Game Achievements or otherwise known as trophies, for the past 10 years have slowly embedded themselves in our gaming lives, in a point where now they seem as a vital part of gaming depth and content. But what do game achievements really represent? Well if you bluntly look at the big picture, game achievements are nothing more than annoying chores you need to perform, that will take hours upon hours to finish, just so you can show-off your gaming prowess.
The truth is, game achievements, have added a replayability layer into games where normally you would finish off rather quickly. This is both good and bad. Good because it adds value in games, and bad because people often forget to enjoy the game and just hunt for achievements. In the age of fast food games, its more often than not, you will see achievements of the sort, ” Kill 1.000 enemies using only a knife” or “Beat the game on the hardest difficulty without utilizing any saves”. It’s obvious here, that achievements like these, will add dozens of hours into a game that would normally only last for a few hours. But in my point of view, its just spoiling my fun.
When i play a game, i like to be a perfectionist, i want to do everything and see everything. In the past, before game achievements existed, what i usually did with any new game, would be to do a first playthrough on Easy mode, to focus on the story and learn the mechanics, and then a second playthrough on Hard, trying to also pick up any bonus collectables i missed in Easy. After my second playthrough on Hard was done, i considered the game beaten, and moved on.
Come nowadays with the achievements, i’m having a really hard time to feel i completed a game. Even after doing my second playthrough on the Hard difficulty, my trophy count is at a measly 20%, with more than half of the trophies missing. That makes me feel like i haven’t even done half of what the game has to offer. In reality, that is complete bullshit. All of those missing achievements, are usually either some kind of grind or require you to do some stupid very hard stunt.
I can recall a rather traumatizing experience i had with achievements, from playing the Final Fantasy X remaster on PS3. The achievement was called “Lightning Dancer”, which objective was to dodge lightning strikes consecutively 200 times. Just to paint you a picture of how fucked up that was, there was a lightning flash on the screen at random times, which lasted for half a second, and when that happened you needed to press “X” to dodge the lightning. If you got hit just once, you had to start over. When i was reaching towards the end, approx. 180 from 200 i was feeling so much stress, the like of which i’ve only felt for very serious things in my life.
That experience made me start thinking about this whole situation with achievements. Hard games are good and we need more of them, but such ridiculous stunts are no fun at all and just make the whole experience traumatizing. Then i started thinking about Nintendo games, which are the only ones without any kind of achievement system. How free and refreshing it was to play a game on my own pace, exploring and doing whatever i want, without worrying i will lose countless of hours if i don’t use a guide to farm those achievements.
In the end, what i believe is, game achievements should exist, but only as rewards for milestones achieved in a game. For example killing X boss or beating the game on Hard mode. Things that players would do in their playthrough without worrying they will miss something if they don’t read a guide. A good example of an achievement system done right, are the Telltale games which you can reach 100% just by going through the game and beating it.
Games should be a fun process, beating a difficult game is part of the fun, performing irritating, seemingly impossible tasks is not. Unfortunately, i don’t see this situation changing anytime soon, due to the fact also mentioned above, that stupid achievements have added loads of replayability, on otherwise shallow games, and people just fall for it. One can only hope things will get better in the future, for the time being i refuse to complete another game’s achievements if they can’t be accomplished by playing naturally, i’m just fed up with all of it.