ALTERNATIVE MUSINGS – Why Achievements Have Ruined Gaming

By Duncan Voice

xbox-360-avatar-caption-generatorI was having my monthly nostalgia moment in my local retro shop recently, gushing over the hundreds of Mega Drive, SNES and N64 carts they have there. Each one I exclaimed to my not-at-all-interested girlfriend was ‘my favourite game’ growing up (I have since settled on Rocket Knight on the Mega Drive, by the way).

It got me thinking about the days where LA Lights were the must-have pair of trainers for the fashion conscious 11 year old and begging my Mum for 25p to go and get a packet of Premier League stickers, even though I’d always rip the top of them. It reminded me of the first time I knew I wanted to play games, watching my big brother speed through Green Hill Zone on Sonic the Hedgehog.

I used to play games, no, enjoy games for what they were. The satisfaction of completing them was enough. There was no one there to pat me on the back when I finally won the Sensible Cup on Sensible World of Soccer, my efforts were enough.

With the Xbox 360 came achievements, and soon after the PS3’s release came trophies. Both pitched as tools to extend the game, but now are just a tool with which to flex your virtual ego. I never really cared much for my gamerscore, I’d play a game, complete it, move on. Then they became almost as important as the game itself.

I spent a good four years addicted to World of Warcraft, and have no problems calling it an addiction. I made some brilliant friends from all around the world, and had some wonderful nights with my long since deceased guild, who were never to be replaced (Phoenix Legion, Thunderhorn EU, holla!).

With the release of Wrath of the Lich King came achievements, and my interest in the game quickly waned. I was never one for raiding, but being told I couldn’t attend a dungeon run because I couldn’t link an achievement of my completion of the instance gradually began to take it’s toll, and eventually these attitudes began to dictate my time spent in game. Soon enough, little Paddington the Gnome mage had thrown his last fireball.

I think it was the pitiful Wanted game that opened the gate. I managed to earn about 47 out of 50 achievement points in about three hours. I got the bug, and wanted my score to hit 10, 000. I hit it…then came 11,000 points, then 12,000 with 13,000 soon after. I’m chasing an unassailable target, one with an infinite score. Some gamers are on 100,000 even 200,000 points, and for what? So they can lord it online over people they will never meet? I don’t look at someone with that many points and shudder at their ability to pull off a headshot, I just think they’ve got too much time and money on their hands.

I felt really ashamed of myself this weekend, which prompted me to write this. I had an hour to spare and asked the girlfriend if she fancied a bash on Left 4 Dead 2 (she’s surprisingly handy with an assault rifle I’ll have you know). I’d unlocked a few achievements that morning, so thought I’d try for “Bridge Over Trebled Slaughter”, crossing the bridge finale in under three minutes.

Telling the missus to leg it across, I thought we’d make it over in one go. Then I just turned into a complete idiot. Instead of offering words of encouragement (after all, she did take down a Tank by herself whilst I legged it onwards) I just barked at her to hurry up, then got the right arse when the achievement didn’t pop up at the end. Pathetic. I’d completely lost sight of the point of playing such a brilliant game, just for the sake of 30 gamerpoints.

I hate the premise of achievements, and even find myself adapting my style of gaming just to maximise my points. I used to crack on to the end, earning a few points on the way. Now I’m even making my girlfriend promise me at least 500 points before I let her play on Band Hero. I’d give anything to go back to the halcyon days of repeated playthroughs of Goldeneye just because it was awesome, not because it boosted my virtual ego.

ShagsmithXbox Although the nice bloke in the shop did let me have Quantum of Solace on the 360 for six quid. Good pound per achievement ratio that is!

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4 Comments

Filed under Alternative Musings, Games

4 responses to “ALTERNATIVE MUSINGS – Why Achievements Have Ruined Gaming

  1. SK

    I remember reading somewhere that the best games are set around goals and achievements. It has to be gradual increase in difficulty that encourages replay to achieve certain targets.

  2. One of the reasons I sometimes prefer a PS3 copy of a game over the 360 is because a year ago, it was common for PS3 games to not worry about tropheys. Since then however it’s all grown hasn’t it? My PS3 list is full to 100%, but my 360 one? There’s some I’ll never finish, and for a long time it rubbed me the wrong way. Now I just leave them as is. My 360 list has become a practice of sorts – if I know I wont be too worried about completing a game (or I must admit, it’s insanely difficult like Ninja Gaiden) I’ll let Microsoft get a dose to their coffers. Im torn up between getting Final Fantasy 13 on 360 or PS3 – Square Enix’s RPG’s are usually over 60 hours and the completion rate for a full trophie/achie set is sometimes rediculous.

    One offer of advice for Quantum of Solace – after you’ve gotten everything except for the “Earn 100k credits”, you’ll learn that online multiplayer is just a grind.

  3. Ryan C

    In relation to Wrath of the Lich King bringing out raid related achievements, I’d like to say that it’s a handy screening feature for a PuG raid but not indicative of a player’s contribution to the raid event either way.

    You could have a good player on an undergeared alt going for their first VoA run who knows what they need to do in their new role in a raid, or an underskilled overgeared scrub unable to change targets between Emalon and the overcharged add when the time comes. This is because the achievement only relates to being present for a kill and offers no more comment about the player’s ability. I’ve wiped in VoA pugs where everyone’s got the achievement – I’ve even wiped in Obs+1D/25 with a part-guild run, everyone having the 1D achievement.

    Just another example of gameplay becoming less immersive and more shallow.

    Although TF2’s achievements get the thumbs up from me now that the items in the class packs are randomly awarded through playtime and not achievement whoring.

  4. Thanks for the comments guys. For my sins, I logged back into WoW for the first time in 6 months this weekend and thankfully the new dungeon finder system hasn’t stopped me from getting any groups. For instance, a few years back and I was getting invites into MC because I was given the opportunity to prove I knew how to play my class. I never won anything in twenty odd runs, but I never let the raid down.

    I think I came across quite poorly, achievements can be a good benchmark. For instance you’d hardly accept a newcomer into a guild preparing to take down Arthas who couldn’t prove he’d been through Ulduar beforehand, although I did become concerned that they were beginning to dictate the game. I whacked on Quantum of Solace last night and the first thing I did was see what I had to do to get the achievement points. Why can’t I just play games for the enjoyment of playing them anymore. Perhaps the title of the piece should be more along the lines of ‘Why have I let achievements ruin gaming for me’, rather than accusing them of ruining gaming.

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