Sunday, July 26, 2009

Do you care about your Xbox 360 Gamerscore?

If you have an Xbox 360, do you care about your Gamerscore?

If you don't have an Xbox 360, this video game console has a new system not seen previously in video game systems. It has a system-wide system of tracking Achievements from game to game. An Achievement is a kind of trophy given for accomplishing a certain feat in a game, and it comes with an icon, a name, a description, and a point value of one Gamerscore or more. Every Xbox 360 game has at least 1000 Gamerscore total (some have more), and each game can have up to 99 Achievements. Some games are more generous, with huge rewards for finishing the game and certain milestones, while others are more conservative, instead offering dozens of Achievements for finding various secrets in the game.

Most people earn their Gamerscore by playing games, but others cheat to raise theirs. You can give somebody you trust your username and password, and they can "recover" your profile to their Xbox and earn you achievements; usually they do this for Microsoft Points (the currency on Xbox Live, which costs $1 for every 80 points) or other online currency. Some do it for free. When they're done, you recover your profile back, and, if you're smart, change your password back. I have never done this, I've only heard. There are also various hacks which will raise your Gamerscore exponentially. One, as I understand it, figures out the total possible Gamerscore one could have if one bought every single Xbox 360 game and unlocked every Achievement for each one - something like a quarter-million points.

However, Microsoft not only disapproves of Gamerscore manipulation and outright hacking, but they will reset your Gamerscore if they catch you at it. They will also revoke your online privileges, even if you're paid up a full year in advance. In the worst cases, they will blacklist your entire Xbox, so if you had, say, six accounts paid up for a year in advance (a cost of $300) you would not be able to play online, and you wouldn't be able to recover any of that money.

The thing is, do we care enough about Gamerscore that this is such a big deal that we approve of Microsoft cheating people out of their money? More importantly, how do we feel about Microsoft having that level of control? Mind you, these people are not (necessarily) cheating in online matches. They're simply raising a score, which hurts nobody at all. You cannot buy anything with Gamerscore; it's worthless except, maybe, for bragging rights. But if you have a quarter-million Gamerscore, is that really worth bragging about? I would say anything over 100,000 is evidence of manipulation of some kind. I would say that a Gamerscore of 25,000 or more belongs to somebody who has absolutely no life. My wife's brother has about 13,000, he's had his Xbox 360 for three years, and he hasn't had a job in that time. His girlfriend had a good job, and was able to support his gaming habit while he (read: his friends and family) looked after the kids. He has that plan with Blockbuster where, for $22 a month, you can rent one game at a time for as long as you like. He rents a game, plays it until he beats it, and then returns it for the next game. He doesn't seek all 1000 (or more) Gamerscore from a game, but he does complete the main objectives, which get him between 40% and 75% of the total Gamerscore.

I have about 2900 Gamerscore; Jen has close to 2200. And we've had ours nearly a year and a half. I would not care if Microsoft reset my Gamerscore. It means nothing to me. Sure, it's nice to get the Achievements, and it's extra nice when they're worth more (like 50, as opposed to 10), but it's never more fun than actually earning the Achievements. If I wanted to jack up my Gamerscore, I could rent Avatar: The Last Airbender (a fighting game); I understand it's not only possible, but very easy, to rack up 1000 Gamerscore inside of about five minutes from the start of the game. But I don't want that game on my profile; I don't want it known that I was willing to put a stupid game from a stupid franchise on my Gamertag's profile just to raise my Gamerscore. I'd rather earn fewer points by playing games I'm proud to have on my record. Not that I've never played a stupid game; Dash of Destruction is a free Arcade game sponsored by Doritos worth 200 or 250 Gamerscore. I got it for Jen to help her catch up, but it actually looked fun, so I played it until it wasn't. I got some points from it, but nowhere near the total. Jen got all the Achievements but one, so she got more from it than I did. And that's fine, she wants a higher score, but she mostly sticks to games with "Guitar" and "Band" in the title. I've played through The Orange Box and Oblivion, and those games hand out Gamerscore like candy. Assassins Creed and Mass Effect were also both good for Gamerscore, but they bored me, so I stopped playing them. Grand Theft Auto IV is a little more conservative, still gives Gamerscore, but not as much as the others; it bored me as well, so I put it down. I am going to strive for all 1250 Gamerscore associated with Oblivion, but not because I need the score to stroke my ego, but because I love the game and want to get everything out of it. But I'm also doing things that don't get me Gamerscore, too; I'm going for 100% completion, which just happens to result in getting 1250/1250 along the way.

So that brings us back to Microsoft. How comfortable are we with Microsoft policing video games? Sure, crack down on people cheating in online matches. I'm fine with that. If people want to cheat, though, don't take away their access if they want to pay. Just create a new Gamerzone (e.g. Pro, Recreation, Underground, Family) called Cheaters, or perhaps Hackers, and lock them in it. Make a new option in the profile called "Play with cheaters?" and set it to NO by default. Cheaters would thus only be able to play with other Cheaters, and with those brave souls who enabled play with cheaters (which is what their friends would have to do to play with them). Sure, crack down on people putting offensive language in their profile. I'm fine with that, too. The Xbox 360 is a family-friendly console, and people actively undermining that are threatening Microsoft's financial situation. Sure, crack down on people modifying their Xbox to play copied games. I am fine with that as well. Video games cost millions of dollars to develop, just like films. I do not agree that Microsoft should be able to remotely kill an Xbox 360, if their employee they laid off can be believed, but Verizon does something similar with their phones, they can remotely disable a phone's ability to charge its battery, forcing you to buy a new phone. That ain't just crazy talk, either, they did it to me in 2004. I couldn't afford a new phone, either, and they said they'd rather I just cancel my service than let me continue charging the battery until I could. So I guess when you're at the top, you can set the rules like that. But Microsoft's video game competitor, Sony, is no better. Sony put a nasty computer virus on music CDs with the understanding that anyone who puts a CD into their computer is probably intent on distributing it online. Meanwhile, thousands of people, perhaps millions, downloaded the album on BitTorrent and other networks, courtesy of Linux users who were unaffected by the virus, which affected Windows and Mac OS systems only. Playing by the rules is no safe harbor either; users who updated to Microsoft's new Dashboard for the Xbox 360 last November were blocked from Xbox Live for up to three weeks if they were not part of Microsoft's beta team. Too bad the download and the installation didn't say that. Whoops. Not to mention the whole Verizon thing, or fans of music on Sony's BMG label who just wanted to play music on their computer that they'd bought legally.

So again, how important is Gamerscore that it's worth making such a big deal out of?


Anonymous said...

Hey Man,
I enjoyed your article. I have been playing games for close to thirty years and I like the achievement system. I don't care about other people's scores, but it quantifies my progress, giving me a better feeling of accomplishment. I've never played a game just for the score. I have close to 35K and a very busy and successful life outside of gaming btw. Regarding your tastes in games, you are definitely not in line with most people as Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect and GTAIV are all considered excellent games and the beauty of our world is that that is totally okay. Keep on gaming! GT:LtlHdThnkr

Nathan Jolly said...

Another old timer playing modern games! Awesome! Thanks for your comment!

Funny thing, I read your post in my email scratching my head. "I don't like Assassin's Creed? Wait... what?," I'm thinking, scratching my head. Then I read the post. Yeah, I got bored with AC1. It really is the same thing, over and over again. I'd loaned it to my brother-in-law, but I just got it back, and I'm having a lot of fun with it. It's still repetitious, but I want to complete it.

Mass Effect and GTA4, same thing. But I will probably go back to them as well.

I hope you didn't take my 25k comment personally. It was meant as a general statement with exceptions very much allowed. I'm sure not everybody north of 25k is a loser, just like I'm sure it's possible to be north of 100k honestly. It's just when I see these scores, I think "where do you find the time?" But there are pushover games (e.g. Avatar), and there are a heck of a lot of players who are a hell of a lot better at games than I am.

I did 1250/1250 Oblivion, by the way. That game's a pushover, too, though. It takes time to unlock all of them, but not one achievement is a challenge to get.

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Yes, I do. I have around 54,000 right now out of 74,000.

KaibaChaos said...

I care very much about Gamerscore, I believe that persistent cheaters Xbox 360's should be banned. If you don't care about gamerscore then you won't gain much and won't get banned. If you care about gamerscore and gain it legitimately then you won't get banned. If you just want to be at the top of the leaderboards illegitimately then you will be banned. So if you are just playing normally you have nothing to worry about.

As for your statement of people over 100,000 manipulating I can personally say that you are incorrect. I find it insulting actually, I know 3 people who legitimately have over 100,000. I know way more that have over 25,000 including myself.

One person used to own a game shop, another does indeed have a job and not "no life" and I go to university. Don't say I have no life, that's just pathetic. We all play games for gamerscore, nothing wrong with that and we all have a life.

Vexx303 said...

I actually read the entire article, and I have to agree. It's just a Gamer Score, it benefits you in no way, shape or form. So Microsoft shouldnt care about your GS. Besides if someone wants to keep the highest GS, they have to remain on Xbox Live for all the future games to come out. This means even if they plan on cheating, they're still going to have to pay Microsoft for a service.

Microsoft can see it as a Win/Win if they look at it in the right perspective.

People who plays games for fun online, will buy XBOX Live, and the people who want the highest gamer score will buy Xbox live as well, just to stay current. So those select people are paying $60 a year to pretty much "Write" a number on their profile that means absolutely nothing to Microsoft. Now when Microsoft starts looking for cheaters, and wasting resources and personnel for this "Job" they're taking away from other tiers of their company that could actually be improving on everything that needs work...Red Ring of Death for example?...

P>S> KaibaChaos, You sound like such a child. It's JUST A GAME, not your life.

Gamer Score means nothing. If you compare my achievements on Red Dead (For example) to another persons, I wouldnt appear that good at the game...I dont have many of the achievments...But I did "Somehow" get the achievement for being MVP 5 games in a row on random gang shootouts...

Gamerscore = Skill? I think not.

Nathan Jolly said...

@Kaiba -- Of course, I can accept that some people with a ridiculously high gamerscore are legit. But it isn't pathetic to suspect boosting, though getting offended when somebody knocks your score kind of is.

@Vexx -- You don't have to pay for Xbox Live to maintain a Gamerscore. To maintain a legitimate one, the bare minimum is an Xbox 360 Arcade unit, and games. You don't even need to be online, but if you get online, you get a month of Gold free (which lets you play with friends, and use Services like Twitter, Facebook,, etc.) but after that, the free Silver level is enough to share your legit or boosted Gamerscore with the world.

Anton said...

Greetings from the Philippines! I do have an Xbox 360 and view the gamerscore as fun and one way of Microsoft to get us gamers hook in games.

I do admire people who have almost 100k or over than that of gamerscore points. We here in the Philippines have a group named Team A&W aka Team Achievement Wh0res. Members of those team are very successful people, one of them I know is a big shot lawyer here.

Nice article btw! I enjoyed reading them.

Nathan Jolly said...

I've got to take back what I said about people with high gamerscores, especially since the Xbox 360 has been out for about five or six years now. I'm not gonna edit the original post, it was written quite some time ago, but rather I'll let it stand with the correction here.

Also, it's come to my attention that achievements (and trophies, on PS3) aren't just another fun thing to go for. It's basically gaming research, to see how much effort people put into games. This, with sales data, tells game developers what people do with the game. So if there is an achievement that almost nobody got, the goal was a waste of time, and they could have better spent their resources developing other parts of the game. Meanwhile, if a high percentage of active gamers (those who completed 30% of the story) only got the achievement for completing 80% of the story (and not the achievements for finishing it) then they know they made the game too long. So, if you're of the opinion that games are too short, the best thing to do is vote with your gamerscore and finish the game. I guess.

KaibaChaos said...

Old post is old, but I just got an email and noticed that I was replied to.

"P>S> KaibaChaos, You sound like such a child. It's JUST A GAME, not your life."

No, I was just giving my opinion on GamerScore. Just as I said (wow, over a year ago) I know people, the highest of which has around 290,000 GamerScore now and has not cheated once. There are easy games that can be completed in a short amount of time for 1,000 points. Personally, almost all of the games I play are for GamerScore because that is just what I enjoy doing when gaming. I even brought the Windows Phone 7 with the sole intention of increasing my GamerScore. I didn't do that because "it's my life", I did it because it's my hobby and I enjoy it. Now I can get GamerScore on those long train journey's :P.

"Gamer Score means nothing. If you compare my achievements on Red Dead (For example) to another persons, I wouldnt appear that good at the game...I dont have many of the achievments...But I did "Somehow" get the achievement for being MVP 5 games in a row on random gang shootouts..."

GamerScore only means something if you want it to. It means different things to different people. For you it means nothing. For me, it means fun, challenge and competition. Every week I am in competition with other gamers on to see who can earn the most GamerScore during 5 days. There's a lot of strategy involved. Which game should I play? Which Achievements should I go for? Realistically, do I have the time to get that Achievement?

Then there's the overall leaderboards on It's fun to gain more GamerScore and get higher in them.

Yes, it's true that it doesn't necessarily say how good you are at a game but it does provide you with tasks to complete. Not all of them will be easy, not all of them will be hard. You'll have games such as Avatar which can be completed in a few minutes and games like Final Fantasy XI which can take 1000's of hours.

"Gamerscore = Skill? I think not."

I didn't say that it was the same as your skill in gaming or in any specific game in general. But in the GamerScore community which I believe is at least over 500,000 now, probably more but no longer exists. That community loves getting GamerScore. You're right, it isn't the same as skill but that isn't what it is about.