Boost, Baby, Boost!

I played a little bit of Halo: Reach this week. Just a few Daily Challenges, nothing much.

And that’s about all the gaming I’ve got to report.

Hang on a minute… that’s not right. I’ve been essentially glued to my beloved lounge this week doing pretty much one thing, and one thing only: Gears of War boosting.

The day after last week’s gentle introduction into the Gears boosting scene was posted, I applied for – and was accepted by – another boosting group. They kindly showed me the ropes, gave me hints, and were amazingly accepting; and that’s proved true of about two-thirds of the people I’ve encountered in these sessions. It seems that the community is happy to accept another into the fold once they’ve signed up to perform a silly feat (The Seriously Achievement); there’s a common sense of purpose, of acceptance. Knowledge is freely shared, there’s very little judgement, and everyone seems resigned to their fate – and is happy to just try and make the task as easy as possible to accomplish.

For those who don’t know, Seriously is a Gears of War Achievement awarded for attaining 10,000 online, ranked-match kills. Of course, it’s also renowned for being ridiculously fussy, too: various people have reported their Achievement being awarded at anywhere from 9,800 kills, all the way through to 22,000+. No-one’s quite certain what is counted and what is not, and the boosting community saves most of its compassion for those who are in No Man’s Land: 10,000 kills, no Achievement, and just plugging onwards, hoping that the sweet release of the Achievement toast will appear at the end of their next match.

But getting to 10,000 is the first hurdle and, when you consider the Gears team-based multiplayer gameplay, that’s a hell of a lot of playtime. Most three-hour sessions yield around 100 – 148 kills per player; I’m banking on this Achievement requiring one hundred sessions… three hundred hours.

I must be nuts.

But in my first handfuls of sessions, one colleague mentioned the concept of “double-boxing” – two Xboxes, two copies of the game, two Live accounts, leading to double the kills. “Hmmmmm,” I thought, probably out loud, “I have two Xboxes…”

A quick trip to JB Hifi the next day, and I had a grubby old copy of Gears in my hand for the princely sum of $25. Yes, that was a rip-off… but it was paid back almost immediately as I managed to drag my second account (or, as I like to call it, “my alt”) into the mix for an extra 148 kills. That’s three hours of my life back… money well spent.

But I remember standing in JB with that copy of Gears in my hand, excitement sweeping over me as I started thinking about all the double-Xbox opportunities opening up to me; and one game marched out to join Gears as the flavour of the week: Robotron.

There’s a solitary online Robotron Achievement remaining for me: getting to fifth on the online ranked leaderboard. Apparently, it’s dead easy to get if someone in the top five allows themselves to be repeatedly beaten by you; certainly, that’s how a large majority of the top fifty have attained their rank. But a few politely-worded messages to people in those lofty positions failed to garner a response (not even a “fuck off, child, do it yourself” chunk of ironic arrogance); so I thought I’d try to boost myself up there.

Two Xboxes; two accounts. Ranked matches. Lovely telly operating in side-by-side picture mode, allowing me to see the action on two screens at once (also great for Gears sessions when the cricket’s on). One account being pummelled by the other; 226 games later, I’m up to 1500-ish on the leaderboard. Hmmmmm. Needs more work.

So – I’m double-box boosting now. And I’ve got a session in about ten minutes, so I’ll sign off quick. But I don’t want to leave you with the impression that all is wonderful in Boost-Land; certainly, I’ve been stuck in misogynist, racist groups for three hours. I’ve heard such pearls as “I want to move to Japan to marry one of them Chinese chicks.” (“You mean Japanese women?” “Sure, they’re hot too.”) Apparently “sand-nigger” isn’t racist if you say it to an Asian-American. And some people, no matter how clearly you explain a task, will deem your experience as irrelevant and try to learn things the hard way.

But, despite all that, I feel a camaraderie with a lot of the boosting community; I imagine them walking through their days, seeing visions of the roadie-run from one side of War Machine to the other, fingers involuntarily twitching the motions, trying to get those three kills down in less than fifty seconds.

I feel their dedication, and I feel happy knowing that I’m not alone.

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