I love achievements. The sound of an achievement unlocking is incredibly satisfying. It makes me feel accomplished. Lately, though, I’ve been reading articles about how achievements could be hurting gaming. Some people seem to think that achievements are changing the way we game – that we no longer see a point to gaming if we’re not going to earn achievements, and that we’ll buy games just because they offer an easy run at achievement points, and that we’ll spend time playing games we don’t even like just to fill in missing achievements.
I think what this argument forgets is that achievements are an optional part of gaming. Most achievements don’t add anything to the game (an exception would be a game like Mass Effect, which offers bonuses to abilities and experience for earned achievements), and points you earn for getting achievements are essentially useless, except for bragging rights. I’m not going to say that the availability of achievements doesn’t motivate me to play a game a second or third time, but if I absolutely hated a game, I’m not going to play it again, achievements or not. If a gamer is buying games just to get easy achievements or replaying games they don’t like, that’s entirely up to them.
Truthfully, I think achievements add a lot to gaming. A lot of achievements can entice a gamer to experience more aspects of a game than they might find otherwise. For example, achievements in Skyrim encourage a player to complete all the questlines, find all the artifacts, and build all the houses available in the game. Achievements in Dragon Age: Origins encompass all the romances and big decisions available in the game, inspiring the player to play the game multiple times and see everything it has to offer. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t replay the game any way you want. I’ve played Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect multiple times, and I’m still missing achievements because I tend to play the same character over and over again because that’s what I enjoy doing.
Another recent perk of achievements is the Xbox Rewards Program. Xbox offers discounts and gifts to people with certain amounts of achievement points. 25,000 is the highest (I’m about 1,000 points away!), and this gives gamers something else to aim for when playing games.
That’s not to say that there aren’t things that frustrate me about achievements. I am not a fan of multiplayer achievements, especially because once a game gets older, they’re basically impossible to get. I’m still missing both multiplayer achievements for Age of Booty, for instance – there wasn’t anyone playing the multiplayer anymore by the time I bought it. I’m also not a huge fan of difficulty achievements, especially when there’s one for every possible difficulty the game can be played on, but that’s more of a personal preference.
Simply put, I don’t think achievements are ruining gaming. It is totally up to each individual gamer to handle the way they approach achievements, and there’s no reason that achievements have to dictate the way you play games, unless you want them to.