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Should we rethink Achievements?

by Olivio Sarikas on 08/30/13 02:48:00 pm

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutras community.
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From a game developer perspective i love achievements. They seem to promise so much good: From binding players to replay-ability and from more competition to more depth & exploration.

Yet, from a gamer perspective, they often leave me with a bitter taste in my mouth. They are like a nagging mothers, asking me to do my homework. "But mom" i say "i have finished the game story!" and she answers "No son, you have only 19 of 50 achievements in Darkness 2." Am i a looser? Do i have to be ashamed in front of my friends? Did i not deserve to play this game?

My Xbox360 profile tells me that i could have over 60000 points. Yet i only have about 6000... - and that is not just a number, it defines my profile and how other see me.

Psychologically we feel the need to finish things. With games, this can mean that you feel force to play a game. You might feel unhappy, feel like a underachiever, feel unfulfilled and empty. You might experience stress and peer pressure that forces you into spending hours to hunt for achievements. Look at channels like "Achievement Hunter" that specialize in showing players how to get them and earn the point.

If you have ever played World of Warcraft you know how important bragging rights are in a gaming community.

Im not saying all achievements are bad. But i don't want them to feel like chores. I love achievements that tell me that im playing the game right. i love achievements that show me new and secret things about the game. I love achievements that enhance my gaming experience. But for this to happen, they need to be within the limits of what my normal playing habits.

But often achievements are not like that. They are listing a number of things to do, that are not achieved while playing the game in a normal fashion. They want me to go back, again and again, just to reach a certain number. They don't provide me with any enhanced gaming experiences.

If you want me to kill a certain amount of enemies in a certain style, tell me that while i play, show me how to do it and show me a count of how many more i need. And most of all: Make it part of the normal gameplay.

I do understand that the idea of achievements is also to give players bragging rights over things that are hard to achieve. But that can be done with things that are vital for the game and enhance the gameplay. Does it really make sense to have achievements that are so far off that people watch them on youtube and do them like chores? That seems like a bad experience and a waste of gamer time.

And that number, telling me i have not even half of the achievements just gives me a bad feeling. I payed to feel good! Make me feel good!

What are your experiences with achievements?

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