a goal, hence the mountain of unfinished games I’ve had :) Good read Rook.

  4. Robert says:

    I never move on to a new game until I’ve completed the one I’m currently playing, it’s just the way I’ve always been really. Started on ME2 last night, great so far.

  5. Lorna Lorna says:

    I really enjoyed this post. I think you were damn lucky that achievements came along and rewarded you for your own goals…makes you seem less insane ;) Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in a personal goal, regardless of what the actual reward is. Even with proper achievements now, I still do it.

    For example, there was no achievement beyond the first time that you do it, for doing the Requiem funeral level on Hitman: Blood Money which you access by breaking into the credits by wiggling the thumbstick. However, after doing it on Rookie level, I had to do it on all the others. It took me absolutely hours and hours to do it on pro…it was a nightmare and I gave myself a headache, but I was so proud afterwards…even with no achievement popping :D

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