The Ryan Lambie column: the insanity of selling achievements on eBay

Would you pay someone to play Gears Of War for you, just so you could have their high score? Ryan wouldn't....

Mr Ryan Lambie's amazing joypad.

Wasps. I’ve been pondering the subject for a few hours now, and I still haven’t reached a conclusion; why do they exist? For what discernable purpose? They don’t produce anything useful like honey or wax, and they don’t even seem to have any natural predators. Spiders scare the hell out of me, but at least they keep the fly population down – what do wasps do to earn their keep?

A surly looking cloud of the critters had gathered around the wheely bin in the front garden earlier today (it appears they’ve built a nest under our house), and my attempt to disperse them with a can of Raid was somewhat abortive, ending with me flailing my arms about like an idiot for a few minutes before retreating back indoors with three particularly unpleasant stings.

They’re lurking outside the living room window as I write this, taunting me with their lurid yellow stripes…

Anyway, on to a more pertinent, games related subject. While searching through eBay this week, I stumbled upon something even more perplexing than the existence of wasps – people ‘selling’ Xbox achievement points on eBay. Here’s just one seller’s listing, quoted verbatim:

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GEARS OF WAR – ACHIEVEMENT GLITCH!

The following auction is for the following achievements to be unlocked on your xbox 360 account :

SERIOUSLY… –  50G

All weapon achievements, including sniper, hammer of dawn etc.

Once payment is recieved., please send me the following details :

Your Gamertag, Email & Email Password.

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And we will discuss a convenient time for both of us on when i should do it

Once recovered, i will have finished in around 15 minutes

After the achievements are unlocked on your profile, i will delete your account from my hard-drive and email you so that you know i have finished.

PLEASE NOTE, YOU ARE BIDDING FOR THE TIME TAKEN BY ME TO PLAY THE GAME, ALL GAMERSCORE IS OWNED BY MICROSOFT.

Now, I’ve known for quite a while that there are a number of dedicated Xbox enthusiasts that will happily play through even the most tedious dreck just to boost their score; a search on eBay for Avatar reveals auction listings such as ‘Avatar – 1000 easy Achievement points! L@@K!!’, and it’s not unknown for certain players to buy the same game from different regions to acquire extra points from each. This, I’ve often thought, is a bit of a strange practice – games are meant to be fun, after all – but actually paying someone else to play Gears of War for me, just so my scorecard will look a bit more impressive? Mystifying.

Speaking to Game Daily in January of last year, Epic’s Cliff ‘Gears of War‘ Bleszinski had this to say about the achievements system:

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‘It’s nerd cred, man! […] You may say it can’t be used for anything, but gamers use them for pride. They’re pride points! You can compare it to the feeling you get when you pull up to a restaurant in a Lamborghini. People go, “Oooo, he must be somebody.”‘

He’s right, of course. I’m not much of an achievement whore myself (and I haven’t owned my 360 long enough to rack many up), but even I know there’s a certain thrill when a new one is unlocked.

But if having a high gamerscore is the 360’s equivalent of posing in an Italian supercar, then paying for achievements is tantamount to stuffing rolled up socks down the front of your underpants (if you’re a chap that is – ladies probably shouldn’t bother), or gluing a Mercedes badge to the front of your Nissan Micra in the hope that someone will mistake you for a millionaire.

Achievement points could perhaps be viewed as a cynical attempt to shift more games (and it certainly seems to work), but even so, they’re a neat idea – a 21st century equivalent of the highscore tables on the arcade games of yesteryear. Like all neat competitive ideas however, they’re ultimately let down by human nature – whether it’s taking horse tranquilisers to win Olympic races or buying achievement points off eBay, the desire to cheat seems to be one of life’s mystifying and annoying constants – just like wasps, in fact.

I’m off to buy a few more cans of Raid…

Ryan writes his gaming column every Thursday at Den Of Geek. Last week’s is here

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