Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts


Meaningless Misadventures of Achievements and Trophies

Posted on March 9, 2010 at 12:18 AM

Come one and come all to celebrate mediocrity. Like children at a track meet, there are no actual achievements and first places because everybody involved will get a little reward for merely participating. Let us all coddle each other as we hold your hand and take you to a wonderful place where you get a little badge for just showing up because if there's anything that today's gaming has managed to do, it's to somehow brainwash the masses into thinking pushing the "x" button is worthy of getting a prize.

I can't help but wonder where the sense in it all began. The entire concept and importance of Xbox 360 "Achievements" and Playstation 3 "Trophies," I suppose, can't really be traced back to much of anything other than the fact that they showed up one day and they eventually caught on as something of tangible importance to gamers who aren't every good at gaming but feel a transparent sense of satisfaction knowing they got a "congratulations" for reaching a certain point and have a little gold star put next to their name like children in kindergarten.

The truth is, it's not so much the fact that these "Achievements" and "Trophies" exist but more in the value that the masses have placed on them that I find wholly nonsensical. To some, having a high gamer "Score" that shows all you've "achieved" has become more valuable than actually beating a game or finding challenge within it - especially considering that today's games are noticeably easier and more forgiving than the games of yesteryear where you had three lives, two continues, and if you didn't beat it with those you're starting all over.

These gamers, superficial and utterly obtuse to the matter, view these little participation gifts more as an ends than the means they realistically are and are meant to be. While it might be neat to get to a new town in a game and a little popup comes up that adds 35 Gamer Points to your name, in the end I have to ask one simple question:

What is the value here?

Is it a design by the developers to give you incentive to continue on and hunt down little micro-goals? It's not as though these goals will enhance your game. Instead, they're able to give you some superficial sense of satisfaction and self-worth that reminds me of the movie "Hook" and all the children chanting "You're doing it!" to push you onward like some blind buffoon that probably hasn't even realized the game itself is utter garbage.

Maybe it's the fact the players themselves aren't th at good, surprising considering the nature of games and their "whoops, try again" philosophies these days. What little value they can get out of game they might not even beat is to them something of worth.

In reality, though, there is no worth. Nobody cares how high the number is next to your online Username because most either don't look or most, like me, realize that number is in no way indicative of how "cool" and "good" you are at videogames. It says you've played a lot, perhaps, but it doesn't say how talented and experienced you are in playing those games - only that you have a lot of free time on your hands. Most likely, those with the higher number or most trophies are kids with nothing better to do during the day than play a lot to get themselves a higher number and feel superior to others when, most of the time, they never even played a game made before 2001.

Ah, but that's what it boils down to, isn't it? A completely new generation of gamers that, simply, I will never understand and how they somehow view achievements and trophies as integral aspects of gameplay. The closest I could ever understand is by comparing it to the days my friends and I would try to beat each others' high scores at the arcade. Even then, though, the high scores in those games were the ends, not the means; they were the final goal in lieu of an end boss or final round fight. That simply isn't true with todays' games, and hasn't been since home consoles first began implementing these magical things called "levels" and "bosses" and "End credits." Ask yourself what your high score was in Mario Bros. Most likely you can't recall. Hell, you probably don't even remember it kept score, but I bet you remember your final fight with Bowser and how confusing his little dungeon was.

Maybe my pessimism towards it exceeds the popularity they've gained. Perhaps it's just something I've noticed far too many times and assume Achievement and Trophies hold more weight than they really do with a vast majority of videogamers. So, in lieu of that, I focus solely on those where they do, apparently, mean something, compare their scores and respond only with this:

Call me when you beat Ninja Gaiden.

Signing Off




Author's note: Trying new fonts and sizes.

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