The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 13
After perusing an article posted on the homepage of GIO the other day, I've been musing over writing this blog. Namely, the article about Nintendo lacking a unified achievement system on the Wii U's online service, instead continuing to go the antiquated way and leaving it up to the developers to individually program some sort of system into their titles. Browsing the comments, I saw a lot of people understandably frustrated with this, perhaps best framed by Sealsaa's comment, stating thusly "Ehhhh...not a deal breaker, but still a little disappointing. The achievement/trophy systems just seem so natural now." A very good description. While not being some sort of catastrophic doom-causer, it is disappointing that they've went against popular trend and decided not to offer it, providing another small bad decision on a list of bad decisions. But, oddly, I came across another form of comment, particularly propagated by one fanboy repeatedly in the comments (I won't name names). The sentiment this fellow in particular had involved Nintendo not needing to do it because, in much more sophisticated language markup, it's just all arbitrary bonuses and Nintendo offers the player other things to do other than get points or trophies for an extra value to the game. It's not really that insane, but at the base, it's a flawed argument, and one I take offense to being repeatedly used.
Why? Well, to adequately explain it I must first go into my own stance on the subject of achievements. I am by no means one of the rabid achievement hunters with 222,222 Gamerscore on their profile and 111 Platinum trophies. On my current Xbox Live profile, I have a whopping 6,500 Gamerscore accumulated over a little longer than a year of being on it. But...this doesn't mean that the score is nothing to me. I found it kinda like a little bonus whenever I unlock something, such as when I lost a match in Halo: Reach the other day yet still left it thrilled because I got a 50 Gamerscore achievement out of the clear blue for killing two opponents with a single grenade after dying. Little bonuses like this makes it extra fun to play games, since you never know what neat trick you might pull off next. And, on games like Portal 2, the rewards ended up making me and my brother have fun in co-op attempting some of them. Setting those aside, I've actively hunted achievements in games like Fallout 3 and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, to give myself new goals on repeat playthroughs long after I've repeated most of the quests to the point of innate familiarity. It's fun to set a challenge for yourself using this system and ending up having some sort of tangible proof of your victory, such as beating a game on the hardest difficulty.
This brings me to the main point of achievements I have observed; tangible proof of accomplishments, most often to be used as bragging rights amongst friends, and honestly, this is the thing that people most oddly seem to get most annoyed over. But, in essence, it's filling the void left by the slowly declining prominence of leaderboards due to hacking and internet-connected machines. Once or twice, I found myself comparing friends’ games with my own to see if they've gotten a particular achievement in a certain title, and setting the goal for myself to catch up to them, and maybe even surpass them. It creates sort of a perpetual play value for games that are enjoyable, as you end with the 1000 Gamerscore or the Platinum trophies that tells you "Yes, you have enjoyed every aspect this game has to offer, now go get something new!"
Which is, quite frankly, something that can benefit any game. The aspect of providing more goals ALWAYS adds value to a game, however slight, unless they're implemented in an overly-easy or frustrating way. Not to say that the system is perfect in any meaning of the word. Some of the achievements are sadistic in nature, the kind that I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole unless I was trapped on a desert island with nothing but it. Others are given at the end of mind-numbing collectathons. Yes, there are a lot of improvements to be made, but as it's all said, there's no penalty for not getting them, it affects the game in no way, shape or form.
So, if the achievements are all arbitrary, most people ask "why?" The better, more apt question would be "Why not?" It's not exactly some sort of cruel punishing task to programs to offer a little pop-up whenever you do a pivotal task or out-of-the-way event, nor is it particularly obtrusive. Indeed, if they're as unnecessary as some people say, then they shouldn't be an irritant at all. Which brings me back to Nintendo, and the line of questioning about why they should not include this. Like it or not, the achievement system is one of many innovations here to stay, spreading from everything from Xbox Live to iOS. So why, pray tell does Nintendo keep insisting to go against common trend and not include something so prevalent in modern games today. Is it as simple as the fanboy said, that Nintendo doesn't need them? Possibly in a technical way, but it's another small thing many core gamers enjoy having. No, the problem I think goes deeper than that. Nintendo in general since the advent of the N64 has continued to eschew popular opinion, and for better or worse marched to the beat of their own drum. The problem therein lies that marching to the beat of their own drum has caused many less devoted fans to jump ship, and the failure to adopt a centralized achievement system is but one of the systems of the deeper, underlying causes of a company that has refused, resisted, and fought every step of the way to bend to modern times and return to the forefront of gaming technology, and that, my fellow gamers, is an achievement to no one.