Friday, August 2, 2013

Achieving Faliure

Since a young child I have played video games.

I think about that, watching the evolution of systems pan out and wonder to myself where all the time went? It's the world we live in I suppose. We are always besting ourselves; that, or remaking classics.

It wasn't until this week that I thought about "achievements." For those unfamiliar with the concept, an "achievement" is a badge or recognition of completion pertaining to a particular facet of a game. For example, were I to play a game that involves making checkpoints during a continual onslaught of enemies, my ability to do so would me measured and gauged by an "achievement." For killing twelve micromen/street hooligans/meta-brawlers I receive an achievement called "dirty dozen" or something quippy like that.

The philosophy of an achievement has always been puzzling to me. I still think of the video game market as a male dominated world. That's not being sexist mind you, simply an observation. What I find more fascinating however, is contemplating why this is so. Men like to do things, generally. This can be anything. It's frat kid syndrome. If you drink "x" amount of booze, you will gain "y" amount of favor and reputation. Getting more serious, the male's penchant for achieving merges from petty favor gathering to things like supporting a family or running a business. Underneath all of this though is the same old song: unlock 3 children, earn "Three of a Kind," complete first year of business, earn "Year One," and so on.

Maybe the reason why I was so possessed of this idea was because I recently picked up Counterstrike: GO on the Steam Sale last month and finally got a chance to play. On the chat I mentioned that I had been invited to the CS: Beta about 9 years ago. "You've been around since beta and you're 0-5?" someone said over the open mic. When I replied that my having a wife left me preoccupied with other duties, the nameless gentleman scoffed and I signed off, bored.

Video games then present an interesting opportunity for males: Challenge without consequence. What I mean by this is simple. Men desire on a basic level to challenge themselves. Much of this desire pans out in life through starting a family or a business, or simply making a niche for themselves. Video games offer a unique alternative. If you play Super Mario 3, beginning with 3 lives and die before the end of World 1, nothing has been lost. You are still alive with a life intact, free to do anything. If you were possessed to continue on, ultimately to complete the game and win, a rush of endorphins would surge your blood and cry out a song of victory. Yet, seeing through this facade, it would appear that it is a false victory. Beat the game, and you are still you, sitting alone in a bachelor den ten feet below the earth. I've always gravitated towards games for their story element. I play to hear a tale. When the tale finishes, I leave and go elsewhere with my arcane knowledge. According to, there are armies of those who wish to max out a game's achievements, some games being manufactured for the express purpose of achieving achievements. It all sounds so tedious.

Now that I'm twenty-five I understand that games are an escape from real challenge. I don't say this disparagingly, not at all. I love games! I reserve the right, however, to be mature enough to recognize when I live my days a digital lie. A game will fade in time, as countless others have passed on in memory, but a lifetime won't. A family, a legacy, will not escape our attention so easily, and neither will one be so victorious. Sometimes it takes a risk to know just what it means to be alive.


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