The Greatest Achievement

As I gear up to go achievement hunting in anticipation of cashing in several Xbox titles for the latest releases, I begin to wonder what it is about achievements in videogames that leave me unable to get rid of them, even though there’s no new content left to experience.

Take Too Human, for example. Once you’re done with the campaign, all that’s left is to head online and grind your way to level 50, while notching up twenty thousand kills, epic armor pieces, and of course, the dreaded "online multiplayer" achievements that seem to be included on every game, even those you would never, ever bother to play online, Army of Two being the first to spring to mind here.

So, why would I sit there, slowly getting Baldur up to that level? It’s not the appeal of cool-looking armour; being amongst the first on a WoW server to experience Tier Five back in The Burning Crusade has dulled moments like that for me in other games. It’s because of that damn number under my gamertag. The one I can’t stop adding to for fear my legs will fall off and my hair will turn grey.

Human beings like numbers. The more financially ambitious of us like big numbers. There’s nothing wrong with having 100 gamerscore, and wanting to have 100,000. It’s simply the Western materialist part of your subconscious kicking in, don’t worry. But if this is the case, why do developers insist on giving us achievements that involve investing hundreds of extra hours into a title in the most boring way imaginable?

The genocide achievements in Left4Dead, Dead Rising, and the "Seriously…" set of achievements in the Gears of War titles, are completely farcical. I love Gears of War 2, and I’d rate it amongst the top five games I played in 2008. But do I want to sit there slowly notching up a tenth of a million kills? No, no I don’t. I’d like a "Seriously…" achievement for killing 100 people in a match without dying. That’s an achievement. It takes skill and concentration, not a spare four weeks to play the Brumak level over and over again to grind waves of hundreds of Locust soldiers.

The only games I used to obsessively complete, prior to the introduction of achievements and trophies in the gaming community, were the Tony Hawk’s titles and SSX3. I played those games for hours simply because they were relaxing and enjoyable, and I wanted to see everything. I wanted to see all of the mountain, or get every skateboard just to find the one that looked like my real-life counterpart. I wasn’t doing it for gamerscore, I was doing it for myself.

I love universes like Rapture, Sera, hell, even the re-imagined LEGO universes for franchises like Star Wars, but do I want to photograph the same type of Splicer fifty times? No. I didn’t even want to know there were "types". In the dark, they were all pants-wettingly scary and very individual. Then the game’s achievements got me to categorise them on film. I could have looked at concept art and got the same amount of pointless immersion-killing experiences out of that too.

I’ll always shoot for achievements that get me to play on a harder difficulty, or perhaps even compete online at a high level. But what I’d like to see in the next few years, is a game that gives me a full one thousand gamerscore for simply experiencing the game, start to finish, and enjoying myself naturally in a universe hundreds of people worked to create.

And Epic, if you’re listening, a "Seriously 3.0" achievement may just result in the kidnapping of your entire design team. You’ve been warned.


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Author: Christos Reid View all posts by

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