Hey y’all. It’s me again, Travis Taft, back with this week’s Total Access. It’s been a hell of a week for me on this side of the keyboard. I’m sure this article will be pieced together one sentence at a time between matches of Starcraft II as I hone in on those last 10 wins to get my Queen of Blades icon and I can finally let myself play the beta for Heart of the Swarm in earnest. Sure, I’ve played a few dozen matches since I got it, but with the ultimate 1v1 Zerg badge so close I’ve been focusing my time on Wings of Liberty to get the prestigious award before HotS comes out (which we finally know will be on March 12th of next year).
Sometimes I feel silly, rerunning old turf when I could be playing the exclusive beta of the new game. Especially since I got in early when there was a smaller pool of players, which increased my odds of being matched with a celebrity player or caster. Is it really so vital to have a four digit win count and a different icon in my little two inch square next to my user name? When the beta came out, I had a bit over 100 wins left to go. Obviously I made sure my name was in Blizzard’s lottery pool right away, but part of me wasn’t quite ready to get the new game. As long as I didn’t have the option, going for my 1000th Zerg win was the only Starcraft goal available, so the decision was made for me.
It was a bittersweet moment when I got my beta key. I was thrilled to be part of a select club with limited access to a highly sought-after commodity. But after I installed and started playing, a little voice bit away at me. I was only about 75 wins away from freedom at that point, and each game I lost while learning the new units was a game I could have played well with units I was familiar with and getting closer to 1000. Even when I did finally win in HotS I knew that the points were only temporary – one of the costs of playing a beta over a final game.
Of course, I couldn’t just sit there and pound out 75 wins in Wings of Liberty either. I’m not a progamer, getting paid to play the game. I have more pressing matters to worry about. Some days I can play as many as 15 matches, but others I don’t touch the game. And I’m probably a touch shy of a 50% win rate. So that leaves me at 20-25 wins per week as a generous estimate, or three weeks of my Starcraft sessions to meet my goal. And that’s if I don’t decide to play another game for a week instead (lord knows how many other achievements I’m 90% of the way to in a half dozen different games). But I knew that if I didn’t get that icon before HotS came out I never would, and if I didn’t work to finish as quickly as possible I may never finish at all.
So I put in my play time here and there, and here I am two months later with just five games left to win (five less than when I started this article) and running a 12 game losing streak. And I’m playing more frequently now than I have in weeks. For this is the power of the Achievement system. Because it really is more than just the 1000 wins and an extra 30 points to my achievement total. The list of my completed achievements says something about me as a player.
I personally have the majority of the campaign achievements as well as the one for beating every level on Hard mode plus the award for beating five levels on Brutal. This in combination with my hodgepodge of multiplayer awards (25 wins for solo Protoss here, 50 for team random there – and soon my coveted 1000 solo Zerg wins) gives a pretty decent snapshot of my experience with the game. I played the campaign as best I could, then focused fully on the ladder once I hit my cap. By contrast, some of my friends have everything on campaign but very little in multiplayer, some have lots in multiplayer but little in campaign, and some have very few achievements at all despite considerable hours clocked in the game because they mainly play the unawarded custom modes.
These cues exist in real life too, they are just not as explicit as a list with a little explanation pop-up window and an icon next to each one. You can’t see someone’s gamer score for life as they pass by on the street. But things like the clothes you wear, what accessories you have if any, what you are doing and how you do it – they all give hints as to who you are. Of course, sometimes the cues can be misleading – if you’re wearing uncharacteristically goofy clothes because it is laundry day or you have the icon for beating every level on brutal because you had a friend who is great at the game staying for a few weeks and she powered through it for you. That is why these cues can only ever be general suggestions and not perfect indicators.
As people on this site may be particularly aware of, though, sometimes these badges can carry negative implications instead of just positive ones. People may see a wheelchair or crutches as a sign of weakness. To this, I just reaffirm what I just said a moment ago – the badges are hints, not the whole story. Am I weaker since my disability? Well, under certain definitions of strength it’s hard not to say that I am. And on a passing glance that might be what people notice first and they might make judgments from there. But it’s only when you take in the whole picture of cues that you get a fuller picture. The strong arms achieved through an active life in a chair. There are scratches and stickers on the chair earned from adventures in it all over the country. And the greatest achievement of all – good company with my friends and family. When I see everything I have achieved life both before and since my injury, I most certainly consider my chair to be something to be proud of. Because instead of seeing it as a sign of the weakness I have to deal with every hour of every day, I see it as a badge to commend me for having the strength to achieve despite any setback.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I only have three wins left…