Article: Jakobsson, M. (2011). The Achievement Machine

Game Studies LogoTitle: The Achievement Machine: Understanding Xbox 360 Achievements in Gaming Practices
Author: Michael Jakobsson
Year: 2011
Additional: Game Studies 11 (1)
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Xbox Live achievements and gamerscores have become an integral part of Xbox 360 gaming. Based on the framework provided by Microsoft, the community has developed intriguing gaming practices where the individual games become pieces of a larger whole. This paper, based on a two year community study, explores how players have reacted and adapted to the system. To get at this shift in console gaming, the achievement system is seen as a massively multiplayer online game (MMO) where separate achievements are the functional equivalent of quests. By conceptualizing the achievement system as an MMO, the paper questions the dichotomy between PC/MMO and console gaming. The paper also goes into detailed descriptions of gaming habits and strategies that have emerged as gamers appropriate the achievement system, in particular looking at three player types: achievement casuals, hunters and completists. My conclusions are that the Xbox Live achievement system only partially functions as a reward system. More importantly, in terms of impact on player practices, it is an invisible MMO that all Xbox Live members participate in, whether they like it or not. On one hand, the different strategies and ways of conceptualizing the system shows how players have appropriated the technology and rules provided by Microsoft, and socially constructed systems that fit their play styles. On the other hand, many players are deeply conflicted over these gaming habits and feel trapped in a deterministic system that dictates ways of playing the games that they do not enjoy. Both sides can ultimately be connected to distinguishable characteristics of gamers. As a group, they are known to take pleasure in fighting, circumventing and subverting rigid rule systems, but also to be ready to take on completely arbitrary challenges without questioning their validity.

The Xbox Live Achievement System
The History and Impact of Achievements
The Xbox Live Massively Multiplayer Online Game
Three Ways of Approaching Achievements

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