Why Achievements may Have Ruined Games

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By Alex Connellan – 8th July 2014
Why Achievements may Have Ruined Games

Without a doubt, I am an Achievement hunter. There’s something about them that I can’t resist – perhaps the tone that plays when one unlocks, or the need to push my Gamerscore up just that bit higher. Regardless, there’s an incessant, nagging need at the back of my mind to try to harvest every Achievement I can possibly earn from a game. Maybe that’s why they’re slowly making my games less enjoyable.

The concept behind Achievements and Trophies is sound: reward the player. While superficial, these rewards come in all shapes and sizes: developers can make any given task an Achievement, from the mundane and pointless to the challenging and near-impossible. Each Achievement is worth a certain amount of points depending on its difficulty, which just adds fuel to the fire, encouraging players to go after those rated higher to boost their Gamerscore (like this guy). When done right, Achievements encourage players to think outside the box or perform tasks they may have never thought of. When done wrong, they’re boring, pointless, and often tedious.

Maybe that’s why I’m having such a problem with them.

My love/hate relationship with Achievements

Don’t get me wrong; I love Achievements. The fun of attempting to perform a task, waiting those few antagonizing seconds of eager anticipation after completion, followed by the flooding relief and satisfaction of the unlocking notification and tone is an emotional sense of achievement (get it?) like no other. Over the years, however, I have developed a few minor issues with them.

Firstly, I must – must – check a game’s list of Achievements before I start playing it. If I didn’t, it led to withdrawals of not knowing what Achievements I was going to get and when, and often meant I had to complete multiple play-throughs of a game that only required one – if I had have known all the Achievements beforehand. If I check beforehand, a number of things happen: sometimes I see spoilers, or sometimes I feel a crushing defeat over how hard some Achievements are (or how easy). I can almost see the storyline or the difficulty curve before I even play the game, which leaves me in a troubling catch-22 situation.

Secondly, while I don’t have to get all of them, I always try my hardest to. This can lead to hours and hours wasted on grinding pointless Achievements that I often end up abandoning – temporarily. If I’m closing enough to completing a game 100% I’ll always come back to it. Take Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I completed the main story on all difficulties, found every intel piece, and unlocked all the Achievements, except one: the stupidly difficult Mile High Club, the Epilogue level, on Veteran, which give you all of 1 minute to complete it. It took me just under a year after I finished the game, of constantly going back and trying to unlock it again and again and again, to finally finish it and 100% the game.

Achievement unlocked - obsessed with gamerscore

I’m one of many who unlocked this Achievement a long time ago

My biggest gripe with Halo at the moment is that I’m only missing two or three Achievements out of the series – from Halo 4. I’ve known since they stopped including the multiplayer playlist I need that I was never going to get it. Now that Halo: The Master Chief Collection is releasing in November, I’ll have to clock 4 games on the Xbox One (that’ll make up for it, right?).

Furthermore, if DLC releases and presents new Achievements, I often buy it to update my percentage. That’s how far I go to complete some of my games, which – more often than not – I then can’t. That provides the biggest frustration of them all. At least I’m not as bad as my brother; he won’t touch a game if he thinks he can’t 100% it.

Games that were once enjoyable become chores. I get detracted from engrossing stories by wandering around and breaking the immersion by trying to unlock Achievements. Locked Achievements nag at the bag of my head like trapped flies in my skull.

And yet, with every new release, I still check the Achievement list. I still plot out the best ways to earn the maximum number of Achievements, and I still fail as much as I succeed. Because, as demoralizing as they are, Achievements are fun, even if I start to play them more than the game.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a few Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare Achievements to take care of.

  • Bocol

    The author here is trying too hard. Ignore achievements. Ignore trophies. Start learning to play with principle in mind instead of being a slave to the developers. Last time I checked, no one forces you to play for the achievements. If you have teammates in a game sabotaging the experience for their own selfish gain then call them out on it. Turn on your mic or send a message. Achievements and trophies are lame. But they are irrelevant to me. They aren’t ruining gaming.

    • Alex Connellan

      You, sir, are a gentleman and a scholar. You could have been far more offensive in your response, but you remained calm and delivered your opinion succinctly and directly.

      Thank you for your words and advice :)

      And I have many-a-time called out people trying to boost Achievements in multiplayer games, it just grinds the game to a halt, then no one has fun

  • Auseil

    I actually really enjoy trophies and achievements. I’ve never been the type to intentionally seek them out, I’ve only ever tried to 100% achievements on Dragon Age: Origins because I’m some kind of scary uber fan swamp creature. But I genuinely miss their presence when I go back a few generations. I wouldn’t say they’re ‘ruining gaming’, I actually think they’ve been one of the better steps forward the industry has taken. There are certain things I don’t agree with though, for example adding unattainable DLC achievements universally. I really feel they should be added after a person links expansions respectively.