Sep 11, 2016
Video games, unlockable achievements and trophies go hand-in-hand in today’s gaming world. It would be exceptionally bizarre if a game were to be released without having a handful of achievements or trophies available for gamers to unlock. Sometimes, achievements are simply earned by getting to various milestones throughout the game, sometimes by doing some boring in-game chores, but generally achievements are far more exciting when they require a level of creativity or particular skill level to achieve.
It’s clear some developers invest more time in achievements than others, as demonstrated by some of the more creative achievements, but this also means they want to invest in the replay-ability and elongate the shelf life of their games. Some gamers enjoy the seemingly masochistic challenge to unlock every single achievement or trophy for each game they play and will not move onto the next until they have done so.
Achievements undoubtedly adds many hours of additional gameplay for the audience to either enjoy or hate, depending on the difficulty of these achievements. In many games, the hardest difficulty is only unlocked after completing the game once. If there is then an achievement to complete the game on the hardest difficulty, many people will opt to replay the game and grind their way through what can be a gruelling experience. Although all gamers may not wish to do so, some gamers like the extra challenge after the initial play-through. However, if a gamer’s efforts pay off, you can boast your prestigious achievements to your friends just to prove how much better you are at the game then they are, which is part of what gaming is all about.
The more difficult, prestigious achievements may also play a part in developing gaming friendships. If a group of gamers set out in co-op mode to unlock some of the more difficult achievements, be it on PC with voice-coms, online over console with headsets or even all sat around the same screen in the same room, it can be a great bonding experience. When you collectively work together and defeat something deemed almost impossible, it is certainly a gratifying experience and is something that will stick with you. Also, you all get that all important “achievement unlocked”, proving to all others you have achieved greatness.
Although humbling to achieve greatness with friends, it’s also great to be better than they are. Various achievements, such as the “Mile High Club” achievement in Call of Duty 3: Modern Warfare, “Seriously 3.0” in Gears of War 3, and even completing “The Inhuman Achievement” in Guitar Hero 3, all require a lot of time and skill to unlock.
Sometimes, earning achievements can be quite tense, which also adds to the enjoyment and overall love/hate for achievements. For example, in Halo 3, one particular achievement requires you to achieve a “Perfection Medal” on a specific map. The medal requires you to score 15 kills, no deaths and for your team to win. When the achievement is within arm’s reach, things can get a little bit nervy. So many things can undo all your hard work in an instant, but it all adds to the game’s enjoyment.
Despite there being many gaming achievements that are good for showcasing your accomplishments, many feel as though they are just added filler content and extra padding to add something else to the game that truthfully is not needed. Collectable items, for instance, often fall into this category.
For instance, the collectable flags in the Assassin’s Creed franchise serve little purpose other than to unlock a particular trophy or increase one’s gamerscore. Similarly, in Call of Duty games, you can find pieces of ‘intel’ lying around in various levels, which also have no bearing on the game. On the other hand, collectables can be used as a means to help immerse the gamer in the story world and learn more about it, while simultaneously acting as a means to appease achievement hunters.
In the Bioshock franchise, audio diaries can be picked up throughout the game, some are integral to the main plot and required to continue the game, whereas others are hidden. However, each audio diary and collectable helps to develop the story world and characters, creating a more complete picture of the game’s world. It begs the question then, if developers are going out of their way to introduce collectables in game for these achievements, why not do something a little bit more exciting and creative with them?
Although from the outside, the achievement system can feel a bit laborious and unnecessary, it is sometimes the most integral part to a gamer’s enjoyment of a particular title. Achievement hunters shouldn’t be neglected or ignored as we cross-over to next gen, however the system has seen little change since its introduction. Not that the achievement or trophy system needs an overhaul, but a little more creativity by developers in methods to unlock achievements will go a long way. Collecting various items that have little bearing on the game just for achievement points and trophies seems dated, so it would be great to see developers spice up the item retrieval achievements to make it more worthwhile.