It’s been nearly three weeks since my last Sunday-night update, and that’s largely because of my recent Gears of War boosting habit.

I say “habit” for good reason; my Gears boosting became an addiction. When I first started boosting for the Seriously Achievement, I guesstimated that it would take about one hundred sessions to complete… that was about three hundred hours’ worth of Xbox occupancy. With various time off, and with various other stuff on my plate, I figured I could manage two or three of those sessions a week… a year of effort, then.

But in my first couple of sessions I fell in with a group of other boosters (Lita, Narv, and Beets, with a couple of regulars like Wicky and The Polish Guy) who were more than accommodating, and a barrel of laughs to-boot. Two or three sessions a week turned into two a day, five times a week. The purchase of a second copy of Gears led to the introduction of the double-boxing crew (Bolch, Saturn, Raven, and then Slash and Danger)… all the while, with every multiplier, the outstanding time I guesstimated for my Seriously Achievement was dropping.

Suddenly, I realised that I could finish it before the Fringe this year (in mid-February); hell, I could finish it in January.

Or even early January.

I returned from Christmas with my family late on the 27th of December, and leapt straight into a late-night boosting session. I went to bed around 2am, then got up again at 5am for another session; the entire Christmas / New Year break was a cacophony of sleep and boosting, catching both wherever I could (although one 5am session was shamefully missed when I slept through my alarm. Literally. I woke up three-and-a-half hours late, alarm still blaring away. I sheepishly apologised to the Team; they laughed, and thanked me for the extra kills).

One by one, my friends and accomplices in this most Serious of goals started dropping out, having Achieved what they set out to do; many of them donated their second box (or even both their boxes… thanks Bolch, Narv, Lita, and Beets!) to sessions in order for the stragglers to pick up quick extra kills. And for all of use, there was a pleasing social regularity to proceedings; check TA to see if anyone had got their Achievement recently, then hit the sessions, get the gossip (who popped? what was their count?), and start grinding those kills out.

Raven popped at 11,154; Narv at 12,345. Lita, presumably stymied by a number of network drop-outs, had to wait for 13,246 – and the pause at the end of each game was almost heartbreaking, as we waited in vain for her squeal of delight. And then Beets and I were surging through the 11-thousands, with him trailing me by 300 kills…

…and, at the end of one match, after 11,291 kills, Beets yelled out in jubilation. And I did not.

I don’t mind admitting that I felt absolutely gutted at that moment. I’d played alongside Beets for probably two-thirds of the time, and with only slight variations of play; yet his Achievement had popped, and mine had not. Deflated, I pushed on, running alongside Slash and Danger as we surged through the kills again. Another day, another seven hours, and Seriously had still not unlocked.

Finally, after another four demoralising hours, it popped – at 13,166. I didn’t exclaim my delight out loud; I just smiled to myself as I felt the dejectedness fall away. And then I had a glass of wine. Or two.

Remembering all the kindness that had been shown to me by others, I stayed in the game. Eventually, word got around and the congratulations poured in, but I became focussed on getting others to that goal. Slash popped next, at 11,550, and as I type this now Slash and I are sitting ducks as Danger runs rampant, racking up 57 kills every twelve minutes. I’m now paying it forward.

It may sound clichéd, but I’m going to miss those sessions. For 27 days I chatted to the same group of people about pretty much everything (though I’ll freely concede that, if there was a downer of a conversation topic, I probably brought it up). Sure, it was a gaming grind – but it was a sociable one. I really meant it when I said that Gears provided the Surprise Discovery of the Year for the sense of community I felt; but that provided another little thrill when Raven read that post and was delighted himself. And Slash’s acceptance speech says it all far better than I ever could.

So – I’m sad (and glad) that Seriously is out of the way. Another little bit of effort saw all the rest of the Gears Achievements wrapped up. One more playthrough, a more considerate blog post, and – after four years – Gears of War will be struck from The List.

Speaking of The List… The Rub Rabbits was finally completed. Fucking Stampede Memories. The less said about that, the better, I think, lest this otherwise positive post become a torrent of bile.

Finally: for the last couple of years, I’ve always seemed to manage to have a nice little palate-cleanser of a game first thing in the New Year. This year, I fired up Doritos Crash Course (which I’d conveniently forgotten to include in all my end-of-year calculations) on New Year’s Day… and bloody hell did that entertain me when I wasn’t whoring Gears! All Achievements wrapped up (including some bastard-hard Gold Medal times)… Fantastic stuff, and well worth the free download (for your 360).

So – the next week should see Gears completed, and maybe – just maybe – I’ll start Enslaved, after an irresistible bargain appeared in the New Year sales…