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Are achievements a good thing for video games?


Are achievements a good thing for video games?

Achievements, trophies — whatever the name, they makes some gamers completionists while others ignore them. AiPT! weighs in.

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First launched in 2005 on the Xbox 360, the multi-game “achievement” system tied to a person’s Gamerscore ushered in a new era of gaming. Followed by Valve in 2007 with a Steam achievement system, and PS3 in 2008 with a Trophy system – the act of “rewarding” gamers for playing a game a certain way spread across the industry, with Nintendo still being the lone hold out. I asked the staff here at AiPT to weigh in on their own experience with Achivements and Trophies, to see where we as a gaming crew stood.

Patrick: My own relationship with Achievements is complicated. Currently my Xbox gamerscore is at 69,575. For quite a while I’ve wanted to get it above 100K because Xbox Live Rewards considers you an OVERLORD if you’re at that level, and I’m just the kind of weak willed dork that can always be gamified.

My hunting days started with Batman Arkham Asylum – the first game I ever 100%’d. I loved the game, and it felt like I was rewarding myself and Rocksteady by getting all the achievements. That getting to 100% somehow connected me to the dev’s interesting choices in the game. I continued this with Dark Souls, many of the Halo games, and practically every indie game I could get my hands on – including Mike Mika’s indie darling #Idarb – which tasked me with creating 20 songs for an achievement – something I might have spent as much time doing as playing the game itself.

I know that this is a great tool from the gaming companies to keep people engaged with their consoles, the games, the online portions, etc, and that in 10 years none of this will matter – but I still really like that beboop sound of getting one.

I also really like NOT having achievements: Say it ain’t so, Nintendo, because the ugly side of it is when you feel like you’re NOT DONE with the game you just defeated because you have to win 10,000 online races, or something asinine. They make games I love more engaging, and games I didn’t really care about slightly more annoying. Nintendo not having them makes me approach their games in an entirely different way, and I quite like that change of pace.

Still, since I started this conversation at AiPT! – I’m going to put a number on my own back – 100K by December 2018. That’s 30K in achievements in 12 months. Since I’m not going to 100% every damn game I play between now and then, i’m assuming I’ll have to play quite a few to hit that. Maybe after I hit that milestone, I can escape the love/hate nature of achievements, and just let them fall where they fall.


I don’t really care about achievements…until I do…and then don’t again.

For the most part, I only play single-player games, so gaming is a very self-contained experience for me. As a result, the degree to which I care about getting achievements is directly related to how much I care about completing a game’s story and specific types of side content. In the Atelier series, for instance, I usually get a ton of achievements because I actually want to craft a million different types of items, visit all the maps, etc. The achievements I get in these games are basically ones for completing quests I would have completed even if I didn’t get the extra gratification of a miniature e-trophy.

Occasionally, though, I will put in some extra time just to check off a few more boxes. In order to feel motivated to do that, I need to already have gotten most achievements in a game just by doing things I wanted to do. In Stardew Valley, for instance, I’ve played over 300 hours, and naturally, got most achievements naturally in the course of that time. Once I’d gone through several seasons worth of farming, built every building type, raised every animal, etc. I turned my attention towards the achievements I hadn’t touched yet: cooking every recipe in the game, for instance. That achievement was actually fun to get. Then the time came to try and get every rare item for the town museum, and, well…

I try to get that achievement in every play through, and I still haven’t. I’m all for a little bit of a long-game challenge, but if completing a task is purely a matter of luck (with item spawning points, etc.) then I tend to give up on it. Ultimately, achievements are cool and I like looking at a list of them and saying “I did all of that!” Nonetheless, getting achievements only motivates me a little bit. If getting a virtual trophy means sitting through ten hours of luck-based events or online battles, I’m out. Gaming is about having fun for me, and once I stop having fun, I just stop.


I LOVE Achievements. There are so many mediocre games I’ve played well beyond their shelf life seeking a few extra fake e-points. Web games, Xbox, stupid little bonuses on mobile games, I am all in if any kind of little *ding* shows up on my screen. Back when I played World of Warcraft, I reveled in the *bwoosh* for each new level. I still even type *ding* in chat when someone posts any kind of IRL achievement. All that being said, I’m not a 100%-er.

There are only a few games I can tolerate long enough to do every ridiculous achievement possible.  I will hang on to the Traveler’s Tales LEGO games for dear life, siphoning off every stud I can to get to that 100% mark.  I want to unlock every janitor, generic random background character, and variation of every character’s costume in little blocky form. Gimmie gimmie. However, if I am required to interact with other people to get an achievement? Ugh. Pass. There are plenty of other games I can play by myself or with my kids that will give me my points fix rather than deal with 14-year old edgelords online screaming obscenities in my earholes.

There is a bit of a psychological argument for including achievements in games and why they seem so important to gamers. The key is what motivates us as people. Intrinsic motivators are those that come from our own satisfaction with having completed a task, participated in an activity, etc. The motivation and the reward are internal. We want to do the thing because it is worth doing exclusive of any external reward. Extrinsic motivators are rewards that come from outside the activity or task. For example, my toddler is much more likely to do an assigned task if he knows that he will be allowed time on his tablet. That is an extrinsic motivator.

Achievements are extrinsic motivators, even though they aren’t tangible things.  Completing a game or certain tasks in it in order to get achievements is extrinsic motivation. You feel good not only because you accomplished the thing, but because you received a reward for doing it. I think games like Minecraft are primarily intrinsic. The motivation is rarely for an external reward for completing a task, but for simply the joy of completion. There’s a much deeper discussion inherent in this involving streaming, posting pics on Imgur, etc that can transform intrinsic motivators into extrinsic ones, but I’ll table that for now.  Suffice to say, I’m firmly in the pro achievement camp for most games.  The best games, however, don’t need to reward me for playing.  The game is the reward.

So dear readers – where are you on this point – loving the bwoopooop sound or loving Nintendo more for not having it? If you want to comment on this ongoing expansion of gaming motivation, or challenge yourself to an achievement/trophy number, please let us know.

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