The "Achievement Era"

This morning while listening to the bombcast, Jeff mentioned in an offhand way the emergence of what he called the "Achievement Era"in gaming. The three main outlets for serious gamers (Xbox 360, PS3, and Steam) have now all embraced some form of achievement system. At first, this seems to be an innocuous, fun addition to games. It gives you some sort of incentive to beat the game on hard, plus a system of perks if you do something particularly special over the course of the game.
 
The problem is that (this is true for myself and others I know) the achievement system activates the perfectionist, detail oriented side of my personality. It is a head game that I am playing with myself, to be sure, since achievements have no value in the real world and very few people even in the gaming community look at which achievements other people have earned. So, when I see a game that I have "finished" or beaten to my satisfaction, I feel I should put the game down and play something new. But when you have this arbitrary point system for the game that is telling you, "Hey not so fast, looks like you completed less than 20% of this here game, mister!" it changes my perspective. Devil May Cry 4 is a good example of this. The game is an entertaining, artistically impressive little adventure, but not necessarily one that merits more than one, maybe two playthroughs. I have beaten this game, and had a good time, but looking at my achievement list for the game, one would think that I had barely touched it. I have 110 out of a possible 1000, and frankly there is no way that I would ever dedicate the amount of time needed to get more than 2 or 3 hundred points out of it, total.

Another problem, if I can call it that, lies with multiplayer achievements, especially in outdated games. I bought a used copy of Stranglehold and played it for a little while, then decided to try out the multiplayer component. There was literally not a single person online playing the game. A huge proportion of the achievements for that game are inexplicably online only, multiplayer achievements. These achievements are unattainable to your average gamer, seeing as you would have to gather a group of friends online who all owned a copy of the game in order to get them. Should there ever be achievements that are not just difficult, but actually IMPOSSIBLE to complete?
 
All this is leading to is that I think there should be some sort of tracker on the system that just says, "Yep, you beat this game. Good job." Most of us don't have the time or dedication to obtain 100% of the achievements in most, perhaps any, of the games that we buy. I think that we as gamers almost owe it to ourselves, along with the game developers, to actually BEAT the games we do buy, though, and experience the entire story that they present. Having a system that tells you that although you have "beaten" a game, you are at an abysmal 11% completion percentage almost creates a disincentive to play and beat new games. After all, you aren't really "beating" any of them. You may as well put it down right in the middle and say fuck it, this level is too hard. It won't make a difference to my completion percentage.
 
This would be my proposal (seeing as Microsoft, Sony, and Valve are unlikely to implement a system like this anytime soon): on GiantBomb's profile achievement page, add a "Completed" checkmark column. Link it to the achievement for completing the game at the lowest difficulty level, and add another pie chart that shows the number of games that you have "beaten" in this way. I think this would be an awesome way to reward people (at least the ones who frequent this site) for finishing a game, without regard to outrageously difficult or downright impossible achievements.

16 Comments
17 Comments
Posted by skinnyman

This morning while listening to the bombcast, Jeff mentioned in an offhand way the emergence of what he called the "Achievement Era"in gaming. The three main outlets for serious gamers (Xbox 360, PS3, and Steam) have now all embraced some form of achievement system. At first, this seems to be an innocuous, fun addition to games. It gives you some sort of incentive to beat the game on hard, plus a system of perks if you do something particularly special over the course of the game.
 
The problem is that (this is true for myself and others I know) the achievement system activates the perfectionist, detail oriented side of my personality. It is a head game that I am playing with myself, to be sure, since achievements have no value in the real world and very few people even in the gaming community look at which achievements other people have earned. So, when I see a game that I have "finished" or beaten to my satisfaction, I feel I should put the game down and play something new. But when you have this arbitrary point system for the game that is telling you, "Hey not so fast, looks like you completed less than 20% of this here game, mister!" it changes my perspective. Devil May Cry 4 is a good example of this. The game is an entertaining, artistically impressive little adventure, but not necessarily one that merits more than one, maybe two playthroughs. I have beaten this game, and had a good time, but looking at my achievement list for the game, one would think that I had barely touched it. I have 110 out of a possible 1000, and frankly there is no way that I would ever dedicate the amount of time needed to get more than 2 or 3 hundred points out of it, total.

Another problem, if I can call it that, lies with multiplayer achievements, especially in outdated games. I bought a used copy of Stranglehold and played it for a little while, then decided to try out the multiplayer component. There was literally not a single person online playing the game. A huge proportion of the achievements for that game are inexplicably online only, multiplayer achievements. These achievements are unattainable to your average gamer, seeing as you would have to gather a group of friends online who all owned a copy of the game in order to get them. Should there ever be achievements that are not just difficult, but actually IMPOSSIBLE to complete?
 
All this is leading to is that I think there should be some sort of tracker on the system that just says, "Yep, you beat this game. Good job." Most of us don't have the time or dedication to obtain 100% of the achievements in most, perhaps any, of the games that we buy. I think that we as gamers almost owe it to ourselves, along with the game developers, to actually BEAT the games we do buy, though, and experience the entire story that they present. Having a system that tells you that although you have "beaten" a game, you are at an abysmal 11% completion percentage almost creates a disincentive to play and beat new games. After all, you aren't really "beating" any of them. You may as well put it down right in the middle and say fuck it, this level is too hard. It won't make a difference to my completion percentage.
 
This would be my proposal (seeing as Microsoft, Sony, and Valve are unlikely to implement a system like this anytime soon): on GiantBomb's profile achievement page, add a "Completed" checkmark column. Link it to the achievement for completing the game at the lowest difficulty level, and add another pie chart that shows the number of games that you have "beaten" in this way. I think this would be an awesome way to reward people (at least the ones who frequent this site) for finishing a game, without regard to outrageously difficult or downright impossible achievements.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

In regards to the multiplayer component, I like the Lego Star Wars approach.  Once the game became old enough, the designers simply set up lobbies and games where all the person had to do was jump in, play their half, and voila - most of the online achievements were unlocked.  If other games were to do that, I think holding back a few achievements (300 points, at most) for those who played the game early enough would be more than reasonable.  Otherwise, give gamers who pick up dead games a chance to earn those achievements.

Moderator
Posted by michelnadon

i don't have xbox live so there are many multiplayer only achievements I will never get, red dead redemption, bad company 2, etc..
 
it doesn't matter though, i still have more points than anyone at your or my school.

Edited by Insectecutor

Second embedding this week, but you should probably watch Jesse Schell's talk about the terrible future of points vs that perfectionist, detail oriented part of your personality you mentioned:
 
 

Edit: I know he starts off on facebook, but stick with it, or skip to ~20 minutes in if you want to ignore all his worthwhile build-up.
Posted by Jasta

I couldint give a damn what the the console tells me, I know when I have completed a game and thats enough for me.

Posted by DG991

I only care about tf2 achievements because I can unlock stuff sometimes. 

Posted by LordXavierBritish
@michelnadon said:
" i don't have xbox live so there are many multiplayer only achievements I will never get, red dead redemption, bad company 2, etc..  it doesn't matter though, i still have more points than anyone at your or my school. "
I'm so proud of you son. 
 
In other news, turn off achievement notifications. 
 
Problem solved.
Posted by Gellrock
@michelnadon said:
" i don't have xbox live so there are many multiplayer only achievements I will never get, red dead redemption, bad company 2, etc..  it doesn't matter though, i still have more points than anyone at your or my school. "
16k, I have more than you and I don't play for achievements ( no S ranks), My best friend however,   http://profile.mygamercard.net/AchievmentMunky plays for S-Ranks, check his gamercard out.
Posted by GunstarRed

The Stranglehold thing is a real problem. but it's one of the few games where there isnt a number tied to it, You can set up one minute, 1 vs 1 rounds and get those achievements... If only the load times weren't so awful. I tried getting some out of the Kane & Lynch MP and it was  completely dead and with nearly 400 or so of the points tied to that mode It makes me  want to scream everytime I see that I have under 500 points in that game. It seems IO are doing the same thing for the sequel with about half the points tied to the MP again. *sigh* 
 
I played DMC4 for about 40 hours and ended up with about 500 and Lost PLanet 2 for  27 and have like 265. Things like this need to be fixed.
Posted by Spence_5060

Most of what you said is true and, like you, I am one of those achievement hunter (or whore if you would prefer) gamers who try to get every achievement in a game to get a perfect 1000 or more if there is DLC. But what I see when you propose a "beaten" game stat where it just shows that you have beaten the story, I see that we have truly not only gone into an era or achievements, but also an era of where we want to be rewarded for our work in a game. What you propose is that instead of only getting a few achievement points out of a thousand you get a whole other rewarded stat for beating the story mode. You want to be "rewarded" more for what you would only be rewarded a little for in achievement points. So you see when we say that this is an era for achievements what it should be is that this is era where we want to be rewarded and show for our accomplishments for. 
 
Another fact of this is that before achievements, back in previous console generations, what was your goal? Was it to "beat" the game, as in completing the story? Was it to get the highest score on the leader boards of the arcade machine? Or was it to just show that you were the fastest in beating a level in a "speed run". You see back then it was so much harder to so you accomplishments. You would just have to know how the story ends to tell your friends how you beat it and even then they would have to believe you on faith on whether or not you beat it on the hardest difficulty or not. And all there would be is a 3 letters of your initials or whatever you put to show your high score on the leader boards of the arcade machines, but really no one would know it was you unless they were there to witness it. And finally with the special cases like "speed runs". You would have to probably film yourself doing it and upload it to youtube or something to show that you did it. With all these rewards it took a lot more effort than nowadays to show your accomplishments. But ultimately I feel that the reason most people tried these kinds of challenges was for their own personal pride. They wanted to feel accomplished to themselves when they beat a game. I know I did back in the day when I was playing games like Mario64 or even Metroid.
 
So pretty much what I'm getting at here is that achievements is just another advancement of how we should feel awarded with doing a super hard task in a game. The only change now is that we can show for it on our profiles of our different platforms of consoles and show that we really did them. That should be enough of a reward.
 

Posted by DG991
@Insectecutor:
that is scary
Posted by Bigandtasty
@skinnyman said:
"This would be my proposal (seeing as Microsoft, Sony, and Valve are unlikely to implement a system like this anytime soon): on GiantBomb's profile achievement page, add a "Completed" checkmark column. Link it to the achievement for completing the game at the lowest difficulty level, and add another pie chart that shows the number of games that you have "beaten" in this way. I think this would be an awesome way to reward people (at least the ones who frequent this site) for finishing a game, without regard to outrageously difficult or downright impossible achievements. "
I'm not entirely sure what this solves. If you've completed a game and are satisfied with it, you should be able to know that without having a mark that says so. The fact that you have a low completion rate on the game shouldn't matter; if you want to keep playing the game and get more achievements, do so, if not, move on. 
 
Also, not every game has an achievement just for completing the game. Examples include the XBLA version of Symphony of the Night and games that don't really define completion, like Viva Pinata.
 
Ultimately, achievements are meant to enhance the experience and make a game feel more enjoyable, and if a developer makes shitty achievements, then they're pretty hard to enjoy, so ignore them.
Posted by skinnyman
@Sparky_Buzzsaw said:
"

In regards to the multiplayer component, I like the Lego Star Wars approach.  Once the game became old enough, the designers simply set up lobbies and games where all the person had to do was jump in, play their half, and voila - most of the online achievements were unlocked.  If other games were to do that, I think holding back a few achievements (300 points, at most) for those who played the game early enough would be more than reasonable.  Otherwise, give gamers who pick up dead games a chance to earn those achievements.

"
That sounds like the best way to handle it, but that is the only game developer I know of that actually does that. I have also heard the argument that multiplayer achievements just shouldn't exist. Maybe, maybe not. That is certainly the route that the Modern Warfare series is going, and I don't think it takes away from the multiplayer aspect of these games at all.
 
@Insectecutor:
That is a future that I definitely don't want to see, but is probably coming anyway. It seems like all these marketing experts have finally figured out the best way to set off the little reward centers in our brains with this stuff and are exploiting the hell out of it. I feel like a helpless little guinea pig, just continually hunting these stupid achievements until that little tiny "Achievement Unlocked" emblem that pops up.
 
@Jasta said:
" I couldnt give a damn what the the console tells me, I know when I have completed a game and thats enough for me. "

That is definitely the best way to look at things. I can never make myself feel that way when I have so many unfinished achievements though. I envy you.
 
@marioncobretti:
I totally know how you feel. Honestly, I didn't mess around much with Stranglehold after that. I'm sure I could find someone who had the game and I could get online and boost, but what's the point? It wouldn't be fun, and it really defeats the purpose of having the achievements.
 
@Bigandtasty said:
" @skinnyman said:
"This would be my proposal (seeing as Microsoft, Sony, and Valve are unlikely to implement a system like this anytime soon): on GiantBomb's profile achievement page, add a "Completed" checkmark column. Link it to the achievement for completing the game at the lowest difficulty level, and add another pie chart that shows the number of games that you have "beaten" in this way. I think this would be an awesome way to reward people (at least the ones who frequent this site) for finishing a game, without regard to outrageously difficult or downright impossible achievements. "
I'm not entirely sure what this solves. If you've completed a game and are satisfied with it, you should be able to know that without having a mark that says so. The fact that you have a low completion rate on the game shouldn't matter; if you want to keep playing the game and get more achievements, do so, if not, move on. 
 
Also, not every game has an achievement just for completing the game. Examples include the XBLA version of Symphony of the Night and games that don't really define completion, like Viva Pinata.  Ultimately, achievements are meant to enhance the experience and make a game feel more enjoyable, and if a developer makes shitty achievements, then they're pretty hard to enjoy, so ignore them. "

Ah, this. I thought about this a little bit after I wrote the blog, and you are right. I know not all games have a clearly outlined "story mode" or even a point where you have really "beaten" it. The fact is the huge majority do, though, and I would be fine with a n/a on the rest of them, not unlike what you see on the achievement page for Halo Waypoint and the Rock Band Music Store. As far as the first part of your post, it's like I said... It's a perfectionist side of my personality that doesn't feel finished when there are achievements remaining, especially in cases like DMC4. It's not a great character trait in cases like this, but I can't just make it go away.
 
@Spence_5060 said:
" Most of what you said is true and, like you, I am one of those achievement hunter (or whore if you would prefer) gamers who try to get every achievement in a game to get a perfect 1000 or more if there is DLC. But what I see when you propose a "beaten" game stat where it just shows that you have beaten the story, I see that we have truly not only gone into an era or achievements, but also an era of where we want to be rewarded for our work in a game. What you propose is that instead of only getting a few achievement points out of a thousand you get a whole other rewarded stat for beating the story mode. You want to be "rewarded" more for what you would only be rewarded a little for in achievement points. So you see when we say that this is an era for achievements what it should be is that this is era where we want to be rewarded and show for our accomplishments for.   Another fact of this is that before achievements, back in previous console generations, what was your goal? Was it to "beat" the game, as in completing the story? Was it to get the highest score on the leader boards of the arcade machine? Or was it to just show that you were the fastest in beating a level in a "speed run". You see back then it was so much harder to so you accomplishments. You would just have to know how the story ends to tell your friends how you beat it and even then they would have to believe you on faith on whether or not you beat it on the hardest difficulty or not. And all there would be is a 3 letters of your initials or whatever you put to show your high score on the leader boards of the arcade machines, but really no one would know it was you unless they were there to witness it. And finally with the special cases like "speed runs". You would have to probably film yourself doing it and upload it to youtube or something to show that you did it. With all these rewards it took a lot more effort than nowadays to show your accomplishments. But ultimately I feel that the reason most people tried these kinds of challenges was for their own personal pride. They wanted to feel accomplished to themselves when they beat a game. I know I did back in the day when I was playing games like Mario64 or even Metroid.  So pretty much what I'm getting at here is that achievements is just another advancement of how we should feel awarded with doing a super hard task in a game. The only change now is that we can show for it on our profiles of our different platforms of consoles and show that we really did them. That should be enough of a reward.   "

The short answer is, why not have a little extra reward though? Sure we don't NEED it, but I think most people would LIKE it, so why not throw it in there? And I don't think of it really as an "extra reward." It would be a completely separate incentive for people like me, who have a hard time finishing longer games (or sometimes just difficult ones), to actually play all the way through and see the end of the story that the writers and artists worked to create, even if you have no intention of achieving any bragging rights in the game. The achievement system works well for the "bragging rights" side of things, and if I want to do that in a game then they work perfectly. But a lot of the time, I want to beat the game so I can move on to the next one. The current achievement system just creates this nagging feeling of not having actually "completed" any of my games (for me at least). I'm sure that wasn't the intent behind the system, but it still makes me feel that way.
Posted by iam3green

i don't play games for achievements. i do not care about them. i am done with a game when i beat it. i have a lot of games that are in the 200-500 points because i don't play for achievements.

Posted by Bigandtasty
@skinnyman said:
Ah, this. I thought about this a little bit after I wrote the blog, and you are right. I know not all games have a clearly outlined "story mode" or even a point where you have really "beaten" it. The fact is the huge majority do, though, and I would be fine with a n/a on the rest of them, not unlike what you see on the achievement page for Halo Waypoint and the Rock Band Music Store. As far as the first part of your post, it's like I said... It's a perfectionist side of my personality that doesn't feel finished when there are achievements remaining, especially in cases like DMC4. It's not a great character trait in cases like this, but I can't just make it go away.
I think you can make it go away. I often find that achievement hunters, when faced with an achievement that is absurd enough, will gradually stop caring. I gave up on GTA IV's absurd pigeons. A friend tried to boost Dark Sector multiplayer for a few hours and ultimately gave up on that. Another friend went insane on the exorbitant multiplayer milestones in Gears 2. 
 
We still play games and go out of our way to get achievements, and sometimes we look at our completion rates and improve them. That said, we can recognize when an individual achievement, or an entire game, is too tedious, and we'll stop.
 
Maybe your perfectionism is so strong that this won't be the case for you. If that ends up being true, I can only say that hopefully you can either find a way to scratch your itch while still enjoying your games, or find some other way to stop it completely.
Posted by mylifeforAiur
@iam3green said:
" i don't play games for achievements. i do not care about them. i am done with a game when i beat it. i have a lot of games that are in the 200-500 points because i don't play for achievements. "
This. There are to many games to play.
Posted by Deathpooky

I agree with your main suggestion.  I'd love a "Main Game Completed" tab next to my "Full Points" tab on Xbox Live.
 
I separate out games myself like that.  Games that are just not good enough to finish, games that I'll complete, but not S-Rank, and games that I'll S-Rank.  Especially since S-Ranking and points awarded is more of a condition of how devious the developer decided to be, completion is really a better indicator of what you've played as a gamer.  There are some games I'd love to complete 100%, but know I'll never have the time or skill (or players to play against).