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What’s happening on the ‘box?

Posted by joeabbott on May 1, 2011

I spend more time playing Xbox games these days than is probably good for me, but I don’t worry about it too much. As long as it’s a pastime that doesn’t making me late for work, isn’t something I put above a good conversation with Suz, and I’m (generally) height-weight proportionate, I’m not too concerned.

I enjoy the many distractions the Xbox 360 affords me but mostly: I have a bit of “achievement fever”.

Achievements are in-game awards you get for accomplishing specific tasks or accomplishing them in specific ways. These awards are then available outside the games so your “digital self” can wear them on his/her sleeve. Also, a new breed of in-game rewards was recently introduced in the form of “avatar awards”. Instead of getting points that add to your gamerscore, you get items to adorn your Xbox avatar.

And, as anything “valuable” to someone somewhere (and achievements are an interest to many), there’s a culture built up around games in general and achievements in particular. These are some of the game sites that I visit.

imageAt the main Microsoft Xbox site, when you log in, the first thing you’ll see is your avatar image and gamerscore. As defined on Your gamerscore is made up of all the points you earn for earning achievements in Xbox 360 … games.

While I’ll take a few points off the author for constructing a sentence using “earn for earning”, he nailed it: achievements are assigned a point value by the game designers and the sum total of those points for achievements you’ve earned across all games is your gamerscore.

The image to the left is my avatar (wearing a jaunty You Don’t Know Jack t-shirt … an in-game award) and a crown (another in-game award) for playing through Fable 3 and doing it with some panache. To the right is my gamertag (my “name” … Trimbler) and my gamerscore: 28,395. As I started with above: I am probably playing too much Xbox.

You can also see my gamerpic, the tile with the red background and the close up on my avatar’s downcast face. I was having a bit of a bad day that day, I think.

The final detail is the “points”. Points are a nefarious way devised to separate me from my money. I think there are 80 points to the dollar … so you buy points and then use them to purchase online goods and services. I guess it’s “80 to the dollar” so people mentally round up to “a point per penny” and Microsoft has just given themselves a 20% bonus!

So my 1240 points are about equal to $15 real dollars. I “loaded up” my account a while back with $20 and have slowly (big emphasis on “slowly” here) been using them to get this and that … I originally added points to my account to get a Fallout: New Vegas game add-on.


The idea behind the TrueAchievements site is to recognize that not all achievements are worth the points that the game designers assigned to them. As defined by the TrueAchievement FAQ

Your TrueAchievement score is obtained by taking the base Gamerscore value of an achievement and multiplying it by its rarity (the TA Ratio), resulting in a more accurate representation of skill required to obtain it. Because the TrueAchievement score is dependent on the number of people who currently have an achievement, it can change over time.

As you can see by my TrueAchievement (TA) card to the right, my gamerscore of 28,395 is the same as what’s shown on the Xbox site, but in TA terms, these achievements are “worth” over 39,000 points! And the word “worth” is in quotes very intentionally.

Anyhow, I mostly go to this site because I like seeing bigger numbers for my time … somehow makes it seem more valid to spend my daytime hours gaming … and because they do a nice job of saying “here are all the achievements in a game, and these are the ones you have already earned”. With this information, I can then tailor my gameplay to get a few more achievements!

Yes, I realize the circular nature of this situation. It’s why I admitted to a bit of “achievement fever” earlier!

imageXbox360 Achievements

The Xbox360 Achievements site was the Internet reference site I used the most when I first started getting into gaming and achievements.

Like the TrueAchievements site, these guys do a nice job of detailing all of a game’s achievements and describing how to get them. What they don’t do is scan my account so they can tell me what I have and, more importantly, what I’m missing! Without this feature, they’re just a “second opinion” that I’ll use if I’m stumped on specifically how to go about earning an achievement.

imageAchievement Hunter

The Achievement Hunter site isn’t a regular stop for me, but I’ll occasionally bump into their videos on YouTube or some other “news” site that collects fun, well-done game videos.

imageThese guys will often post videos for getting tough of tricky achievements. One such achievement (I don’t have it … but it sounds hard) is from the Halo: Reach game in which you have to break your fall by landing on an enemy from a height that would normally kill you. And it has to kill the enemy.

It’s worth a fair amount of gamerscore, so it’s desirable to get. These guys will figure out how to earn the achievement (where to go on the map, how to set it up) and then film a video of them doing it. They’ll add voiceover talking you through the details and it makes some of these tricky puzzles easier to accomplish.


The GameFAQs site was the first site I’d ever heard about that was around purely to help people get through games. I’d heard of forums or sites like that, but never thought there was an organized, structured site that would collect information on all games for people to peruse as they might a library.


But, they’re showing up this far down in my list of game sites because I just don’t use them. I don’t often get stumped on how to get through a game from end-to-end, but I do like to read up on specific achievements (the sites above are great for that) or for specific missions. And for the missions, I’ve recently found the next site.


The guides portion of the GamePressure site is amazing. I’ve only looked at a couple so I’m not sure if they’re using the same format for all their guides, but the ones I saw walked through the main storyline, had sections for individual missions, and additional details for helping you through gameplay (which buttons to push, how to use in-game items, etc.)

It’s really peerless work and while it amounts to a body of information you might think someone would expect to be compensated for creating, it’s right there for you to reference. The only “bad” part is that there’s really too much to print off, and without a computer next to you while you play games, it’s hard to make use of this stuff when you most need it!

imageGame Trailers

The final site I’ll list is the Game Trailers site. Like the Achievement Hunter site, I bumped into these guys while looking for information about some game or other that I was interested in playing. And while game trailers are fun to watch, what I really like are the reviews.

While they don’t have reviews all games, the games they choose to review are usually the “hot” games and their reviews are deep (story, design, gameplay, and presentation are all rated), consistent, and well-considered. If you’re interested in getting a game or understanding why people like/dislike a game in particular, this site would be a good stop on your way to understanding what all the fuss is about.

And that’s it! A little hard to say “that’s it” when I list seven different sites all geared toward my interests in playing games, but it keeps me out of trouble and I still make time for chores around the house. And, with that … it’s time to finish cleaning up some piles on my desk to I can get to dim sum and then work on cleaning out the garage!

Happy gaming!


2 Responses to “What’s happening on the ‘box?”

  1. Momma said

    ‘sounds like fun. You always did like that kind of thing. On Easter, Fred was telling us about his new pastime – cash “something”… I forgot what it’s called. You get soordinates from a satelite for a “treasure” which you scout out – then either keep it or hide it for someone else. Some things he has have been around the world! have you heard of this?

  2. joeabbott said

    I bet he’s talking about “GeoCaching”. I’ve been interested and have a good GPS, but I seldom have made time to scout for the logs and hidden trinkets while out hiking. Perhaps when I slow down a bit from climbing I’ll get into this more. Fun that Fred is into this!

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