My darling beloved gifted me a Playstation 4 this last Christmas, something I didn’t expect and to which I had to hand her - once again - the trophy of “Best Gift” for the third year running. Alas, moving to the PS4 has also got me feeling a little mournful. You see, for the last thirteen years (13!), I have been, primarily, an Xbox player.
It started with Halo 3. Before Halo 3, I had a PS2. Loved it. Great games. Star Wars Battlefront 2 (the real one) was amazing, and it sparked a shooter enjoyment that was picked up in the next generation by Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. This was back when sequels had numbers you could easily track and not subtitles that quickly became a fog of annual releases.
I loved Halo 3. Adored it, even. It began a relationship with a science fiction game series I truly loved and would eventually lead me to Mass Effect 2, perhaps my favourite game of all time. It also caused me to do a little achievement hunting. I wasn’t very good at multiplayer, and I couldn’t finish the campaign on Legendary difficulty, but that didn’t stop me researching and exploring and trying to get every damn achievement in the game. My GamerScore of 27000 is far from what you might consider high, but it represents many years playing games I absolutely loved.
On Steam, the story is much the same. With the wide range of games I’ve played thanks to Humble Bundle and sales, my Steam profile is the home of many memories of games long since passed into obscurity, of long nights and laughter with friends, of debates and challenges and tales to tell. And then, of course, are the games I played on Android, tracked by Google Play Services.
But now a new era approaches. My third console is here, and I feel as if I’m leaving something behind.
This time it’s Spider-Man. It’s a great game, I love it, and I have - for once - collected every Trophy in the game (except the New Game+ ones, but they’re coming soon). There are so many games to play and so many memories to make, and while I’m still playing a little on my Xbox, I can’t help but feel like I’ve left a part of myself behind.
Years ago when I was studying and living among friends we happened upon the idea of creating a service that would allow you to track your game history across platforms, bringing together GamerScore, Steam Achievements and Trophies into a unified library for posterity and, of course, bragging rights. It never came to fruition, but it’s often irked me this hasn’t become a big thing. Surely, somebody out there must have built this service, and I would love to use it.
But I think the time is coming. We’re seeing more and more cross-platform experiences emerging with games like Rocket League and Fortnite allowing Xbox and PS4 players to face each other on the pitch. Also, it seems like Microsoft is gearing up to bring Xbox Live logins to Switch and mobile: https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2019-02-04-microsoft-bringing-xbox-live-to-switch-and-mobile.
I don’t know if what I’m hoping for will even come to pass, and I don’t know if it would be popular. Does anyone else feel the same way? Is it really a problem? After all, I still have the stories, right? But to me, achievements are like photographs. They help clear the mind’s murky waters and remind me of stories long forgotten. They take me back to adventures I undertook not just with characters, but with developers - with those who came up with the idea of putting Skulls across the worlds of Halo, those who decided to reward you for sticking around for dinner in Far Cry 4's opening, those who push you to see things you would never have known to look for, and those who surprised me by rewarding the stupidest ideas I could ever have.
I don’t want to lose what I’ve earned, I want to build on it. “Platforms” are simply how the game industry has segregated its games and its players, and I while I like the PS4, my girlfriend didn’t give it to me because it’s smaller than my Xbox One, nor because it’s UI is easier to navigate; she gave it to me so I could play some new experiences. So why should platform stop me from building up my gaming history? Why should I feel like I’m leaving something behind just because Sony wanted an exclusive game on their platform?
And where is my unified, cross-platform history?