Addicted to Achievements

Achievement Unlocked

What makes you want to finish a video game?  Just getting to the end of it is usually enough to satisfy most people to the point that they will happily trade it in for a new one right away, because, well – apart from multiplayer – there’s nothing left to do once you’ve completed it, right?

Don’t be stupid, of course there is!

There are usually in excess of about 50 achievements or trophies – those little virtual badges/medals you get for performing certain tasks within a game – to collect from each and every new video game that can be found out there in the big wide world, which means that in the little wide worlds within video games, you can probably squeeze another 10+ hours out of any of them just to make sure you absolutely 100% without-a-shadow-of-a-doubt complete your games, forever, permanently.

Now, many people see this as a bad thing for either one or all of three reasons:

1) You’re incredibly sad if you want to spend all that time just trying to get little virtual medals/badges for completing certain tasks in a game that you wouldn’t ever normally bother with.
2) You’re wasting your money by finishing everything in the game and then getting rid of it immediately by trading it.
3) You’re just incredibly sad.

Well to the people who say any of these things, I say ‘whutever!’.

The way I see it, achievements were a fantastic idea.  I would much rather have something to work toward in a game, as well as being left with a lasting record of what I did in those games, rather than the old school way of playing just for the sake of playing, with no solid reason to ever stop playing, and no reason to ever part with it and trade it against something else, actually saving a decent amount of money.  This may be considerably more time consuming and game-related-anger inducing when they are – on occasion – highly unachievable, but the sense of relief you get when you finally get that last, highly evasive, infuriating achievement that probably took you hours all by itself is just fantastic.

Achievements are incredibly addictive, and for me they make games that much more enjoyable, as well as allowing you to make the most of that hard-earned money you spend, by seeing, collecting, and completing everything within them, and ensuring you miss nothing.  It forces people like me – who absolutely have to try and get as many as is logically possible – to play games through on their hardest difficulty setting, and therefore have the most challenging experience available, which also makes it the most rewarding too.  This, in my opinion, is the best way to experience games.

There are, however, times when I get frustrated and annoyed with them.  Not because they are too difficult, but because they are either too time consuming, or just plain unattainable, which brings me to multiplayer achievements.  Sure, most of them are fairly simple; ‘Reach rank 5 in multiplayer’, ‘Reach rank 10 in multiplayer’ etc.  These usually just take time and effort like any other achievements, and are generally achievable by most people who have the patience to get good online.

Yet exactly how achievable and/or practical is it for me to try and reach the number one position at the top of the world high score leader board for Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter?  My problem with this is not only that it is going to take far too much effort to get, but more that every time somebody gets this achievement, they have actually had to beat the last person who got it, and then the next person has to, and then the next person, and so on.  This means that by this point, it’s going to be damn near impossible to ever reach that position, and therefore that achievement is pretty much out of reach for anybody else in the world.

Three of the most unattainable achievements I've ever seen, curtousy of GRAW

Does that make the achievement that much more special to have?  Maybe.  But in order to get it now, I would have to put some serious gaming hours into it, every hour, every day, every week, probably for at least 3 months; and considering nobody else in the world is likely to still be playing it – except maybe for those people who are still at the top of the scoreboard – this increases perpetually the amount of time you will have to spend trying to get to the top.  This means that it’s not just special to have, its damn near impossible.

Why does this matter so much?  Well, it doesn’t really, in fact its completely pointless.  So much so, I pre-empted getting to the point where it was the only achievement left to get, finished the single player part of the game, and then got rid of it, leaving about 30 of the multiplayer achievements unfinished.  I wasn’t really too bothered about it after that, despite being a total completionist freak (Assassins Creed 1 & 2 are the most relevant examples of my need to finish and collect everything, ever).  I was bit annoyed at first I guess, but by this point I had a brand new game with a brand new set of achievements to get hooked on all over again.

My biggest achievement-related frustration at the moment is with Red Dead Redemption. I put a good 20+ hours into it, completing every mission, all of the side quests, all the jobs, all the challenges, and every bandit hideout in the game, in an attempt to gain the achievement for completing 100% of the game. In the most infuriating turn of events ever, I have found myself stuck at 99.5% completion, with absolutely no idea what I might have missed that could possibly be worth 0.5% of an open world, sandbox game as big as this. Apparently, Rockstar have a Red Dead Redemption 100% completion page on their social club site, which is supposed to show you exactly what progress you’ve made in the game. However, after checking it out thoroughly, I’ve found that it’s even missing out stuff that I know for a fact I have done, like main story missions, and collecting all five of the rare weapons. Imagine my fury!

On a similar note, I often find myself getting annoyed at a game even when I have all of the achievements.  This is because on numerous occasions I have managed to 100% a game and trade it in for a nice amount of store credit, which is then usually saved up and put directly toward my next conquerable game.  These games show up in the list of completed games on my Xbox, which is all fine and dandy; but as fate would have it, a set of DLC (download-able content) becomes available a week later – complete with it’s own achievements – and adds a whole bunch of fancy new ones to my list.

The only problem is that it says I haven’t completed them yet.  Well, of course I haven’t! I don’t even own the damn DLC yet!  And now that I’ve traded the original game in, I will likely never own it, ever!  So why exactly does my Xbox feel the need to tell me I haven’t yet completed my game anymore?  Would you receive a letter from a university saying you haven’t yet got 100% on the exams you haven’t and never will take?  No, you wouldn’t, so what exactly is the logic behind this?  To me, it just seems like a scam to cash in on those people who are like me, but just that little bit more obsessed about getting every single achievement in the universe.

Thankfully, however, I’m not quite bad enough to go to the worst extreme to get as many as possible, and by extreme I mean keeping hold of really, really bad games like Naughty Bear, and putting myself through the torture of playing every last bit of it.  Yes, I would and still will do that for a great game, and maybe even the ones that are just good, but terrible games like Naughty Bear should only have one achievement, and it should be for having the balls to actually put money in somebody’s pocket in exchange for the game itself.

It was totally worth having another dig at Naughty Bear

I know what some of you may be thinking; “Why don’t you just go outside and actually achieve something real?  Instead of wasting your time ‘achieving’ meaningless things in a video game!“.  Well, I half agree with you on that.  Video games can indeed be a huge waste of time, and sadly its probably the biggest downfall of being a gamer.  But for those of us who try and make time for video games, rather than having to make time for real-life, it’s a great way to spend your time – enjoying and completing the best and newest games available, and being able to appreciate the awesome effort and detail that is put into a lot of games these days, whilst also being wary of the total garbage that might come out at the same time, because no form of reward is worth sitting through something as horrible as Naughty Bear or the gameplay and achievement horror that is Lost Planet 2. But that’s another story for another day.

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