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Achievement Whoreing

I freely admit I am a nerd, never denied it. I also answer to geek, and a few other names I’d rather not share on a public forum … an achievement whore, however, I’ve never been called.

nullI just “finished” Assassins Creed 2 (yes, I was bloody confused as well, even after seeing the whole Truth video), yet my PS3 Trophy list shows I am at 90% complete. As usual, there are a few achievements/trophies I don’t have yet. I don’t mind missing ones like having to kick a guard while in the flying machine, I have enough issues just getting through the missions, never mind doing it with flair! It’s those damn collectible ones I hate. I currently hate feathers. It’s not that I don’t have the patience, well, not if someone has kindly provided a detailed map of the locations (yes, that’s how I got all the shards in inFamous). Actually, I guess I don’t have the patience, at least not to do it myself. If it’s not part of the game per se, I simply don’t have the motivation. It got me wondering, who does?

A while back, I saw this story on Kotaku.com, and I kid you not, I was genuinely saddened. I wasn’t jealous, I wasn’t mad, I felt genuine pity for that girl and her comrades in the “boosting” club. She freely admits that she doesn’t even enjoy 65% of the games she plays. So what’s the point? Why would you subject yourself to horrible games, and spend a TON of money, just to get a ridiculously high gamerscore? Prestige? Are you impressed, or, like me, just find it somewhat repulsive, or unfathomable?

In a former life, I studied psychology, so I started wondering why people do this. Now, granted, this is more the realm of sociology, sociobiology, or anthropology – but hey, I may as well use that 9 years of university for something. Now, try and stay awake, who knows, we might learn something. It strikes me that this finding feathers lark is somewhat similar to the same mentality that drives people to collect those God-awful porcelain plates, or stamps – the “hunter-gatherer” mentality. We, as humans, probably lived as hunter gatherers for more than 2 million years, so is it any surprise that some of that behaviour still lurks in our DNA somewhere, I think the term is vestigial … game designers figured this out a while back, although I’m sure they described it in a far more interesting way!

Now, some collectibles do offer something, like the shards in inFamous that helped you level up, or Cog Tags that expanded the back-story. They offer something more than just the achievements you get for finding them. The Glyphys in Assassins Creed 2 are a great example of this. You can play through the game without ever finding a glyph and do just fine, but finding them all gives you a great insight into the background of the game world, and the puzzles, while frustrating at times, can be fun too. The Assassin Tombs are also good. You can finish the game quite easily without finding one, but getting Altair’s Armor is pretty cool, even if it does make the game a bit too easy at times.

If it weren’t for true in-game achievements, however, my gamerscore and trophy collection would be even weaker than they already are. By this, I mean those achievements that you get for simply playing through the game in single player and finishing the main story line. Each DNA strand complete, each chapter, each mission, depending on the game, gets you achievements, and at least rewards you in some way for continuing. The problem with these is that you should want to play through for the fun of it, not simply to get rewarded. It almost cheapens the experience. Giving you a reward for doing something you planned to do anyway actually makes it seem less rewarding, if you follow me. Getting additional achievements for completing the game on harder difficulty levels seems fair to me, for some reason. Perhaps it’s my guilt at the fact I always play on normal 🙂

Activity achievements are the ones I have a real love-hate relationship with. You know the ones, kill 50 people with weapon X, or kill 3 people at once using a particular move. They can be fun, rewarding, frustrating, and downright annoying – all in equal measure it seems. I played through Uncharted 2 a second time just to pick up some of those trophies, although that game was so good, it really didn’t seem like a chore. Some of these also seem really arbitrary though, and really forced. Killing 20 people with grenades WHILE hanging from a wall? Er, okay. These seem to reward the especially skilled and patient, so I’m SOL, and it explains why I only completed 87% of inFamous.

The achievements that the boosters really cheat on are the online and co-op ones. I don’t play a lot online, I had so many bad experiences that I just can’t be bothered anymore. I will never come close to “completing” a game like Left 4 Dead 1/2 or Gears of War 1/2, as they feature so many online achievements, and that’s fine. I got my moneys-worth out of each of those games, and still enjoy playing them. The GOW single player campaigns were epic and wonderful.

With 20M users on Xbox Live, developers would be silly to ignore online only achievements and trophies. Let’s not beat around the bush either, Microsoft manipulates developers to include those online achievements to keep Xbox Live ticking over, as if it needed the help! Cheating to get achievements by allowing your opponent to kill you, beat you, or whatever, seems to be the way of the boosters, and is what I really don’t understand. If your life is so empty that you can only gain self-esteem by having a higher gamerscore than someone else, I think you have far bigger problems than being an achievement whore.

My bottom line is that games are meant to be enjoyed, they are, after all, games! If you enjoy hunting down those last 2 treasures in your Villa (hint: check out the well), that’s fine. Personally, I won’t be looking for the last 20+ feathers in Venice, though, it’s simply not fun for me.

  1. Chris Chin
    January 14, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Braapppp brraapppp

    Chris was here!!! lol

    Good stuff man!

  2. john k
    January 14, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    the good thing about “in game achievements” is that they allow you to see how far through a game people on your friends list have progressed…

    • January 15, 2010 at 9:23 am

      good point john, not really thought of that! doesn’t xbox live show which chapter your in on most games though? no help for PS3 users though.

  1. August 21, 2011 at 3:37 pm

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