Well I hadn’t planned to be updating this again. I wagered we’d all be standing amidst a sea of cosmic carnage as the angels and devils wage unholy war. So that didn’t happen, and I must admit that it was a disappointment for me at the very least. Does anyone know how to properly dispose of a body? No? Never mind, I didn’t say anything.
Now where were we? Ah! Achievements, I’m not talking about standing atop a mountain or running a marathon, but achievements in a relatively stationary hobby: Video Games. I strongly feel that this is a tool that is understated by gamers and developers alike.
Achievements in life, even on the miniscule level, are important. These create tangible or semi-tangible commodities that are produced through acknowledging an experience. The anti-achievement argument seems to stem from the argument that “Games did quite well without them for years.” I’m not so sure that they have not existed in games in one fashion or another for a long time, but even with that not mentioned video games have been constantly evolving for decades. There is almost nothing outside of the hard skeleton of the product that is the same as it was in the 80’s or 90’s.
The major advance in achievements in gameplay came with online databases. These provided a persistent environment for these accomplishments to carry from game to game. Where previously achievements in a game were contained on a memory card or emotionally on the disc itself they were now shelved in constant environment that all people could observe and thusly their value increased.
Pixels on the Screen. As some of players I know would say, this is again a very flawed point to make. A song is notes in series, a movie is a series of images, the images a collection of tiny spots of color in series, and the human body a collection of code and a set of base elements (again in series and patterns). We can take any component of life or anything we cherish and deconstruct it into meaningless drivel. It’s a flawed view and one that I won’t examine further, feel free to do so yourself.
If a person accepts any of the above content as valuable then they shouldn’t have much difficulty finding video game achievements valuable. These things are no less silly than trophies from sports or awards for job performance. In the end its an object that gains as much value as we give to it. The nature of society and individualism dictates that not everyone will agree on the extent of the value but holding any particular part as valuable and another as not is fairly dissonant.
Obviously there are negatives. Achievements can be treated poorly, constructed without good design and given out for trivial repetitive acts. Properly designed achievements can add enjoyable replay value, give players goals to rise to, and help them experience backstory to a game that they might otherwise never notice. It’s difficult and admittedly done poorly often (in my experience) but when done properly it adds another level of value to the game without much added investment.
I find it very unlikely that achievements will turn out to be a fad. They tap into an integral part of the human experience, creating tangible otherwise intangible things. Helping us, in a way, materialize a simple indicator of something we previously could not properly express. They can still improve, as can all things, but I believe the groundwork is solid.
Note: I realize that tangible is commonly something you can touch, but I suspect that most people will accept me broadening that to things people sense: Sight, Sound, Taste, Touch, and Smell.