Gamerscore, Achievements, and Trophies, Oh My!

Achievement Unlocked!

Two words ubiquitous enough that they’re slang and meme fodder now – at least in gamer circles.  You may have even heard your own kiddo utter them on occasion.  

So what does it mean, exactly?  Where did it come from?

Well, to look at that, we need to engage in a bit of time travel, and circle all the way back to 2005.  The wheel had just been invented, we discovered the power of fire, and… Microsoft released the XBox 360, and with it ushered in the concept of game achievements and Gamerscore.

Obligatory DeLorean Time Machine Image

At that point, every game released for the XBox 360 console had to support achievements and Gamerscore.  Meaning that, when the Player completed a specific action or hit a certain goal in a game, they’d “unlock” an achievement and add that achievement’s “score” to their own gamer score total.

Um… What’s that about the thing now?

It is a little confusing.  Basically, when the 360 came out Achievements had two components, the achievement itself — For example, in Halo 3 (A very popular game) – Finishing the first mission in the game would unlock the “Landfall” achievement.

When that happens, the player gets the achievement badge (it shows up on their profile) and also gets 20 Gamerscore points..

Which leads to the second part of the Achievement system – Gamerscore.  Every achievement has an associated score – generally, a title was required to provide 1000 points spread across all that title’s achievements with harder achievements giving higher points.

Alright… Why Do the Points Matter? What Are They For?

Bragging rights mostly.  With each game only having 1000 available points and with generally, half of that reserved for more difficult achievements, a Player with a high Gamerscore has either played A LOT of games or played them very well.  In most cases, both.  So, a high gamer score correlates strongly to high skill.

So Gamers Can Compare Points Across All Their Games?

Actually, no.  Achievements and Gamerscore are tied to the Microsoft platform, so your kiddos have to be playing on an XBox System or on certain games available in the Windows Store to get achievements in games.

But my Kiddo has a Sony Playstation Whatever…

Well, while Sony was later to the party, bringing on their own reward system in 2008, they do have one as well.  Where Microsoft offered Achievements and Gamerscore, Sony offers Trophies and Points.

In concept, these two systems operate very much the same.  Often a game that is released on both systems will have the same types of requirements for Achievements or Trophies.  So, for example, if completing the first Mission unlocks an achievement on an XBox system, it will also unlock a Trophy on the Sony System.

There are, though, some differences in execution.  On the Sony side, while Players do have points, instead of an aggregate score, Players have a Level which goes up as they get more and more points.  So, for example, a Player reaches Level 2 once they get 200 points.

Another difference is that for any given game, there are 4 tiers of trophy: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, corresponding roughly to difficulty — Except for Platinum.  Players only unlock a game’s Platinum trophy after they unlock all the other trophies in a game.

Completely Unrelated Side Note – According to my editing program, I literally have no idea how to spell the word Platinum.  I had to autocorrect every single instance, including the one here in this aside – Favorite misspelling: Platnimum

So… Do the Trophies Do Anything?

Like Achievement and Gamerscore, it’s related to bragging rights.  Particularly in the case of Platinum trophies, as those require a Player to get every other trophy in a game – some of which can be very difficult to get.  

What if my kiddo tends to play on the computer instead of consoles.  Is there anything there?

Because the PC is an open marketplace, there’s no one single operator that provides a reward service.  That said, there ARE some options.  The first is on Valve’s Steam platform.  Chances are, if your kiddo is playing games on the PC, he or she is playing them from Steam.  It’s huge and is the closest thing the PC has to an “XBox Live” or “Playstation Plus” type enclosed system.  Many many games on Steam have Achievements (just like on the XBox) that unlock in similar ways.  

Something to keep in mind though, is that unlock on the Sony and XBox platforms, where developers are required to support the system, games on Steam are not, so there’s no real associated concept of Gamerscore or Points — But, the achievements a Player unlocks, still offers some bragging rights and “social proof” of skill.

Another platform for PC players is Electronic Arts’ Origin Service.  Like Steam, Origin also offers achievements – but since it’s a separate marketplace from Steam, the achievements and such are tied to that particular space.

Hmm.  Seems like there’s a lot more to this, where else can I go to learn more?

Yup.  Achievements and such are actually a pretty big thing in gaming culture, and while this article gives an overview, you can learn more Achievements, Trophies, etc… at the links below.

How Can I Talk To My Kid About Achievements or Trophies

One of the best way is to ask about their Gamerscore or trophy level.  Chances are they’ll be happy to talk about it, whether they’re exceptionally proud or looking to push it higher.  Another track is to ask them about what Achievements or Trophies they’re currently trying to unlock.  One more good approach is to ask them about the most difficult achievement they’ve ever unlocked — Chances are there’s a great story behind it.

Lastly, if you’re just looking to impress’em with some esoteric knowledge, you can drop this knowledge bomb on their heads:  At the moment, a player named Raymond “Stallion83” Cox holds the world record for the highest gamerscore, as of April of 2017 he was sitting at 1,519,370 points, and you can bet it’s even higher by now.  

Guinness World Record – Highest XBox Live Gamerscore

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