What do we "achieve" with achievements?

I recently got my first S Rank in a game for finishing Skyrim. I had labored for a month and a half to finish up all the different story beats and enjoyed most of it (I still would have rather not played the Companions' quests). But as I was reviewing my accomplishment, it dawned on me: finishing Skyrim proved nothing about my video game prowess. All of these achievements were story based - I had accomplished nothing that anyone else couldn't do. My only real "achievement" was being unemployed and having enough unstructured time to finish a game like Skyrim. That realization may say more about the frustrations of continued unemployment than about gaming, but the point remains. I was being rewarded with points simply for my stick-to-itiveness with the story.

I contrasted that with another experience I had playing through Mini Ninjas. I probably could get most of the achievements for much the same thing: being willing to keep playing the game. But one particular achievement prevents me from S-Ranking that game - "Smooth Sailing." This 10-point goal requires the player to navigate his or her ninja down a river without hitting any obstacles. But I cannot get that achievement because I lack the skill to do so. I as a player have to possess some ability to be rewarded with my points instead of merely being present for story beats.

This got me thinking: what is the worth of an achievement? "Smooth Sailing" requires manual prowess, whereas "Dragon Soul" from Skyrim is accomplished after defeating a dragon. The first dragon battle is fought with a company of soldiers, meaning that your character doesn't actually have to do anything except absorb that soul. However, reflecting on the process of obtaining that dragon soul reminded me how incredibly awesome that first dragon battle was. And I mean "awesome" in the literal sense - it inspired awe in me. Paddling down a river did not. Perhaps story-based achievements are worth just as much, especially in open-world games, because that means the user saw the breadth of the world. Finishing Skyrim may not mean I have skill as a gamer, but I did enjoy the content and consumed it in a meaningful way. I originally was planning on arguing that the skill-based achievements are more valuable, but now I'm not so sure you can even compare the two types of achievements' worth. Maybe just having fun and experiencing a game, for skill or for story, is enough.

tl;dr: do you value your skill-based achievements (i.e.: get 20 headshots) more than your story-based achievements (beat the game)?

18 Comments
19 Comments
Posted by okoctothorpe

I recently got my first S Rank in a game for finishing Skyrim. I had labored for a month and a half to finish up all the different story beats and enjoyed most of it (I still would have rather not played the Companions' quests). But as I was reviewing my accomplishment, it dawned on me: finishing Skyrim proved nothing about my video game prowess. All of these achievements were story based - I had accomplished nothing that anyone else couldn't do. My only real "achievement" was being unemployed and having enough unstructured time to finish a game like Skyrim. That realization may say more about the frustrations of continued unemployment than about gaming, but the point remains. I was being rewarded with points simply for my stick-to-itiveness with the story.

I contrasted that with another experience I had playing through Mini Ninjas. I probably could get most of the achievements for much the same thing: being willing to keep playing the game. But one particular achievement prevents me from S-Ranking that game - "Smooth Sailing." This 10-point goal requires the player to navigate his or her ninja down a river without hitting any obstacles. But I cannot get that achievement because I lack the skill to do so. I as a player have to possess some ability to be rewarded with my points instead of merely being present for story beats.

This got me thinking: what is the worth of an achievement? "Smooth Sailing" requires manual prowess, whereas "Dragon Soul" from Skyrim is accomplished after defeating a dragon. The first dragon battle is fought with a company of soldiers, meaning that your character doesn't actually have to do anything except absorb that soul. However, reflecting on the process of obtaining that dragon soul reminded me how incredibly awesome that first dragon battle was. And I mean "awesome" in the literal sense - it inspired awe in me. Paddling down a river did not. Perhaps story-based achievements are worth just as much, especially in open-world games, because that means the user saw the breadth of the world. Finishing Skyrim may not mean I have skill as a gamer, but I did enjoy the content and consumed it in a meaningful way. I originally was planning on arguing that the skill-based achievements are more valuable, but now I'm not so sure you can even compare the two types of achievements' worth. Maybe just having fun and experiencing a game, for skill or for story, is enough.

tl;dr: do you value your skill-based achievements (i.e.: get 20 headshots) more than your story-based achievements (beat the game)?

Posted by Guided_By_Tigers

Of course I value my skilled based achievements more than the story based ones....earning achievements that are hard to achieve is particularly satisfying.

Posted by I_smell

I don't value any achievements as points, really, I just value the stuff you have to do to get em.

Like for example: I was playing Half Life 2 for the second time, and I was lookin through the achievements, and one of them was "Get through Ravenholm using only the Gravity Gun." And I did that, and it was great! I didn't even know the Gravity Gun could be a good weapon!

Then another one was to get across the sand pits without touching the floor- and I did that n that was great aswel!

If an achievement isn't fun to do, then I'm not doing it either way.

Posted by Sammo21

epeen

Unfortunately on the whole, most achievements are not skill based. Some show dedication with grind heavy actions, but most games you can get at least 1/2 of the achievements without trying. Some games you can get the whole 1000 points in 20 minutes or less, so...yeah. Not to mention how easy it is to cheat and get achievements without doing anything on platforms like the PC with games for windows live.

Posted by mandude

I'd prefer if there were about 40 less achievements per game. There are just not enough interesting and unique challenges in a game to warrant 50 of them. Half the time developers just assign the excess to story sequences to fill up the list, or else they'll assign to them making different choices, meaning you'll have to play the game multiple times over. Neither of these require exceptional skill in completing...

Posted by HarlequinRiot

The only achievements that I think are worth anything/fun are the ones that try to get you to do things you normally wouldn't, like "play the entire game while running backwards" or something. Kill counters (I guess unless you're talking about a multiplayer game) and story milestones are pretty lame.

Posted by Beforet

I just like the sense of completion.

Posted by MikkaQ

@HarlequinRiot said:

The only achievements that I think are worth anything/fun are the ones that try to get you to do things you normally wouldn't, like "play the entire game while running backwards" or something. Kill counters (I guess unless you're talking about a multiplayer game) and story milestones are pretty lame.

I agree, the best achievements are outlandish challenges. In other cases, I guess it's just fun to see the number go up. Doesn't mean much to me, but I guess it just stands as testament to the length of the generation.

Posted by Twinsun

The spam your friend with advertising achievements are the worst I feel, so sleazy.

Posted by JamesJeux007

Well, I don't really care about achievements anymore (I used to be hardcore... like... S-Ranked Bioshock 2 hardcore), but I recently "S-Ranked" the single player in Starcraft 2. The reason for that is because it kinda forces you to play a different way and add an extra layer of challenge. The best part being that you can choose if you want the extra challenge or not. In the case of SC2, the best part is even if you're not the best, they still have achievements associated with the lower difficulties you can do. AND if you're even more hardcore, you can do those achievements in the hardest difficulty setting.

So after looking back on it, I only do achievements that make me play the game (or parts of it) an entirely different way. Half-Life 2 and Episode 1 and 2 had really interesting achievements, DE: HR made me play the game the right way (No kills and sneaky all the way), On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Ep.1 made the last boss really great and challenging as well as Trine with the last level achievement.

So I guess it's not really about the skill involved more the way they can add challenge to a game.

Posted by mscupcakes

Well most "skill based" achievements can be boosted with a friend so just because some have a particularly challenging achievement doesn't mean they got it the way it was intended.

Posted by RollingZeppelin

Achievements are a misnomer. Saying that you're good at videogames is like saying you're good at watching movies. It doesn't matter if you're not pro-level.

Posted by sizone

The value of achievements really depends on the game, something you touched on in your article. An open world rpg, for example, benefits from having achievements that encourage the player to explore as much of the content in it as possible. Same with Mini Ninjas, it's a collect-em-up platformy type game so the better achievements in it are for rerunning the levels and finding all the stuff hidden in nooks and crannies. "Use your skill" achievements in games like that are usually pretty unsatisfying, frustrating and grindy to get because they clash with the gameplay.

By contrast, I'm most "proud" of having 200/200 in Lumines. The achievements there are all skill based. I had to get damn good at Lumines to pick them up. The skill based achievements aren't necessarily more valuable, they just fit as Lumines is a skill based game.

Mostly what I think achievements reveal, and where I think the use really comes into them, is that, except in the case of games where they're kind of given away, they show pretty clearly how much you like a game. Lumines achievements are hard to get, I wouldn't have gotten them if the game hadn't hooked me enough to keep playing it. Fallout 3/New Vegas are probably my second most treasured S ranks. Those don't require skill at all, but again, they do require liking the game enough to keep playing it.

Posted by Brodehouse

I like achievements as a historical record that I played the game and did X in it. They could all be 0 points. I don't care between story or skill based, I just like to look at a game in my achievement history and go "01/31/10 started Mass Effect 2 oh man I remember that"

Posted by Gargantuan

@JamesJeux007 said: 

 DE: HR made me play the game the right way (No kills and sneaky all the way)

I don't think that's the right way to play. I played the majority of the game stealthy and I tried to be non-lethal as much as possible but there where times that doing that doesn't fit at all IMO 
 
Posted by Hizang

Nothing, the sooner people realise this the better video games will be.

Posted by pornstorestiffi

@Hizang said:

Nothing, the sooner people realise this the better video games will be.

Thanks, and well put.

Posted by Hizang

@pornstorestiffi said:

@Hizang said:

Nothing, the sooner people realise this the better video games will be.

Thanks, and well put.

I mean look at it like this, there is an achievement in Dead Space for completing the game with just the default pistol. I saw this and decided I would do that, sure I still enjoyed the game but when I finished I was like of I missed out on all of these cool weapons for this stupid trophy. If achievements were not around then I would have played the game very differently, so now I really don't care about them and only look at them once a game is finished.

Posted by SomeJerk

For a few games, getting all possible achievements/trophies matters, because it actually requires work from the player, maxing out these few titles earns respect, admiration and "jesus fucking christ what is wrong with you".
 
Case in point:

Star Ocean 4.