By okoctothorpe 18 Comments
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)?