Everyone likes to be rewarded right? Whether it’s simple recognition for your accomplishments or a million dollars in cash, we all like to reap the benefits of our labors. That, of course, is the main draw of achievements. The proverbial carrot-on-a-stick that keeps us pushing, makes us stay up just one more hour to land that elusive 150 gamerscore points. And it’s nice isn’t it? To have your gaming accomplishments not only recognized, but quantified in a way that is easily understood. Points are a language gamers are quite familiar with, so it fits right into the mythos of being a gamer. This isn’t golf. Points are good, and you can never get enough of them.
But I think achievements mean more than a piece of dangling food. And, unlike carrots, you don’t even need peanut butter to make them interesting. Like any arcade game aficionado could tell you, points excel at one aspect of gaming.
That’s the beauty of points. After you’re done collecting them, what do you do? You go get more! You can only experience a great story for the first time once, but you can experience the thrill of reaching a high score every time you play. With the current achievement system, it’s one step better. Every time you play, you can conceivably raise your score. It’s like a game of Donkey Kong that never ends; you just keep collecting points until you literally can’t go on anymore. Our scores get ever higher, and give us a tangible reflection of your gaming achievements, if not a terribly accurate one. Let me be clear: A high gamerscore does not make you a better gamer. But it does signify a certain level of experience, which counts for a lot in video game land.
Despite the philosophical benefits of replayability, I’m actually talking about a much simpler form of the concept. I like achievements because they often add replayability to games for me. This usually comes in the form of higher difficulty achievements, but can manifest in other ways.
Case in point: BioShock was (and is) one of my favorite games of all time. Obviously, I was super excited about the sequel. Unfortunately, as we all know, BioShock 2 didn’t quite live up to the expectations created by the first one. That’s understandable. You can’t expect Nickelback to cover a Sublime song with any degree of success, and I wouldn’t expect anybody other than Irrational to deliver a BioShock-level experience.
It wasn’t a terrible game, but I couldn’t imagine why I would play it again. I’m bad about that. I own hundreds of games, but I will writhe in boredom before putting in a game I just don’t. Want. To play. You know the feeling.
But, months after beating it, I was browsing through my collection in extreme boredom, and flipped across BioShock 2. Normally, I would have skipped right over it, but I realized that I didn’t have the achievement for the harder difficulties. Since I’m an achievement call girl, I decided to plop it in.
Against all odds, I fell in love with it.
Maybe it was because I just hadn’t played BioShock in a while, but I loved it. Blew through it on Hard and got almost every achievement. I had so much fun with it. And I realized that, had that been a previous-gen game and had no achievements, I would never have experienced that thrill of finding a game was even better than I remember.
That usually only happens when I boot up Final Fantasy Tactics again.