Friday, September 2, 2011

Achievements: Earned or Entitled?

Often you'll come across the following type of comments in a discussion about a particular game's achievements/trophies (I'm primarily a 360 gamer, so forgive me if/when I fail to mention trophies when I mention achievements):

Gamer A: “WHAT?!? Beat the game on the hardest difficulty without dying (or any other difficult feat)? What kind of stupid achievement is THAT? How do they expect me to earn that? That's fucking STUPID! Most people won't get that! Why would they make an achievement that's so hard to unlock?"

Gamer B: “Well, shouldn't the people who do that get rewarded for it? I mean, if someone develops the skills/takes the time to do it, why shouldn't they be rewarded? They did something awesome! They actually achieved something.”

This sort of comment reveals the dichotomy in thinking that takes place. Achievements, to some gamers, are something that should be earned, and awarded to people who complete difficult feats, which consequently means that some/many may go unclaimed, while to others, they are something that they feel entitled to. This entitlement doesn't entirely negate the concepts of earning and effort, but in the end, these gamers feel that each and every achievement/trophy should be 'doable' by the average gamer's standards.

These gamers want dangling carrots, cajoling them to finish the game, and perhaps accomplish a few minor feats along the way. What they don't want are monumentally difficult challenges being awarded an achievement. That just leaves 'unfinished' games on their profile....

Now, I don't know what side of the argument you fall on, but I can tell you that I fall on the latter side of it. Achievements should be difficult. They should be earned, not handed out like candy. I mean, it's right in the name! Achievement. Games that give out points for pressing start at the main menu (Simpsons movie game), or completing the training mode (many games from many genres; most recently Mortal Kombat), in my opinion, are wasting valuable opportunities to really challenge the player to do something truly worthy of earning an achievement or a trophy. They devalue them when they hand them out for doing basically nothing, and this effect is even stronger when the point value of an achievement is similar to that of another one that is ten times higher to attain.

Now, despite me falling on that side of the debate, I have to say, I also, in a way, sort of agree with the other side at times. At the very least, I can sympathize and I understand where they are coming from. I mean, there really is something rewarding about unlocking an achievement every 30 minutes to an hour or so, as you make your way through a game. It's a nice little Pavlovian trick, and it's an effective one. Everyone gets a tiny bit excited when that achievement unlocked bubble pops up, and so, a game that broke this model in order to offer achievements that were all really and truly deserving of their namesake would feel, well, a bit, I don't know....deficient.

I also know the feeling of being 1 or 2 achievements away from getting the 1000/1000 points, but knowing you likely never will, because that last achievement is something that's out of your reach, either due to a lack of skills, a lack of time, or some combination of the two. I mean, take GRAW for example. One of the achievements was to be number one on the multiplayer leaderboards (Quake 4 had an achievement like this as well). Like....come on. How in the blue fuck am I supposed to attain that one? That's an achievement that 99% of the players are guaranteed not to acquire....ever.

On the other hand, however, some players will work so hard, and be so good, that they will become the world leaderboards champion, at least for a time. And what else is worthy of a little reward, especially one called an achievement, if not that? Should that not merit an achievement? Do you really think it's fair that they don't get recognized for that?

One achievement that drew a lot of heat upon the game's release was the SMASH TV achievement awarded for beating the entire game without continuing. At first, I was one of them. I mean, what the fuck? Do they not know how fucking hard that is to do? I knew I would never have that one, and that was a bit annoying for a minute or two, until I stopped myself with a question: Wait, am I entitled to get every achievement a game has to offer or something? If not, then what the hell was I bitching about? I mean, some gamers were able to pull that off, at least back in the arcade days, so if someone is able to replicate that old arcade feat of skill, shouldn’t that merit, at the very least, an achievement?

Should gamers who achieve the supremely difficult tasks in a game, like the 1cc shmup playthrough, be rewarded for their efforts, or find themselves ignored in favour of the gamer who “fired 1000 bullets” or something equally devoid of a skill requirement?

Should achievements be used as a Pavlovian dangling carrot? Or should they live up to their name and actually require an achievement to have been completed before unlocking and rewarding the enterprising gamer with that oh so satisfying “bloop!” sound, and a random quantity of meaningless, arbitrary points?

What do you, the reader, think? Achievements: Should they be earned, or are gamers entitled to them?


  1. *SHRUG* I'm not sure really. The thing is, I play mainly RPGs and largely I don't seek out Achievements or Trophies that often. I mean, yeah, I check them out sometimes and it gives me a sense of accomplishment seeing what I got. True, some of them are simple get this far in the game, while others are the "I'm sure it's tricky but it's probably a commonly unlocked achievement." Personally, they are nice, but I don't play a game to unlock these sort of things.

    Of course, one question I have to ask is, what's wrong with either? I mean, some achievements/trophies are designed just for the player to feel rewarded going through a normal play through while others are designed to challenge the player. I'd say, why not create TWO lists of Achievements/Trophies, the "normal" Achievements/Trophies that can be unlocked either through normal gameplay or by accomplishing simple tasks that most gamers can beat, and have the "expert" Achievements/Trophies for the gamers who want to flaunt their virtual penis.

    Of course, this is all coming from a guy who just doesn't care.

  2. Yeah, I think there should be a balance between the two sides. Some achievements and trophies are just way too difficult to attain. However, I think they do need to be challenging to motivate the gamer. Achievements should be earned not just given away. I actually remember a friend who was a trophy whore and actually rented games with a crap load of trophies or games with trophies that would be extremely easy to unlock. I myself don't really care about achievements and trophies. As long as I beat the game the way I want to, I'm fine.

  3. " I'd say, why not create TWO lists of Achievements/Trophies, the "normal" Achievements/Trophies that can be unlocked either through normal gameplay or by accomplishing simple tasks that most gamers can beat, and have the "expert" Achievements/Trophies for the gamers who want to flaunt their virtual penis."

    The whores would still have the same problem: They'd treat the two lists as 1 group of achievements and still feel entitled to them all.

    "Some achievements and trophies are just way too difficult to attain."

    I see that point, but what about the issue I raised in the post: should gamers who actually accomplish those things not be 'rewarded?'

    " I actually remember a friend who was a trophy whore and actually rented games with a crap load of trophies or games with trophies that would be extremely easy to unlock."

    Lol! man, they really manipulated people with the advent of achievements. I mean, to go spend MONEY just to acquire virtual points.....incredible.

    Thanks for reading, guys!

  4. What type of reward can they really want? Is an achievement or trophy that's really difficult to get not enough? It would be nice to gain recognition on a leader board. I think some people, like my trophy whore friend, do it to look superior. I remember that he would go through his friends list and belittle anyone who's level was low, and the first thing he'd look at was how many platinum and gold trophies the person had.

    One interesting thing that the developer might do is actually give a reward other than an achievement or trophy. I don't know if you know about the 2K Sports publisher giving out a million dollars to the first person who achieves a no hitter, but that right there is a reward worth going after. Maybe more publishers need to do something similar, maybe not money, but merchandise and other rewards.

    Yeah, my friend would go on a website that was specifically for games and their achievements and trophies and pick out the easy games. He had a crap ton of bronze trophies from these low budget games.

  5. "What type of reward can they really want? Is an achievement or trophy that's really difficult to get not enough?"

    I think you've missed my point. What I am asking is, for the people who think achievements like "1cc Ikaruga" should not exist because of how hard they are, do they not think that gamers who DO complete those types of challenges deserve to be 'rewarded' just like the gamer who pushes start, finishes the tutorial, etc?

  6. Oh yes, of course they deserve to be rewarded. They worked their asses off.

  7. There definitely isn't anything wrong with making achievements extraordinarily difficult as long as they are physically possible. (Some achievements leave me unable to fathom how an actual human being can possibly earn them.) I used to go out of my way to try to earn trophies, but I lost all interest in the past couple of years. The last game I tried to do that with was GTA 4.

    But single player trophies and multiplayer trophies should be completely unrelated to each other for PS3 games.For the majority of PS3 games, earning a platinum trophy requires you to unlock all of the game's other trophies. I think most games don't include MP trophies in this requirement, but I think there are some that do. That is absolutely bullshit.

    Due to the unpredictable nature of online MP, the various skill levels of player, and the fact that the game's MP may be completely dead in 3 months means that for someone who wants to get 100% of the trophies, the platinum trophy may literally be impossible to get.

    Crescent: Well, that kind of already exists for the PS3. The vast majority (Actually, I'd say probably 99%) of bronze trophies are trophies that the average gamer can achieve in a few playthroughs and through doing some tasks that really aren't too troublesome. A big percentage of silver trophies are like that also.

    And then there is the remaining percentage of silver trophies that are more difficult, and then you have the gold and platinum trophies. The dividing line between the two difficulty groups of silver trophies essentially creates the list that you mention.

  8. Interesting comments, gentlemen. Thanks for the input :)


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