I do not unlock achievements like the typical achievement hunter. Whereas most of my friends have Gamerscores of 100,000 or higher, I sit at 45,625. At a glance, it appears as if I am just not a very good gamer and instead allowed myself to focus on my college studies a tad more than my friends. However, if you look at the completion rate of my games compared to my peers, you will see a very different story. They may have me on quantity but I have them on quality.
Many gamers who hunt for achievements focus on increasing their overall Gamerscore and skip around from one game to the next. They unlock the 60-80% of achievements that make up the easiest parts of a game (or simply require beating the campaign) and move on to the next title as quickly as they can. I am not one of those people. I refuse to move on from a game until every achievement has been unlocked. Nearly every game I have played on my Xbox 360 or Xbox One since 2014 is over 95% complete. It would be 100% across the board but DLC keeps screwing me over and adding achievements to games I had completed months prior.
I am constantly asked why on Earth I would ever purposely 100% a video game. Unlocking “The Dark Soul” for Dark Souls III may have earned me some admiration, but it was fleeting. My life would have been more productive if I had done literally anything else in the dozens of hours “wasted” unlocking “Curiosity” in Assassin’s Creed Unity or “Without a Grudge” in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. And why did I ever think it was a good idea to devote myself to overcoming the terrifying monstrosities of Dead Space with only a plasma cutter so I could unlock “One Gun?” Why do any of it? Because since completing Mass Effect 2 100%, I have been unable to even consider beating a game any other way.
I completed Mass Effect 2 almost by accident. The second iteration of the Mass Effect Trilogy is my favorite game of all time. I returned to it every once in a while just to revisit the colorful cacophony of characters for no other reason than just wanting to. Back in late December of 2013, I was finishing up what was my fifth play-through of the game when I noticed I had unlocked most of the game’s achievements. I was missing three from the main game and all the ones associated to two DLC I had yet to download and play. I had never been so close to completing a game before, and although the achievement to beat the game on the Insanity difficulty seemed daunting, I figured I had played through the game enough times to stand a fighting chance. I returned to the main menu and clicked on “New Game.”
A few weeks later, the last achievement for Mass Effect 2 popped. I leaned back in my chair and gazed at the list of completed objectives. A feeling of pride washed over me, but it was almost immediately replaced by an intense desire to complete more games. Not for the glory. Hell, not even for the challenge. I wanted to complete games so I could experience everything about the game that the developers had wanted me to play.
I would have never guessed that simply playing Mass Effect 2 on its highest difficulty would show me new aspects of the game I had yet to discover on my previous five play-throughs. I was forced to rely on squad mates which I had never even brought on missions before, approach situations much more tactfully, test biotic and tech powers that I had never before even considered putting upgrade points into, and really struggle with building relationships and playing fully Paragon (a good guy) when occasionally being Renegade (a jerk) could net me some sweet short-term bonuses in combat and item acquisition.
So here was a game I had played not once, not twice, but FIVE times. I had almost decided that the fifth time was going to be my last play-through because the game was just beginning to feel a little stale. Yet trying to grab the last few achievements in it opened a brand new side of the game to me and made Mass Effect 2 both more strategic and enjoyable. As I set my controller down at the end of what would become my final play-through of Mass Effect 2, I began to wonder if there were any details in other games that I had missed because I had simply refused to play them in a different way. What other playstyles had developers spent months implementing had I missed out on?
I began looking at achievements in a whole new light. These were not milestones to cross and hoops to jump through for the developer’s amusement. They were advice. Each achievement was there to both push the player towards completing the game and suggest alternative means of playing it. Grabbing every achievement that was present in a game was not just beating a game, it was fully embracing the game’s essence and connecting with every part of it that it had to offer.
So here I am, nearly three years after completing Mass Effect 2. I have unlocked an additional 30,000 Gamerscore since that day. I have completed games that range from Rocket League to Saints Row IV, from Child of Light to Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, and everything in-between. I can confidently say that every game that I have completed has contained at least one achievement that forced me to look at or play the game in a way I never even considered.
I urge you, the next time you are playing a video game, stop for a minute and check the game’s achievement/trophy list. You might be surprised at how much it changes the game for you and pushes you towards becoming a different, and possibly better, gamer. You will be thankful that it did.