Congratulations, me! It’s my 10th legitimate post on this awesome website. In my short time here, I’ve accumulated acclaim, many followers, national renown, and had Rush Limbaugh call me a slut. It’s been a good run so far, and I have no intention of stopping anytime soon! And for some reason, on this portal to the blogosphere, they have a tally that keeps track of the number of posts you have published, and a goal that incrementally becomes higher as you fulfill it! To me, it kind of feels like an achievement. And, (amazingly enough) that’s what I’m planning on talking about today: Achievements.
For the experienced gamer, the little “buh-leep” sound and the popping up of the words “Achievement Unlocked” (and a stupid pun) is as natural as using Right-Trigger to fire (thanks, Halo). Achievements have become an inseparable part of the XBOX gaming experience. But is it just XBOX? I think not! PS3 afficianados may not like to admit it, but the “Trophies” one accumulates when he or she plays are pretty much exactly equivalent. So what makes up an achievement? Loyal readers are getting ready to click away because they think it’s exactly the same as a “reward,” which I talked exhaystively about in my previous post. Au contraire! Achievements are exactly the same as the rewards, with one exception! They provide the player with meaningless points that add to a meaningless score which contributes in absolutely no way to anything. They are purely arbitrary measurements of the worth of the feats you accomplish when you either progress through the game, or do something stupendous that has nothing to do with the actual plot of the game. Hooray!
So XBOX and PS3 have them, but what else? Steam, the immensely popular game downloading platform, has plenty of achievements, and every game has them, from the $40 games to the $4 games. Also, Kongregate.com’s badge system have made it a giant of flash gaming to rival Newgrounds (which used to be every modern kid’s digital playground). Achievements are a CRAZE because they offer tangible, easily understandable benchmarks for things you’ve done in a game! They say, “Congratulations, dude (or dudette). You’ve actually accomplished something, here’s 5 points! Don’t spend it all in one place.” (In the vast majority of cases you can’t actually spend them on anything). But here’s the thing! There are 10-point achievements, and 20-point achievements, and the highly-sought-after 50 point achievements. Now, instead of being idle benchmarks that gauge your progress, they are goals or challenges that dare to be attempted. Awesome! Instead of just beating a game, you are counting in your head how many ninjas you have disemboweled, edging ever closer to the big 1000, and when you get there… “buh-leep!” Achievement Unlocked: “It’s Just a Flesh Wound.” Or something.
So I hope you’re getting how far the achievement system has penetrated the gaming world. It’s absoltuely everywhere, and if you’re ever going to make a game, giving it achievements (with obligatory witty titles) will help your cause greatly! But you must think that it’s gone too far. Achievements for EVERYTHING? Come on. Well, one rather popular game developer happens to think that it hasn’t been taken far enough! jmtb02, a gamedev that I have talked about on here once or twice, made a game called “Achievement Unlocked.” Basically, for everything you can possibly think of, there is an achievement. And there are plenty of things you CAN’T think of that have achievements. You get an achievement for guiding your character to the gamedev’s favorite square of terrain. I kid you not. You’ll find it insatiably addictive, and you won’t be able to stop until you’ve achieved all of the achievements. Plenty of them have stupidly punny names. Play it here:
Achievements aren’t simply a phenomenon of the gaming world. That’s where they began, but they’ve expanded and drifted as people have discovered real-world applications. Now something is happening called “gamification.” What it essentially means is that there are now ways to turn normal things we do into gamelike activities! It’s like when you were little and your mommy made going to the bathroom into a game! Only now it has achievements! There are apps on smartphones that now allow you to input tasks (or they provide tasks for you) that you do over the course of a week, and you get points and gold and experience and stuff that allows you to proceed in a “game.” Now you have a reason to do the dishes that involves video games (and not just the threat of them being taken away!). All the girlfriends and wives of gamers were utterly thrilled to discover this development, I’m sure. “Honey, if you do 3 more loads of laundry you get an achievement!” What a way to play.
So on the surface, they seem like the basic rewards that we’re used to: “Yay, I got to level 10!” or “Yay, I beat that boss!” But they have their own flavor. The bitter taste of failure, the sweet ambrosia of victory. And the… uh… the taste of getting points… whatever that is. What I mean is that there’s something especially addictive about them, and something that enriches our gameplay experience. It gives the games we play an added element: the incentive to do more than simply play through them, but to explore them and to stretch the limits of what you can do within them. And that’s pretty frickin’ brilliant. So, on this momentous occasion of double-digit bloggery, I will leave you with your own special accomplishment: