The Joy of Not Caring About AchievementsPublished by forahobby on Monday, October 19, 2009
Tagged: Gaming, Xbox 360, Xbox Live,
Over the course of the last year of owning an Xbox 360 my Gamerscore has been steadily climbing, although I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's impressive. My score is exactly 11,715, which I suppose is a decent number for only a year of gaming. According to the new "Achievement Progress" tab on my 360's dashboard I have a potential Gamerscore of 51,640. This is, of course, made much higher by games that I popped in for only a second before never playing them again (Spiderman 3, Fable 2, Too Human, Guitar Hero: Metallica, Prototype, Flock, Need for Speed Carbon, and many others among them), but I've also only gotten 100% in one game in all of my hours playing the 360 over the course of the last year, that game being the original Banjo-Kazooie for XBLA.
Needless to say, I've gone for 100% in many of my other games, but with no success. Several achievements for Left 4 Dead alluded me due to the necessity of having a great team to acquire them (Safety First and Nothing Special come to mind), and I put over 100 hours in Tales of Vesperia before deciding halfway through my second playthrough that I simply did not have the time to go for the full 1000. Despite my lack of success at getting all the achievements in each game I played, I often spent hours grinding away at games that I otherwise would have put down much sooner; I did this all for the sake of getting something extra tacked onto the big flashing number that greets me whenever I turn on my console.
While going for the insanely difficult "Manbearpig" achievement in the surprisingly fun XBLA release, South Park Tower Defense, I had a bit of an epiphany. As I restarted the level for the 10th time due to the drunkeness and overall inability to do anything correctly of my teammates, it hit me that I was not having fun. I had performed a meaningless task in a game that would have otherwise been enjoyable for hours, with no reward to myself. Even if I had gotten the achievement, I still could've spent those hours of my time doing something interesting instead of just tacking on another 20 points to my Gamerscore. What other games could I have been experiencing for the first time if I had chosen to spend my time with them instead? Mass Effect and The Orange Box are sitting unplayed in my library, and I know that once I dive into those games I'll enjoy them a lot, so why would I waste my time going for achievements in games that I have already played to the point of souring them?
Take for instance the "Smile" achievement in Geometry Wars 2, where players not only have to beat the ridiculously difficult "Sequence" mode, but they have to intentionally fail on some parts of it in order to make the sequence board look like a smiley face. That's not fun! I had to spend hours just to beat sequence in the first place; beating the mode while intentionally doing badly on the 2nd, 4th, 11th, 15th, 17th, 18th, and 19th levels of it (as the "smile" achievement requires) would likely take an entire day, and the reward of getting 25 meaningless achievement points would simply not be worth it.
I'd love to hear from someone who got the "Light Seeds Master" achievement in Prince of Persia. Tell me, was that fun for you? I bet following around the predetermined paths and revisiting all of the environments more than twice, all for the mindless collection of over 1,000 of those God-forsaken light seeds was just a blast. How about it, those of you who found every flag in Assassin's Creed? Were those few points really worth the hours upon hours that you spent holding down the trigger button and running laps around the cities?
For me, I think that while achievements are often fun little distractions that can add on significantly to the amount of time (and ultimately value) that players get out games, really hard achievements that require repetitive action, grinding, or otherwise boring activities that wouldn't be considered fun should be completely ignored in favor of spending gaming time with something new. Instead, it might be better to just enjoy games for what they are, playing through the campaign and, if necessary, letting that stand as the experience that was had with the game.
Despite my rather staunch stance on the fact that a Gamerscore isn't worth anything and shouldn't be pursued with too much of a person's time, I do believe that achievements are a great way to get more out of a game in an interesting and fun way. The best achievements are ones that can be acquired through cooperative play, as getting in other people on a challenge can make for a fun experience. I eventually got the "Manbearpig" achievement in South Park TD by playing the game locally with friends, and explaining the game's mechanics and successfully completing the challenge was pretty enjoyable, but I don't think that I'll ever return to the game to go for the other two achievements that I'm missing. As gamers, we should always get our money's worth out of games, but we should also know when to put a game down and go do something else, regardless of whether or not we've wrung all the silly achievement points from it. There are too many fantastic games available on the 360 to only experience a few, so go ahead, rent some random games that you think might be fun to just play through one time. Dig into the back catalog for your game system and just have fun.
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