Pennies for Points, one year later…

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Remember this?

From a tweet in October:

  • Just donated $193.33 to Child’s Play and Microsoft is matching. Total: $386.66. A penny for every gamerscore point I earned this year. #give

So there you have it. I donate and do charity in other ways too, but donating this way is a fun mini-game for me. 19,333 gamer points from January to October, nearly a year.

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Pennies for Points

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This year, on New Years day, I made the resolution to donate a penny for every point I earned getting achievements on Xbox Live. I really want to do some charity work, but I’m busy with games day and night. I’m in a fairly time demanding line of work, believe it or not. However, I feel pretty lucky, so why not do something nice for everyone while doing something I love?

So, Pennies for Points. Eventually I’ll get a more proper site up and running so people can track my effort a little better. Maybe I can get a few other people to join in. For now, you can check the side of my blog and watch the number get bigger.

I started at a gamer score of 101,467. Now I’m at 106,952. The months not over but the total gamer score increase since Jan 1st is 5,485. That means $54.85 in total donations thus far. Did I mention I’ll donate through Microsoft near the end of the year so they match my donation? One more cool thing about working for MS is that they’re pretty good about charity donations and giving back to the community.

Where does all this go? Most likely Child’s Play since it’s one of the best charities for gamers I could find.

So that’s it! I set up a new years goal and it’ll be fun to stick to it.

Seven Steps to Boost Your Gamerscore

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Points are fun too!

Last time I wrote about why I like getting achievements. This time, I want to give some insight on how I go about getting those ‘cheeves. A few people I know keep prodding me to write about this, so here we go!

1. Play games you enjoy – This probably sounds dumb or obvious, but you shouldn’t play games you don’t really like. You’ll notice I have some games like Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2009 (that’s everyone’s favorite to pick on so I point it out in particular) that I’ve 1000pted. Guess what? I actually like playing those games… rag-dolling animals is fun for me and I don’t get to do that in any other game. By contrast, I wasn’t feeling the recent Harry Potter game (too long and involved), Deadliest Catch (too repetitive), or Dead Rising (terrible save system) so I stopped playing them. I will admit I will put up with a mediocre game just to get achievements though, since playing a bad game is more fun for me than watching a decent TV show. I think it’s really up to the individual player, but as long as there is enough “fun” to keep me interested I’ll stick with the game.

2. Find the fast points – This goes against #1 in someways. You’ll see I’ve 1000pted a hockey game which honestly I didn’t think was that fun (I’m not a big fan of hockey in general, nothing against the game itself). However, early sports games for the 360 are some of the easiest to get achievement points in. Avatar: The Last Air Bender is everyone favorite example of quick points. You can get all 1000 points in under three minutes. For someone who is into getting achievements, getting fast points is fun by itself. If I can play one game of NHL 07 and get 1000 points, it’s pretty freaking fun to see that you’ve unlocked 26 achievements for 1000 points in a match or two. Getting back to Harry Potter; I wasn’t having a ton of fun playing the game and it was long, so the investment in time for points wasn’t worth it.

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A Treatise on Achievements

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I get a lot of flak for having a huge gamer score. Part of the problem people have is that I play games to “boost” the score; games I probably wouldn’t play otherwise. For example, I probably wouldn’t be playing Lost, the Cabela series, and a few other games if it weren’t purely for achievements. Also, those people never look at all the AAA games I’ve played, or point out that I’ve played the same or more (both in amount of games and achievements in any particular game) of any game they’ve touched. Haters!

However, here is where I take a stand. On the Internet! Every game I’ve played, even Cabelas, I’ve been able to take something away from. Before achievements, I’d stand around a Best Buy, look at the back of the box and laugh at the value games, then buy my copy of Halo, Gears, whatever.  I was a game snob. Now that I play these kinds of games, in addition to the AAA titles, I fully appreciate a good game when I see it. The difference is huge. I remember growing up, when I thought all games were good, mainly because I could only get one a year.

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“Achievement Guides”

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Dear Internet,

Please stop publishing “Achievement Guides” that simply list the all the possible achievements found in a game. I can do that from within the game itself. A guide is supposed to tell me the best way to get certain achievements, not just tell me what they are.


Sir Haxington

Lost: Via Domus Est Iens Domus

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Lost: Via Domus Box 360After 1000pting (I just made up a new word, Google that shit!) from my latest Gamefly rental, “Lost: Via Domus (L:VD),” I’m actually pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. It’s like when you go to the doctor for a physical and you’re not completely sure if you’re going to have to turn your head and cough or possibly get a finger in your ass. Playing L:VD was more like the doctor finding a mole inside your thigh which you might have to get removed at a later date. Kinda sucky, but at least you took got it taken care of.

L:VD wasn’t an awesome experience by any stretch of the imagination (well, the 1000pts in about five hours was awesome), and I come from the unique perspective of playing a game based on a TV show which I’ve only seen half an episode of. To me, L:VD actually had a decent story as far as games go. I’m not sure if that’s good for the game, or bad for the games industry in general. I suppose basing your game on a fairly popular television show has some benefits.

I don’t want to spoil the story since it’s really the only thing that keeps you not wanting to succumb to narcolepsy while playing. The gameplay and interactive portions of the game felt like an old point and click adventure style game, except set in a 3-d world and crappy. You basically run around, talk to characters who give you “quests” to go on, which are mainly just linear story events. Talking to guy A opens up talking to guy B, and so on. Eventually, you’ll have a “flashback” where you need to take a picture during some event from your past, at just the right moment. Once you’ve done so, you remember something about yourself (oh yeah, you have amnesia) which you can use to advance the story. Optionally, you can run around during the flashback and find three “memory items” which help fill in the story and unlock more ‘cheeves.

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Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2008: Who Wants Points?

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Cabela's Dangerous Hunts 2008 BoxYet another game worthy of only the most respectable point whores. While I’m probably one of the few gamers who delights in rag-dolling animals, Big Game Hunter isn’t terribly fun overall. That should come as no surprise considering this is a “value” title and as we all know, the Cabela’s series has had a pretty terrible history.

What good things can I say about this game? I think shooting the guns and killing game is marginally fun, and I think they did a decent job with the weapon sounds. I like some of the newer interactive elements like getting in tree-stands to hunt deer, and in the camouflaged tents to hunt birds. I also liked getting 1000 points in under four hours.

Most of the game is just lazily designed. Deer you can walk right up to (or walk right up to you), smaller game you can outrun, “boss” fights with lions with require shooting them 10 times in the head, NPCs who stand out in the open in the middle of a field with animals not more than 30 yards away and mini-game involving shooting rodents en masse. It’s a pretty joke-tacular experience.

Big Game Hunter also has some just wacky features you’d never expect in a hunting game. As you kill more animals, you get “adrenaline” which when used, stops time for a bit, allowing you to line up the perfect shot. You also have “Hunter’s Sense” which has no limit of use. Hunter’s Sense allows the player to “see” the animals in the foliage by making them glow bright white, while making everything else in the environment dark shades of gray. I suppose these features allow the game to be more “gamey” rather than “simmy.” They might only be allowed in the easier difficulty settings, I didn’t find out.

So, yeah. Pretty much you get to rag-doll animals and get 1000 points.

Eragon: ‘Cheeves Ahoy!

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Urkel or Urgal?I’m a total point whore. Sometimes, in the name of getting more points, I’ll play a game that others might not touch with a 38 foot pole. Either to my advantage or my detriment (depending how you look at it) I’m an extremely brave and patient gamer who has a high tolerance for games that aren’t your typical AAA title.

After 1000 pointing Eragon for the 360, I will say that the game is pretty much what you’d expect. A less than average game, based on an even less than average film, based on a “best selling fantasy novel.” The game mostly consists of killing the same few enemy types over and over (one type is called an Urgal, which sounds a lot like Urkel) seperated by some cutscenes based on the movie’s story line. I never saw the movie, mainly because it looked crappy and I don’t get points for sitting through crappy movies, unlike playing a crappy game.

I will say a few nice things, mainly because I feel bad for the people who probably worked really hard on this game, and they need to know what they did right. First of all, shooting the bow and arrow was actually pretty cool, and I liked the “zeroing in” mechanic. It works by holding down right trigger and A. Eragon will start drawing an arrow back and a green targeting reticle will appear over and enemy, which will then start shrinking. Once the controller starts vibrating and the circle stops shrinking, if you let off A, you’ll get head shot which usually kills in one shot. This doesn’t work on armored enemies though, which often repel this headshot mechanic and reminds you that this game is kind of annoying.

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