Achievements & Trophies
I’ve been playing Fallout 3 recently. I got the Game of the Year edition which came with all the DLC packages. I’ve been exploring the extra content and was completing a mission called The Pitt on Sunday. Part of the mission is finding ten “steel ingots” in a place called the Steelyard. You are stripped of all your weapons and armour for this and the Steelyard is full of quick moving enemies. You have to make-do with what weapons you can find. As you can imagine it is therefore something you want to complete quite quickly. But there is an achievement (or trophy if you’re playing on a PS3) is you go above and beyond the ten ingots requirement and find all one hundred of them. Now, I have a terrible problem with leaving any stone unturned when playing RPG’s – if you can collect it or complete it or kill it then I feel strongly compelled to do so. But as I was running around picking up bars of steel for 20 gamer points I couldn’t help starting to feel a little bit stupid. What was the fun in this? Why was I really doing it? Are 20 gamer points and a special armour reward worth me playing out such a repetitive task?
Sony and Microsoft demand that every game released on their consoles contain external achievements/trophies. We’ve become pretty used to them. We likely all know people who will plow through mediocre games simply in order to get them rather than for any enjoyment of the game itself. I do wonder if they dull the impact of gaming. Are we playing because we really want to complete that side-quest or are we doing it because we want the extrinsic rewards? I remember playing Final Fantasy XII and finally, after a 7 hour battle, taking down the superboss Yiazmat who had 50million HP. I didn’t do it for a trophy (there was none) or a reward (there was one but I didn’t care for it) but because I really, really wanted to take that bastard down. If FFXII had come out on the PS3, would more people have been prepared to slog through this long and tough battle if they had a trophy to show off?
I also wondered if achievements and trophies effect multiplayer games. Take Left 4 Dead for example. There are a number of achievements that involve doing things such as collecting a gnome and carrying it through to the end of the game or only using pistols. Now, these type of achievement can be great fun – I’ve got both those achievements myself and had a blast doing so – but they can really effect playing online. You can end up with someone on your team that is more interested in obtaining a particular achievement than in helping your team stay alive. The game itself doesn’t encourage anyone to carry a gnome rather than rescue an incapacitated survivor but the external motivator of the achievement does! It can ruin the game for other players when you are left to die by someone chasing 10 gamer points. Perhaps these sort of achievements should only be available for offline play?
Basically, I am wondering if these external and relatively pointless rewards erode what makes playing video games gratifying. Also, do they encourage developers to include repetitive or annoying tasks in their games?