Achievements Are Evil! Or At The Very Least They Change How You Game
It’s hard to remember now, but I believe my very first achievement came in November 2005 while playing Madden 06. Or perhaps it was Need For Speed Most Wanted. 2005 was a long time ago. I do remember the joy of hearing the pop that meant an increase in gamer score. Even though I have spent more than five years improving that score, I still get a thrill from hearing that sound.
For those who don’t know, achievements are in-game challenges that can be unlocked by reaching certain milestones. Each one is worth so many points and they are directly tied to your Xbox gamer score. Some of these achievements are quite easy while others require gamers to torture themselves as they tried repeatedly to unlock them.
There was time when I would look for games with easy achievements so that I could get a quick fix. Even now I will work long and hard to earn one just to know that I conquered a challenge. However five years of looking at my gamer score have reminded me that games are supposed to be about having fun. Last night a friend of mine saw my status as playing Mass Effect 1 and asked if I had all the achievements. (I do. In fact I have unlocked everything for Mass Effect 1 & 2.) I really didn’t want to take the time to tell him that sometimes I play just for fun. Yes, I worked for all those points in ME1 and 2, and yes I play NCAA Football 11 every day, but that is because I love those games.
And yet somewhere in the back of my mind, I still want to hear that pop. So I will try out new modes and play games on the hardest difficulty settings to just increase my score. I will spend weeks or even months trying to pop every achievement on the list. I will even go so far as to help others unlock them, even if it means spending all night in a game session.
Something is wrong with me.
There was a time when playing a game meant satisfying that need to have fun. “Fun” could be beating the game or besting another player online. However when Microsoft (and later Sony) added achievements (trophies) to the game space something changed: the objectives. No longer did I set the difficulty based on how challenging I wanted the game to be. Now I had to make sure playing on normal or hard or insane or legendary unlocked “chievos” or it was all for nothing. There was now a reason to explore nooks and crannies during single player games because finding all or even half the collectables would bring achievement glory. So I would scour each level to increase my gamer score by ten or fifteen points. I would find online guides to help secure every piece of intelligence sitting on table or under a tree in Modern Warfare 2. And once that achievement popped, I could brag to my friends who didn’t have it that I was a master at exploration.
Blast you, Microsoft!
I’m at the point where I have to look at the achievement list before I start to play a game. Worse, I check it often to make sure I am not missing out on any. And if I do miss some, I will go back and replay a chapter or even an entire game just to get 50 more points. I’m not strong enough to ignore achievements. They call to me from the other side of the television screen.
In doing this Microsoft and Sony not only fill a need in my gaming soul, but they actually create the need that they now seek to fill. Evil. Pure evil. My gaming habits are now forever and irrevocably altered to play the game as they see fit. For the “honor” of bragging to friends and comparing gamer scores, I have molded my game play to make sure I max all the classes in Bad Company 2 (achievement unlocked!), complete Halo Reach on legendary (achievement unlocked!), and find every single novel page in Alan Wake (2 achievements unlocked!).
Brilliant idea Microsoft. Evil, but brilliant.