Gaming Steve

November 23, 2005

Xbox 360 Achievements Inspired by the Atari 2600?

Activision Freeway PatchOne of the cooler aspects of the Xbox 360 is the addition of "achievements", which are basically rewards for achieving various in-game objectives (i.e. finish the game, unlock secret items, obtain certain high scores, etc.). As you "collect" these achievements they are added to your Xbox Live gamer profile in the form of cool icons for the world to see.

Sounds like an original concept, right? Rewarding people for achieving various in-game accomplishments on a console game? Well, this concept which first surfaced over 23 years ago on the Atari 2600!

Back in the "gaming stone age" (AKA the year 1982) Activision offered free cloth patches if you achieved a high score in any one of their games. Users were instructed to photograph their TV with the high score showing and mail it in and then Activision would send back a patch. Quite a bit of work in order to receive a piece of colored fabric, but it does mark the very first true "achievement" system for video games. In total there were 43 patches for 33 different games and the patch designs were quite varied and pretty damn cool.

So what made me think about this obscure past of gaming history. Well, just this past weekend I was at my parent's house poking around my old room when I came across my old Puma sweatshirt and my collection of Activision patches! Take a look at this bad boy! Doesn't it just reek of 80s nostalgia? Damn, I used to wear this thing everywhere, proudly showing off my various gaming achievements for the world to see. I think I should get an achievement for just having this blast from the past.

Anyone else still have their Activision patches? And how many did you manage to get in total?

What's that in the back of my closet? My old Puma sweatshirt, complete with Activision game patches? Score! Note the other relics of gaming history in the background as well.

A full frontal view of my proud achievements. Damn that the Pitfall patch was freaking huge!

Of course I had so many patches that I had to attach a few to the shoulders as well. Could you imagine what you would think if you saw this walking down the street? On second thought, don't try to do that...

Posted by Gaming Steve at 12:00 PM | Comments (17) | Posted to Classic | Xbox |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

Whoa! That's awesome. And in the background...isn't that ROB the Robot?!

Posted by SenseiJinx at November 23, 2005 12:48 PM


Posted by Danzik at November 23, 2005 1:13 PM

the thing is, I would totally wear that while walking through town!

Posted by DevilMachine at November 23, 2005 2:38 PM

Jeezum Krow!
Man I wish they still did this! I would love to have patches like that. Especially the Starmaster, Robot Tank, and Pitfall ones.

Posted by TheShark at November 23, 2005 4:08 PM

The thing about Activision patches is that they were generally difficult to achieve. And there was only patch per game, making them somewhat rare.

Microsoft started the achievement system with on their web games. It's kind of a nice system, but there are too many badges per game. When every little achievement is special, than the really hard-to-achieve ones don't feel as special.

I'm sure the will start listing badges and how to achieve them, which will take most of the remaining fun out. However, beating the game and having some badges simply won't be enough for the hard-core player. It's nice to have challenges leftover when you can't buy a new game (or don't want to).

Posted by Robb at November 23, 2005 4:14 PM

I was going to mention how difficult many of these patches were to achieve. Some were really quite simple, such as Activision Tennis, while others, such as Stampede (which was also the first patch I received) were near impossible.

So am I the only person to have these patches? I knew they were quite rare but I can't be the only person who still has them lying around!

Posted by Stephen Glicker at November 23, 2005 4:29 PM

I remember that I got the score needed for the Megamania patch. I was only 6-7 years old at the time. My mother wasn't home. So, I couldn't get her to take a picture of the screen. I didn't feel like waiting all day for her to get home. So, I just restarted and kept playing. I never got a score that high again.

Posted by Hoffer at November 23, 2005 4:44 PM

It's not exactly a huge conceptual leap from boy scout badges to in-game achievements. I doubt anyone 'stole' anything from Atari/Activision here.

Posted by Joost Schuur at November 23, 2005 5:20 PM

Those are cool. You can find a few on ebay for less than $10. I would totally sport that sweatshirt, I think you should make it your official Gaming Steve Attire. Just put a HUGE gaming steve logo patch on the back! I'm sure you can have one custom made.

Posted by Deep Lee at November 23, 2005 6:28 PM

wow, joystiq links to this

Posted by kevind at November 23, 2005 9:09 PM

Ah the retro Activision swag. Wasn't alive in the 80's, but many very intresting things apparently came out of it. A patch beats an Icon any day. Honestly, If those things were around today everyone would be wearing them. They would be as popular as those wrist bands. (not the small rubber ones. The larger Cushy ones...) I think Secret Society of the Dolphins would be the most

Posted by sgore at November 23, 2005 9:48 PM

Achievements on the 360 could go either way IMO. I don't know much about it yet, but it strikes me as something that could be really cool and used creatively and implimented, or kind of boring and obvious.

I suppose it boils down to each developer's use of the tech, not the system of Achievements itself.

Posted by Gregg at November 23, 2005 10:32 PM

Neat article, neater pics. I am writing about this article in my blog now. :-)

Posted by Jonty aka Segmentation Fault at November 24, 2005 8:14 AM

I had a whole bunch of those patches when I was a kid ... and then my parents threw them away while I was in college! Doh, curse you evil parents!!!

Posted by Dave at November 26, 2005 12:30 AM

I think I may have earned the Freeway Badge. My only really difficult-to-earn certificate was on Loderunner Gold on the Apple ][e. The game was more-or-less a level-pack expansion of about 40 levels of advanced difficulty. Back then, that qualified as "fun," but it'd be like pulling teeth to play those today. Some of the "Snowy" and "Grandma on Vacation" web games currently out utilize a Loderunner-like gameplay.

Posted by robb at November 29, 2005 1:26 AM

Holy crap Steve that rawks! Can I have it????!!!! ^_^

Posted by Ryan Allen at December 16, 2005 3:36 AM

I got a whole bunch of Activision Patches. I have even still kept the letters I had recieved and signed but the big wigs at Activion. I'll sort them out and take a picture of them to show you.

Posted by Andrew Vickers at October 1, 2006 4:19 PM