Achievements Unlocked: How Much Do They Matter?

When I first picked up an Xbox 360 so many years ago, I was instantly entranced by the achievement system put in place. Having witnessed friends racking up points for their gamerscore, I always knew it was something I’d be interested in. With every new game purchase, a door was opened to the potential of a usual 1k of gamerscore to be added to my online persona. Points? Milestones for completing certain objectives in-game? Genius. However, as time marched on I was introduced to the more ugly, cheap world of the in-game reward system, and the people that inhabited it. As I struggled to complete a game by Xbox Live’s standards, I realized that this would be impossible in a number of ways. And my views started to change.

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Achievements were put into place so that gamers would feel as though they had accomplished certain milestones for their time. Since they’ve been mandatory for developers to include, they started out being very simple objectives such as “complete chapter 1,” “finish X multiplayer games,” or “find X items.” As time marched on, achievements evolved into more complex ventures in the majority of games, including tasks seen in Halo 3’s Marathon Man achievement–find all the terminals, or achievements such as in Dead Space, where you can complete the game using only the plasma cutters. Most games have an average of 50 achievements, and they’re a mix of multiplayer and single-player objectives. You’re rewarded whether you play alone or with friends.

All in all it seems like a pretty swanky idea. Your gamerscore rises with each accomplishment, so you can compare scores with friends and check out who’s done what in what game. However, it’s a source of complaint amongst much of the gaming community. They’re “pointless,” some say, and “stupid.” And on the flip side, some believe that you are your gamerscore. If you have a low number for any reason, then that must mean that you’re not a “true” gamer. That’s where I have to disagree.

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Achievements are, in simplest terms, little rewards for going the extra mile in your games. Through tracking friends’ points on their gamercards, you can determine whether or not they have completed certain areas or achieved something fantastic such as completing the game on the hardest difficulty or performing another insurmountable task. If one has a low gamerscore, it could be simply because they can’t afford enough games to complete some achievements. For instance, some games are very fickle about awarding the points. In some cases, you can no longer fully complete a game’s achievements because no one is still playing the game online. Games such as Perfect Dark Zero, Condemned: Criminal Origins, and even Call of Duty 3 are becoming defunct. No one chooses to play them online, so half of the achievements available won’t be attainable unless you have a group of friends willing to play.

In some cases, you won’t get any points unless you finish an entire 12-15-level game. Even if you were to judge someone by their gamerscore, with games such as Avatar available for those who are only interested in boosting their numbers, you can’t even really take their score for face value. It’s best to just get to know your friends and adversaries. If they’re a great gamer, you’ll know from their actions and their ability to get things done, rather than just their gamerscore.

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Personally, I enjoy earning achievements. It’s fun to see what developers have set as standards to reach, and the pictures that are awarded beside the point value. It’s something I can be proud of, to look back on that game of Gears and remember how much fun I had reaching those chapter checkpoints. I have about 40 games and I haven’t broken 4k as of yet. Does that make me a non-gamer? No, it does not. They’re just points. They’re for fun. Since when does everything have to be serious business?

Achievements should be an extension of your gaming experience, not the sole reason you decide to pick up the controller. We never got points or gamerpics for completing old-school Zelda or even any of the Final Fantasies, did we? They should be as enjoyable as the developers intended for them to be. You’ll get more out of your games if you take them in that light rather than obsessing over how cool you appear to look to your online brethren.

  • luxuria

    I personally loved getting achievements. I had something to go for whether it be while I’m playing the game (collectibles) or after I complete the main story. Having just picked up a 3DS, it feels weird not having any sort of achievement system. Regardless, I’m enjoying it.

  • http://topherrocks.tumblr.com Topher! (Now with 200% more beard!)

    I’ve been accused of being an achievement whore in the past. I’ve always enjoyed when they’re used well to get a gamer to explore everything the game has to offer. I used to go out of my way to 100% old PS2 games long before the achievement system ever came up, for me it’s a bit more of a bragging right that I’m still doing it and have the badge to prove it as opposed to just making a claim.