How Achievements Changed My Gaming Habits

Last night I signed into Xbox Live to wait for a friend so we could play some multi-player games. I figured I had a while to wait, so I decided to play a game. What did I play? Bejeweled 2. There is nothing wrong with Bejeweled; I enjoyed playing it again. But I had to ask myself, why, out of all the games I have, some with stories I haven’t finished, lots that I generally prefer to Bejeweled, did I play Bejeweled 2? The short answer: Achievements.

I don’t consider myself an “achievement whore.” I don’t drive myself crazy going for achievements when I’m not having fun, nor do I buy games just to get easy achievements as I have heard some people do. However, achievements have definitely changed how I play games. More specifically, they change that time at which I consider a game completed. When I was growing up, playing games on my Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64, or even until the first Xbox and Playstation 2, I considered a game “complete” when I had beaten the story. After that I would play multiplayer, replay the single player, or try to complete optional extras only if I really liked a game more than others I had at the time. Back in the 16 bit era when most games could be completed in one day, I might replay Genesis games that I hadn’t played in a while, but in general, I tended to play a few favorites such as Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Cool Spot, or Aladdin over and over again.

Then in late 2006 I received my first Xbox 360 and things started to change. As I got used to having achievements on all my games, I started checking them more often. To this day I follow a personal rule that I can’t look at achievements when I first play a game, because I want the experience to be unspoiled, and achievements to be a surprise. But once I finish a games single-player mode, or get far enough in that I have a a good feel for the game, I’ll look through the achievements. Once I do, if I see achievements that look fun to complete, I’ll replay the game just for them. And now I have a new meaning for a “completed” game. Where I used to consider any game I’ve beaten complete, I now consider complete to mean that I both finished the single-player element of the game and I have 100% of the achievements. (This applies to trophy’s, badges, or whatever else a console or interface calls achievements as well.) So, when I was looking for a game to play last night, instead of thinking “What do a want to play?” and picking a favorite game, I hit my Xbox 360 guide button, and browsed games that I hadn’t gotten all of the achievements for. Bejeweled 2 has some tough achievements that I haven’t been able to get, and I hadn’t played in a while, so I made my decision.

When I think about how much influence achievements have on my game playing it seems rather silly, and I’m sure there are a lot of people who couldn’t care less and think I’m ridiculous for trying to obtain digital recognition for completing random video game tasks. But in the end, as long as I remember that games are supposed to be fun and I don’t start hunting achievements that aren’t fun, I like what achievements have added to gaming. Before achievements I could get extra replay value out of a game by convincing myself to race for a certain time, complete certain goals, or finish a level without attacking enemies. I can still do that, but many of those things are also recommended by achievements, and I can more easily share them with my friends. Achievements even give me ideas for gaming goals I never would have thought of myself, like Halo: Reach’s If They Came To Hear Me Beg achievement. Hunting achievements also prompts me to play a wider variety of my games, or return to ones I wouldn’t normally remember I had, like Bejeweled 2.

What has the introduction of achievements done to your gaming habits?

Oh, one final note…

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