I’ve been called an “achievement whore,” I have lost many lives in pursuit of achievements and I have even thrown myself off that dreaded cliff hundreds of times in Halo: Reach to get the “If they came to hear me beg” achievement. My pursuit of achievements has led to lost matches, tons of frustration and derision from fellow gamers but I don’t care. I love achievements.
There are physiological reasons to love achievements. Accomplishments like these make us feel good. Achievements massage the reward centers of our brains and, through mirror neurons and endorphins, can make us happy. But there is another reason to appreciate achievements;they expand game content and provide games with longer shelf lives.
Well-crafted achievements encourage players to play outside of their comfort zone and use different play styles. Suffice to say, not all achievements are good but what makes and achievement good, bad or worthless?
Good Achievements – Good achievements force players to explore game content or use different weapons like doing side missions of using melee weapons or ranged weapons. This breaks up the monotony of game play and helps players master multiple facets of games. A good achievement lets developers show off all the content and encourages players to use in-game strategy.
Examples: Dead Island’s “Swing Them Sticks,” Left 4 Dead’s “Rode hard and put away wet” and “Guardin’ Gnome,” Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s “Pacifist.”
Bad Achievements – Bad achievements are time consuming and repetitive with no innovation. Collectible achievements are bad unless there is something unique to make the pursuit of the collectibles interesting. Other bad achievements force you to mindlessly repeat crappy game mechanics or are nearly impossible to get.
Examples: Dead Island’s “Gesundheit!” Fallout 3’s “Vault-Tec C.E.O.”
Worthless Achievements – Worthless Achievements are ones you get without even realizing it or getting them for playing how you were going to play anyway. While these achievements might be worthless in terms of expanding game play, they are still fun to get.
Examples: Any achievement for campaign progress.
But, I guess, even bad achievements have their place. I couldn’t have been happier when I finally got “If they came to hear me beg” and I have been trying to get Left 4 Dead 2‘s “Scattering Ram” for years. Even if I never get it, i will keep trying to think of new ways to pull it off.