Achievement Unlocked!

Oh what beautiful words! That small tiny icon of instant praise telling me, ‘Hey! I did something!’ showing up at the corner of my screen, controller in hand, and you just can’t help but smile at the recognition. Sure, achievements and trophies are a thing of more recent years but even despite that they have caused quite a ripple in the gaming realm and even affect how some people play the games they so dearly love.

Think back to the days when the Nintendo 64 battled head on with the Playstation 1: Was Zelda Ocarina of Time better than Final Fantasy VII? Well, arguments on Internet gaming forums and in High School cafeterias would be the battleground for that death match; but did it really matter? You played what you liked because you wanted to. Did I really want to find every skulltula in Zelda to free that poor family from the horrid arachnophobic nightmare curse? Well, honestly, not really – and I didn’t. What if there had been an achievement for doing so, what if that would have been the last thing standing between me and that blessed 100% completion rating? Nope, still wouldn’t have done it (because I loathe spiders and that family can just rot in misery…far away from me). However, this inclusion just may have pushed people that extra mile to get every last item and complete every optional side quest to perfection. This represents a small view of the love/hate relationship that many gamers have with the achievements, trophies, and gamer scores that preside over the gaming world today.

achievement trophy

Achievements have ruined my life! Some gamers may state this as they now have lost that childlike awe and wonder when looking at the games they long to play. They don’t simply play the game as they want to and leave it at that because now there are achievements! Ooooh, the shiny achievements and I must get them all! Missed one halfway through the story? Damn, well better restart the game or reload a save file from three hours ago. Really, it’s true, there are many gamers who are purely achievement hunters; their gamer scores are astronomical and there is rarely a game logged in their library without that gold or platinum mark on it unless it is still in progress. They claim they can’t look at games the same anymore because they want to gain as many achievements in as few playthroughs as possible then move on to the next game. Surely this raises their score and bragging rights, but really it is all just to show off. Here’s a small and possibly unheard of secret that I will let you all onto: achievements are completely OPTIONAL. They are fun and offer some extra challenge but they are not necessary and missing a few will not diminish the enjoyment of a game. If you claim that achievements have destroyed your gaming life, don’t blame the games – you do it to yourself.

achieve cake

With that out of the way, I think that the addition of achievements/trophies is a great asset to the gaming industry. As I alluded to in the intro, I adore getting those little pings of ‘Good Job!’ a midst my gaming but at the same time, I don’t make it my life goal to see every single one of those pop up on my first play through. When I first get a game I play it how I want to. If the only achievements I see during that run is ‘You beat an enemy’, ‘You beat this boss’, ‘You beat the game’, well then so be it – time for round 2! That is one of the greatest reasons that achievements are in place: they add additional replay values to games that developers put so much time, heart and effort into. Not every single player game is 80 hours long and it may well be worth the time to go back through and see what you may have missed on the first run. Maybe choose option 2 instead of option 1, let a character die instead of saving them, go good instead of evil, get different endings and see it all play out to the fullest. Even multiplayer heavy games such as the Call of Duty franchise have numerous achievements that extend the life of the title. Maybe you get tired of being the elite sniper on the team and to add a little difficulty change to grenades only (I’m sure there is an achievement for that as well). So step out of the cozy comfort box and try something new – the Devs didn’t put it in there for it to be completely ignored, even if it may not be the best way of getting from point A to point B.

achieve Easter-Egg-2

Speaking from the developer standpoint, it takes years to develop games and oftentimes a team of devoted individuals with varying skills and assets to make their dream come to life. From my standpoint, adding in extra achievements (whether it be 10 or 187) just helps show gamers that there is so much more they can do and get from playing their game. Sure there are some nearly impossible achievements added in for those hardcore masochistic types, but from what I can tell, most of the achievements that I miss my first play through only lead me to explore every aspect within that game as I pursue them on following runs. I know if I was a developer I would want people to find the snarky little hidden messages in secret areas or discover this beautiful character interaction point off the beaten track or know what it is like to team up with a friend and take out an entire enemy team without dying. Plus, they add a level of difficulty to the game that you may not have realized. Oh, the game seemed too easy that run? Well now try beating it while keeping your main character at level one the entire time! It may sound insane to some, but it offers a unique challenge and play style to games that people may not have normally come up with (plus, if it is an achievement, then it must be possible to do…right?).

achievements steam

If you look at any of my gaming profiles you will find a decent library of games of various genres and find that very few of those games on any platform have that glowing 100% next to them. Most I am still working on or will go back to; others, well, they may be a bit ridiculous or I may just not care for the game enough to replay it 5 more times. I am okay with all of that. I enjoy hunting achievements but they do not control how I play games or how much I enjoy them – and that is how it should be.

Think of achievements as a fun little side quest to your gaming life. So what if I didn’t want to hunt down every evil skulltula in Zelda? Well, I don’t really care that I missed that other achievement either. At the end of the day I’m still going to enjoy what I love to do, and really, that is all that matters.