It all started, in the way these things do, with a throwaway comment by Microsoft Interactive Games corporate vice president Peter Moore in the pages of Edge magazine. "There's a guy on Geometry Wars, I can't remember his Gamertag, but his score is far above anyone else in the world. It makes me think this person doesn't have a life, doesn't work, and is completely and sickly addicted to this game. I think there's a level where people go overboard with Achievements, and people pay no attention to that."
So is he right or is he wrong? At the time of writing, the world's number one Gamerscorer currently has 55,000 more points than Mr Moore's ideal (and some might argue somewhat paltry) 4,000 score - so just who are these "sickly addicted" characters addicted to the Xbox 360? What are they doing with their lives? How do they interact with the Xbox 360 community? And surely Microsoft should perhaps pay them some attention if they know Xbox 360 and its games that intimately? Is there anything that developers, publishers and average gamers can learn from them? We decided to find out.
First port of call was www.MyGamercard.net, repository of the acknowledged 'official' Xbox 360 Achievement Point Leaderboards. From there we made direct contact at ground level with the top 25 scorers and invited them to pour forth their experiences and viewpoints. What we got back was a tale of camaraderie, obsession, and an unquenchable lust for Achievements that threatens to bring the system down.
HOW THE OBSESSION TAKES HOLD
Let's make no mistake about the awesome scale of what the world's number one gamer has achieved here with his current score of 59,233. Each Xbox retail title yields an absolute maximum of 1,000 points - often a little less - often a lot less once silly objectives and unattainable glitched Achievements are factored out. The downloadable Xbox Live Arcade games offer up a paltry 200. To get into the top ten, you're essentially looking at playing through a minimum of 70 games, plus pillaging the Xbox Live Arcade library for around 4,000 in total.
The origins of the intense rivalry on the Xbox Live leaderboards began as a much more low-key affair, with non-Microsoft websites starting to track each individual Gamercard, and creating leaderboards from their ever-expanding databases. "I found out that I was number four in the world on www.MyGamercard.net," says elite gamer Fixell (Gamerscore at the time of writing: 43,783). "Once I found out where I stood, I was driven to keep earning as much Gamerscore as possible."
The urge to be the best of the best is a common theme amongst the Xbox Live elite, confirms 50,566-scorer Furydog. "I've always been an Xbox guy but never thought I'd get so addicted to the Xbox 360... now I think I play just to stay in the top ten of overall Gamerscore, which is kinda sad."
For others, it's all about the kudos - the recognition from other Xbox Live users that they are the undoubted masters of the Xbox scene. It's all about the bragging rights, the claims for total and utter domination of high-end videogaming. "With Gamerscore, the world can see how good and I am and the Achievements I can accomplish," says the almighty NOGGIN SHOTZ (Gamerscore: 48,171), whose total control of Xbox 360 scoring he likens almost to a form of penetrative, destructive game violation. "If you read any Xbox forum, they call me the Game Ruiner. I can completely beat any game in one day."
It's a sentiment backed up by The UK's number one player, DJHUNTERD (54,312 Gamerscore), who puts it a little more delicately: "I love to play games and I'm thrilled about the recognition for doing it."