Let us talk about achievement whores real quick.
Now, the overall idea of achievements, or trophies, is to ultimately increase a game’s replay factor. Sure, companies may miss the mark and reward mindless, twitchy play (killing 53,596 infected in Prototype) or my own personal favorite, forcing a player to play through the game a mind-numbing amount of times (play through on normal difficulty, get achievement, unlock hard difficulty, play through on hard difficulty, get achievement, unlock butt-puckering difficulty, wash, rinse, repeat). Sadly, this type of pain-in-the-ass FORCED replay is becoming all too common.
Truly, the first thing I do when I start a new game is to read through the list of achievements and/or trophies to see if there is anything to pay attention to on my first play-through. Dante’s Inferno did it best. I knew, right at the outset, that I needed to save a certain number of souls, use fountains even if I didn’t need them, and the such. It was helpful to know that even before I pressed start.
Where companies begin to go wrong, however, is in Secret Achievements. I’ve ranted about this voluminously in the past, so I’ll just thumbnail it right here. I’m totally OK with a developer burying an achievement if highlighting it puts a plot point or story twist in jeopardy. But, making the simple passage from Stage 2 into Stage 3 a secret (thank you Prison Break), or making “Kill 3 testers with one grenade” a secret (thank you Eat Lead) is pure idiocy. You might as well make “Stand in the corner like a dipshit for a minute” a secret achievement. Worthless.
Back to the whores.
What makes me mad are the people that are so preoccupied with achievements that they make the acquisition paramount to the actual game. Look fella, I don’t know what they told you in orientation, but developers typically (and I’m looking at you, Capcom — Lost Planet 2, what a joke), typically, create a narrative that the experience of the game follows. Through this narrative, the characters, the settings, the motivations, and the conflicts are developed. If you stop the narrative of the game Red Dead Redemption when you get to Tall Trees just so you can kill and skin 18 grizzly bears, you’re stopping the flow of the story. And what a story it is. The idea is that you play through the game, killing grizzlies along the way (you’ll get plenty of chances) and finish the story. The developer has now given you a reason to go back into the game after you’ve completed it. There are fun little tasks to complete. Go kill your grizzlies. Now, you’re extending the replay value of the game you spent 60 bucks on!
It’s a tricky distinction, I know. Is there a difference between lengthening your gameplay experience by doing all of the side missions and achievement quests during your initial playthrough or playing through the game and then doing the side stuff later? I would argue, yes. Back to my previous point. The timing of the story, events and milestones is carefully designed by the game developer. If you take the time to camp and kill the 500 people you need to with your revolver right in the middle of the story, you’re missing something. You’re not taking advantage of the created game.
But, the achievement whores argue, it’s my game. I can play it however I want. Yes, you can. But that makes you a whore. Focusing on just getting the achievements to the exclusion of the gameplay experience itself makes you an achievement whore. And I don’t like you.
UP NEXT: Is there going to be a Claptrap version of Crawmerax?
Steve Metcalf is the award winning author of RESET: A Videogame Anecdote. His accolades include Best Shoe/Sock Combo in an Avatar, 2009 and COD4: Mile High Club.