Ask a Dork: Achievements/Trophies
“What do you think the role of Achievements/Trophies should be in games? What do you think of their current use? How would you evolve them?”
If you would have asked me back in 2005 whether I thought Achievements would do anything to enhance the gaming experience or make casual gamers more inclined to play, I would have laughed and moved on with my day. Here we are though, in the twilight of the Xbox 360’s lifespan, and almost every major gaming platform has some form of showable prize for completing challenging tasks. Steam, Xbox 360 and Windows Phone have achievements, PS3 and PS Vita have Trophies, Apple’s platforms have achievements through it’s Game Centre app, and Kongregate (a flash-games site) has Badges, but it all started with “gamerscores” in Games for Windows. Not that I’m a Microsoft fanboy, but that company did it first and many would argue that they did it best.
The interesting thing about Achievements is that they were almost a disruptive innovation in the video game landscape. Suddenly, there was a reason for playing a game outside of basic entertainment. I can’t tell you how many mostly-lame games I’ve played to their fullest, inspite of them not really being worth it, in order to get all of the achievements or improve my gamerscore. That’s what it’s all about – incentivizing the player to see and do everything in a game. Those little meaningless tokens will force gamers to waste hours of time and even purchase additional DLC. They’re just as brilliant from a business perspective as they are from a social validation perspective.
I don’t think there is any fundamental way to improve the Achievement/Trophy system, outside of possibly providing real-life rewards for ingame successes. These incentive systems aren’t make-or-break to the gaming experience. Sure, they can certainly enhance a less-than-stellar game, but no game is made worse by poor achievements. To the same effect, not every gamer is going to care about achievements (I know plenty of “Pro” gamers who have laughable gamerscores and limited achievements). In their current state, achievements serve their purpose perfectly. Thanks to their inclusion, gamers can have a fuller experience, developers can push more content to their audience, and everyone can easily cast judgement on each other’s gamercards.