The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 13
Back in November of 2005, I spent an entire cold Kansas night in a lawn chair outside of an electronics store. I wasn’t alone, as dozens of other gamers waited in line to be among the first owners of the Xbox 360. As I sat there with my bottle of Jim Beam and gigantic bag of sunflower seeds, I eagerly anticipated driving my new console home once the sun came up, loading up Call of Duty 2, and playing long into the day. Like others, my thoughts were on the gaming experiences. Everyone wanted to play Oblivion, Gears, and the other huge titles on the horizon. What I never expected was to become obsessed with a new feature that numerically displayed my gaming accomplishments.
I don’t think I really understood the system at first, and the crazy easy achievement requirements for early games like King Kong and Madden 06 make me think that several developers didn’t either. Once I finished the training level of Call of Duty 2, I didn’t pay much attention to the first of what would be hundreds of “Achievement Unlocked” messages. After beating the WWII campaign, another popup informed me that I had earned 150 gamerpoints. That message didn’t excite me at all, but mere months later, I’d find myself performing menial tasks for hours just to nab another 10, 20, or 50 points.
Many gamers fell in love with achievements, while others couldn’t care less. Those in the former camp love the way that the system encourages players to mess around with games in ways that they typically wouldn’t. Without achievements, we wouldn’t have much reason to finish a mission with only handguns, carry a lawn gnome throughout an entire game, give 50 wedgies, or kill an enemy with a rotten egg. While frequently silly, these tasks were just as often a lot of fun.
Playing games you like in novel ways is all well and good, but things can get a little stupid if taken too far. I was already deep into achievements before being hired by Game Informer in 2009, but gaining access to the vault immediately exacerbated the obsession. Suddenly, I had access to every one of the “easy 1000” games. Each week, I’d spend numerous hours wasting my time with titles like Night at the Museum, Ice Age, TMNT, and old college sports games. My achievement score kept inching up bit by bit, but so did the backlog of games I actually wanted to play.
Despite knowing full well that I wasn’t having a good time with these mediocre titles, I continued trudging through them. At one point, I even cheated in the PC version of Fallout 3 to boost my score (a decision that landed me a 50-day ban from using the vault). I even grew frustrated with reviewing 360 games on debug units, because I knew that my achievements wouldn’t be reflected on my retail account. More times than not, I’d replay through the games I reviewed at home, even if I hadn’t enjoyed them. All in the name of making a number next to my gamertag go up a few notches.
This continued for years, netting me well over 100,000 points before I finally had a change of heart. With so many great games being released in the last couple of years, I wanted to focus on playing them instead of farming achievements in others that I didn’t care about. In addition, I now have a PC that can run modern games and make them look significantly better than their console versions more often than not.
Because of that, I’ve opted to play many of this holiday’s big releases on PC. The idea of spending dozens of hours on XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Far Cry 3, and Dishonored without earning a single Xbox 360 achievement between the three would have been ridiculous to me a couple of years ago. This year, I enjoyed playing them on PC every bit as much as I would have on a console. I’m in no way becoming a “PC guy” that bashes consoles, as I’ll still be enjoying their numerous exclusives and the occasional multiplatform game on them. The difference is, I’ll be playing them without spending hours on menial tasks just for a point boost. Occasional outliers will exist if I genuinely love the hell out of a game. For instance, I can’t get enough of Borderlands 2, and I’ll probably gun for a perfect achievement score simply so I have an excuse to play more of it.
Most importantly, I won’t be playing games that I don’t enjoy. I’ve learned to value my time more than that, and it’s certainly better spent having fun than bumping up a silly number. Do I think achievements are useless? Absolutely not. I still love getting them organically, and they can be a fun bonus to shoot for in games that you’re really having a blast with. Despite that, I don’t think they’ll ever be the reason I play a game or buy a particular version of it any more. This year, I found myself playing games for their intended purpose – to have fun. I don’t think I’ll look back.
Email the author Dan Ryckert, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.
Definitely love getting trophies & achievements but I have never played/bought a game just for them. I have limted gaming time as it stands & definitley would not waste it playing a game I don't like for trophies. Also I think that devs should cut down on the outragous ones that don't reward you with nothing other than a trophy.
Congrats on becoming a real gamer.
Good for you Dan, I stopped being an achievement whore a few years ago, and I never looked back.
I'm always glad I never got into that mentality of doing busy work for a beep and a little reward. One less lab rat-like addiction to suffer.
Thank you, Ryckert. After I read this, I took a look at all the games that I want to play that I haven't played yet, all the games that I have played in the name of achievements, and my bank account. Finally, I understand that I no longer have the time or the money to spend on video games that do not provide a fun experience. I still love achievements as a list from those who made the game hopefully pointing in a direction that one should enjoy. However, I no longer feel the need to compulsively chase achievements that have no value above a hollow form misplaced pride.
The way I see it, you should never play a game just for achievements. Achievements are there for you, after you've enjoyed the game itself.
Ussually I play games and get achievements untill they get tedious then and onlyy then do I move onto another game
Thanks for the blog post Dan!
Back in the day beating a game gave you bragging rights on your block. That and getting a game on the first day.
Today you are rewarded for any little thing you do in a game, and that is annoying.
I had a similar experience recently that made me realize how unimportant achievements are. Don't get me wrong, I love boosting my gamerscore just as much as the next guy. But I learned that games would be just as much fun without them when I was forced to sell my Xbox 360. In fact, I ended up getting rid of all my consoles and games except my Playstation 3 and a couple of titles for it. One of the series I had the hardest time letting go of was Assassin's Creed, which I had played on 360. I missed it so much that I ended up buying it again for PS3, only to discover that it was released without trophies. At first, I was really upset about this. But as I started my third playthrough, it dawned on me fairly quickly that the achievements were not what I had loved about this game when I had played it before. I ended up spending just as much time with it on PS3, without any additional incentive other than to have as much fun as I could. It's nice to know that if achievement systems go extinct in the future, there'll still be plenty for gamers to be excited about. :)
Achievement is good for some time but it gets boring in a while so I move on into another game.