Since the advent of the Achievement system on Xbox 360 back in 2005, gaming has become a very different prospect for many people. A friend of mine, who was previously the very definition of a casual gamer has since become one of the dedicated hardcore elite thanks to a rather unhealthy addiction to Achievement chasing. In fairness, he probably plays fewer games nowadays, but the ones he does play, he plays into the ground. He simply cannot move on (occasionally with his life) until he has mined a game of its full 1000 points worth of Achievements. Before even touching the game, he’s already eyeing the Achievements online and the best strategy to tick them all off (it’s like Pokemon for Westerners). The commitment is unnerving – even if he’s bored of the game or doesn’t particularly like it, he’ll soldier on until that last Achievement is, uhhh…. achieved.
It’s not be my position to judge or tell others how they should go about their gaming but surely this isn’t the way to go. Achievements, when treated in this manner can turn gaming into a chore. And let’s be honest, gaming should never be a chore. If you’re not enjoying a game – turn it off. If you want to try something new – play a new game. I appreciate that there has always been a number of completionists who enjoy nothing more than to turn a game inside out, but they were doing that long before the Achievement system rocked up on the scene. No, I’m talking about those who now feel compelled to struggle through a game, regardless of enjoyment, just to add to that rather arbitrary score found at the top of the screen.
Ok, now before I convince you all that I hate Achievements, let me make it clear that the above is simply one of the prime examples of how the Achievement system can potentially suck all of the fun out of what should be an all but exclusively enjoyable pastime. The fact of the matter is – I love Achievements. While certainly not an ‘Achievement whore’, Achievements have encouraged me to push my skills, try new things (in a gaming sense of course) and above all, complete more games. You see, before Achievements came along, I was terrible at finishing games. I always had to move onto the latest game, often at the price of the one I was currently playing. Looking back over the years, it truly horrifies me to think of how many games I’ve abandoned long before the end credits rolled.
I’m not the kind of guy who has to get a 1000 gamerscore and I certainly won’t play a game just for the easy Achievements but I do, like so many others, thoroughly enjoy the pleasing jingle that comes with each unlocked Achievement. I don’t have to get them all but I’ll happily get through the more doable ones on the list. Heck, in the case of games I love, they often give me a good reason to play beyond the end credits or to simply start again on a harder difficulty.
They may be arbitrary in the grand scheme of things but Achievements, when implemented intelligently, encourage you to see more of the game than you may have without them, and for that alone, I think they are fantastic. I shouldn’t need encouragement to finish the games I love, but if it only takes a pleasant jingle and a few random numbers to get me over the finish line then so be it.
Some people don’t care about Achievements and some people (arguably) care too much. I like to think that I’ve found a happy medium in which Achievements provide me with the gentle encouragement to get the best out of the games that I love so much.
So, enough about me – what does your Achievement score mean to you?
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