I bought my Xbox 360 in late 2007, during a murky period between quitting a bad retail job and starting another bad retail job, and a week before I received my first paid games journalism commission. The system came packaged with Forza 2 and Viva Piñata, but I also grabbed Mass Effect (which I would only finish two years later) and Call of Duty 4 (which I became obsessed with). It’s one of my favourite consoles ever, and from the very beginning I was impressed by the blade menu system, the growing back-catalogue of games, and Xbox Live. I was also taken with its achievement system, which seemed, to me, like a smart way of tracking progress across your entire game collection.
In the year that followed, as I wrapped up my undergraduate degree, sold phones for minimum wage in my day job, and made my first tentative steps towards becoming a serious games journalist, my Gamerscore started to matter to me. It didn’t take long for me to became focused on overtaking friends who had bought their consoles earlier than I had. I was fixated on pushing myself to reach each new number I could justify calling a ‘milestone’, and while this feeling would occasionally calm down, it never fully went away. Achievement and trophy systems are everywhere now, but none of them are quite so direct and easy to parse as your Xbox Gamerscore, and none of them have grabbed me with nearly the same intensity.