The lights are on
Note: This is an opinion column that ran in the September 2010 issue of Game Informer (the Batman: Arkham City cover. I recently saw on Twitter that game designer Jesse Schell had posted a scan of it on his excellent blog Gamepocalypse Now. I thought it might be nice to post it today to give people a chance to read it in a little easier format. Anyway, hope you think it's interesting, and let me know what you think (and I'm sure you will) -- Matt]
A few months ago, my original Xbox 360 bit the dust, finally succumbing to the dreaded red ring of death. I decided to upgrade to the supposedly better-engineered Elite model. While I was unboxing the new system, I did something that most 360 gamers would find unthinkable. Instead of importing my old Gamertag and Xbox Live account, I got a new 12-month subscription card, booted up the system, and started over from scratch. In a moment, all my gaming history from the last few years was gone, along with my Gamerscore and all of my achievements.
My motivation for starting fresh was a growing dissatisfaction with the endless race to collect achievement points. Achievements have never done much for me, other than occasionally spoil a crucial plot point of a game when I’ve looked into the list of unaccomplished challenges. I’ve never been a completist. Once I’ve finished the game’s main storyline I rarely, if ever, tackle the remaining challenges to unlock alternate costumes or collectibles. A dizzying number of amazing games are released each year – more than anyone can play. I’d rather move on to the next adventure.
More importantly, I don’t care to measure myself against other gamers. It’s a meaningless metric. The leaderboards tout Live users with Gamerscores exceeding 650,000. Compared to that, what does it matter if you have 50,000 or even 200,000 points? More importantly, I expect that many gamers garner those mega-scores by cheating or farming terrible games that are overly generous with achievements. So, congratulations? I don’t believe someone is a better gamer than someone else just because of some number. Anyone who plays games is a gamer – be that game Oblivion or Farmville.
Games are entertainment, and I don’t need to have my free time graded against others. I had a great time playing Red Dead Redemption; I don’t feel bad because I didn’t shoot some arbitrary number of rabbits or unlock a fancy suit for John Marston. I got what I needed out of the experience – fun. Once that’s over, I’m out. Nobody awards me points for watching the DVD extra features or the director’s commentary track on a movie I rented, so why should my gaming choices be any different?
As life becomes busier by the day (by the time you read this, I will be the father of a newborn baby girl), chasing achievements seems like a poor investment of time – especially to prop up a numerical score that would never be impressive anyway. The more life online becomes an endless competition – how many Facebook friends do you have? How many Twitter followers? What’s your Gamerscore? – the more inclined I am to withdraw. I’d rather just play the games I want to play for as long as they hold my interest.
I’m not against achievements. Millions of gamers love them, and I’m all for anything that makes people’s gaming experience more fun. But for me, the time spent trying to chase them doesn’t usually add to my enjoyment of a game. Getting 100 points for completing a boss battle that I was going to finish regardless isn’t really an “achievement” so much as a meaningless pat on the head. If the goal is interesting or enjoyable, chances are I’m going to want to tackle it. If not, no amount of padding to my Gamerscore is enough to make it worthwhile.
If developers want me to complete their extra challenges, make them an interesting, integral part of the experience. I was drawn to the hidden “The Truth” glyphs and the assassin’s tomb challenges in Assassin’s Creed II. Finding them was a joy, because every bit of enigmatic video footage I found drew me deeper into the complex web of intrigue Ubisoft Monteral created between the Templars and Assassins. Each tomb I found delivered fun, fast platforming to the already excellent mix of open-world exploration and combat. They were a welcome change of pace, and something I looked forward to finding. I didn’t care how many points I got for completing them – or if I got any points at all.
To me, gaming is about becoming engrossed in a virtual world and an epic adventure. The little bubbles that pop up onscreen and inform me I’ve been awarded points only serve to break that illusion. A high Gamerscore doesn’t make me a gamer. If I want competition, I can go online and test my skills against others, or better yet, play with friends in any number of amazing co-op games. So go ahead and make fun of my Gamerscore. I’m done with it.The views and opinions expressed on this page are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Game Informer Magazine or its staff
Email the author Matt Helgeson, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
+100, great post but it makes sense why they have achievements, they gotta make those nerds feel great about finally accomplishin something
sometimes i feel like ppl don't read this sentence:
"I’m not against achievements. Millions of gamers love them, and I’m all for anything that makes people’s gaming experience more fun."
this is more just a personal statement, i personally don't like them, i wish i could turn them off, but i'm not begrudging anyone's enjoyment.
I hate achievements so friggin much because I MUST GET THEM ALL!
If achievements were actuallly given out for something difficult to do, i would give more of a crap. But, as it is now, most every achievement and trophy unlocked is for the stuff you were going to do anyways. Get an achievement for beating the game, ok. But getting one for beating the first mission? Bullcrap.
As an OCD-fueled completionist, achievements and trophies drive me crazy regardless of their importance. Anyone else out there like this will understand. I'd much rather spend my time striving to unlock worthwhile awards for my actions, not for every ten hours of gameplay or beating every major mission(Oblivion is the worst about this i have yet to find).
I like the achievements/trophies and gamerscore systems, but a major overhaul is required for future games.
Btw, congrats on your kid.
I actually wrote a blog about this the day I read it in the magazine.
Gamerscore to me doesn't really mean too much, but I do enjoy trying to get the more difficult ones that are separate from the main storyline, just to see if I can do it or not. I'll try a few times but if I don't get it, no big deal.
It depends for me. There is a point, where it can get out of hand, but trophies can also add to games.
I could see myself doing that if all I played games for were trophies, but so far I haven't. I ultimately play a game because I want too. Not because I want to increase my trophy count.
A good example would be MAG. I got the game day one, and I've only gotten like four trophies. That's because i just don't get into that game. I'm not gonna force myself to do something I don't find fun, just to get digital rewards.
So good luck to you. I don't see myself doing that soon though. I still play games cuz they're fun, trophies are just a bonus. But if that ever changes, I might do that too.
Personally, I like achievements. I think they are give me incentive to try things I wouldn't normally try. However, the number doesn't mean much to me. I don't care whether someone has a high or a low gamerscore. I just like the extra incentive to do stuff in video games
Idont have any platinum trophies because I look at the list and do the ones that look like funn. That's wat I did for FO3 and that's wat I'm doing for New Vegas. Although I did buy dark void for the trophies and I'm 5 away from platinum.
I have only 4 platinum trophies and a level 9 trophy level (I have no idea how that translates into xbox speak) and plently of my friends simply do not care about trophies, maybe 2 or 3 try for completion and platinums (one has a whopping 22 plats and mostly from hardcore games); they just play the game, get the trophies that come with completing the game and move on. I cant respect them more because they dont have lives governed by them. That being said, if a game makes trophies that are actually worth it (not doing useless stuff or playing something that you wont enjoy)then by all means try to get them, they definetly add another layer of replayablity and suggest playing in new modes or in different styles.
the only reason why i wouldn't want to reboot my score is simply for the fact that i've bought a lot of dlc for games over the years. and starting over, would mean i loose all of that stuff i paid for since it won't let you play stuff using a different profile, discovered this when i tried cheating with rockband 2. I don't really play the games to get the pointless achievements, if i get some then whatever i got some.
I'm totally with you on this one. I don't think I've looked at my gamerscore more than a handful of times in two years.
I guess it really depends on why you play the game. Achievements extend the life of a game that probably is not worth 60 dollars to begin with. So if I just went through Halo's campaigns I'd be done and that is that. But wait, legendary solo? Hell might as well try it out.
Congrats on being a father!
ok i agree with that.why would you want to play crappy games anyway.