I love Xbox LIVE and here is why

First off, I’m not a gamer per se. The list of all the games I have every played is a pretty short one. This list is roughly in chronological order starting 1996 when my family got its first PC and ending some time in 2004/2005 when my PC was to underpowered to play any of the current titles and I had less time to waste being a full-time college student and all:

  • Myst: This was the first computer game I ever played as it came pre-installed on the first computer my family owned. This was back in the day when computers came with actually useful software instead of a bunch of crap and demos. I remember for a while spending every free minute at this game; if I had 10 minutes of free time before school I would play this. Even my parents would play and we would share notes on how to solve the puzzles. Good times.
  • Pinball: I can’t tell you how many hours I have wasted playing this game, figuring out the different missions one could do to get extra points and be promoted. The all-time high-score set by me was 14 458 500 (which isn’t that much compared to people really serious about the game as I have learned). But it’s the highest score ever reached by a member of my family and I have the screenshot to prove it.
  • Fugger II: Again, countless hours have been wasted spent playing this game. This is probably the only game ever I was actually pretty good at without resorting cheats or turning the difficulty way down. I eventually ended up achieving pretty much everything in this game: getting the maximum amount of money, opening shop in all ten towns in the game and owning castles in each of them, getting the highest office in the country, controlling all the soldiers and robbers at the same time and much more. These trading simulations were my favorite back then and a lot of fun. Seeing the intro again on YouTube brought back some memories. This was probably the single greatest game I have ever played.
  • The Settlers II: Another trading/military strategy game I played to no end. I wasn’t that good at it, though, and could complete the easier levels only before losing interest.
  • Moorhuhn: Not much to say here, just a casual game that was popular at the time.
  • The Settlers: Smack a Thief: Another casual game that wasn’t very complicated, but still entertaining for a while. I never made it past a certain level though, at which point the game starting losing its appeal for me.
  • Rainbow Six: I didn’t own this game myself, but my host-brother (I was staying in the U.S. for my junior year of high school at the time) did and I tried playing it. I pretty much sucked terribly at this game, though, and the only way to have at least some fun with it was to activate a bunch of cheats, so I wouldn’t get killed within the first minute of game play.
  • StarCraft: Again, not a game I owned, though a friend did and allowed me to borrow it for while. I think I only played a couple of levels on the easiest setting, but I remember getting to the level where one would first get the siege tank. I loved that unit and the effect a large formation of these had on ground targets, though it was frustratingly inefficient against enemy air units.
  • Age of Empires: This is probably the last game I spend hours at a time playing and again, I only played on the easiest setting. I hadn’t bought the actual game, but instead had a trial-version that came with some Microsoft product I had bought. My computer at the time was actually a bit underpowered to play this game, so in large battle scenes or whenever else there was a lot going on on the screen, the CPU fan would go into overdrive and I had to stop playing until the computer had cooled down.

There you have it, the complete list of all games I had ever played until about a year ago. That’s when I got my Windows Phone and I started playing casual games on it when I had a couple of minutes to kill.

Enter Xbox LIVE

My first phone game was the Xbox LIVE game Flowerz, which I want to say came pre-installed, though I am not sure about that. Anyway, it’s a free download from the marketplace. I didn’t have an Xbox 360 (and still don’t) or any of the Games for Windows – LIVE that connect to Xbox LIVE, so this game is what got me hooked on achievements in Xbox LIVE.

It’s just a very rewarding experience to be playing and every now and then having a note pop up telling you that you have just earned an achievement for something. And best of all, these achievements become part of your Gamerscore where they add up as you play more and earn more and more achievements (here is my profile, by the way). For the gamer, this a pretty cool way to see (and compare with others) what one has a achieved and for the game maker I would guess it’s a very effective means to keep players motivated to keep playing seeking out more achievements.

As I have already noted on Twitter, there is another game from Microsoft I have been playing recently to earn more achievements: Tinker. It’s free which goes to show that while I love the achievements, I am also too cheap frugal to actually pay for a game to get them. Luckily, Microsoft has a couple of Xbox LIVE games that are ad-supported and thus free: Sudoku and Minesweeper. Unluckily, like so may other great things, these games are U.S.-only. [2011-08-27 Update] Minesweeper is now available worldwide.

Miscellanea

It’s not entirely true that the list above contains all games I had ever played. A few are missing. These are games I only played very briefly, like at a friend’s house. For instance, at one occasion, sometime in the early nineties I would say, I remember playing Mario on a friend’s Nintendo for an afternoon. I don’t know what exact game it was, all I remember is that I sucked at it and never made it past the first level. Also at a friend’s house (though a different friend), I used to play one of the Indiana Jones games as well as some SimCity and Microsoft Flight Simulator on the PC (this was before we had a PC at home). And again, I didn’t do very well in any of these. Same goes for a demo of Ghost Recon that I played for a brief while. But since my laptop at the time didn’t have the graphics power to run the game and I had to play on my sister’s desktop PC which had a graphics card barely powerful enough to play.

Conclusion

So there you have it: I am terrible at playing games, with the notable exception of Fugger II which I rocked. Still, I will play occasionally and whenever there is a free game with Xbox live integration, I will definitely play it. If only because I am a sucker for the achievements. particularly the ones that are easy to get.

To get back to what I said in the title of this post: I love Xbox LIVE, even if it had nothing more than the achievements system. And if I had a living room big enough to accommodate the Kinect, I might even get an Xbox and start playing some more. Until this happens, I will just stick to watching walkthroughs by people who are actually good at playing video games on YouTube.

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