The first piece I ever wrote for Kotaku chronicled my fun-sucking addiction to achievements. 15 months later, I'm back to tell you how I overcame that addiction.
Even back then, at the peak of my achievement obsessing, my resolve was starting to crack. The grind had become too tedious, too time-consuming, and too much of a chore for something that was supposed to be fun. I was fed up, but that Gamerscore kept sucking me back for more with the enticement of some imaginary milestone I was never going to reach.
Then, in January 2014, Stephen Totilo posted his annual list of games he had started and beaten in the previous year. It was the eighth year that he had posted that list but it was the first time that I had read it, and it sparked something.
At that time, I was drowning in a backlog of games. Between Christmas, the Steam Holiday Sale, and a new generation of consoles, I was hopelessly bogged down with no chance of getting out, especially if I kept slaving away for every last little achievement point. But when I read Stephen's piece, it inspired me to try a new approach to the way I had been gaming for so long.
I made a New Year's resolution - every game I started went on a list, and I too would track how many of them I beat in 2014.
(Assassin's Creed IV was the first game I beat in 2014. I only got 43 of its 60 achievements. Photo credit: Ubisoft)
On the surface, I can see how this might look like trading one obsession for another, and that's a valid observation. But what I've found over the past eight months is that this new focus has helped me enjoy gaming in a way that had been absent in the last few years. It has kept me looking forward instead of spinning my wheels, and the accountability of adding a game to the list means that I'm much less likely to start a new game unless I seriously intend to see it through to the end.
But what I've also found is that the less I obsess over achievements, the less important they become. It started slowly; buying a game on Steam instead of the Xbox even though there were achievements on the latter, neglecting certain mission-specific achievements, and spending more time on the PC and 3DS. Now, I don't even look at the achievement list when I drop a new game into my Xbox One.
(Less time grinding, more time to play achievement-less games like To the Moon. Photo credit: Freebird Games)
So consider this my final chapter in something that I first started grappling with almost two years ago. I'm still wary of falling into a new obsession to fill the void - Steam trading cards seem like a particularly devious temptation - but I think that if I stay vigilant and focus on my new goal then I'll be able to keep gaming as what's supposed to be in the first place - fun.
It feels good to be free.