What Have You Achieved?

Let me tell you why I never finished Mirror’s Edge. The game received a lot of, as they say, mixed reviews but I actually held it as one of the best games of last year. The concept and gameplay was inventive and addictive, it had a unique graphical presentation and the soundtrack was incredible. The story was the usual take-it-or-leave-it schlock I’ve come to expect from high-concept titles, but still felt interesting enough to make me feel sufficiently involved to care about Faith and her, em, fate. Basically, I’m saying I liked it, yeah? But as the first sentence of this paragraph suggests, I never reached the end credits. To be completely honest, I was never even close. Just typing these words feels like I’m admitting to a crime worse than genocide. You didn’t finish it? And you still have the nerve to praise it so? Who are you – Hitler?!

Pictured: Me?

Me praising Mirror's Edge (Artist's rendition)

The jury’s still out on that, but I digress. The reason I never finished Mirror’s Edge is as simple as it is stupid; my own stupid pride. You see, Mirror’s Edge has an achievement called Test Of Faith, which you earn if you manage to finish the entire game without shooting an enemy. Since the game is basically a parkour simulator and I suspected the gunplay would detract from the pureness of that, I decided to see how far I could go without using a firearm to blast my way through. The answer was, to my surprise; further than I had thought. Quite a lot, actually. I think I had managed to reach the fifth level when I started feeling like a god amongst gamers. As I punched and kicked my way through the game I felt a pride I rarely feel in real life and those 80 achievement points felt inevitable. That is, until reality snapped back into gear like an evil illusion-shattering rubber band, and I entered the subway station.

The subway requires you to take out a whole group of enemies in a very open space. As taking one enemy out leaves you entirely vulnerable to another, you have to isolate them one by one and be as quick as possible. I kicked, jumped, grabbed guns and screamed at the sky in frustration. Controllers flew through the air, blood was shed and the screen was darkened with the ink of my defeat more times than I care to mention. I had gone right back to my default position: sucking. At this point I briefly considered simply picking up a gun, swallowing what little pride I might have left and blast through the stage but I never did. After trying for days to get past the section using only my bare hands, I gave up and never returned to Faith and her bloody knuckles. I simply couldn’t bring myself to willingly undo the achievement I was on my way of winning, so I put the game aside in the vain hope that I might one day be able to take it on again and finally master it.

The deserve GUNISHMENT

"They don't deserve punishment, they deserve GUNISHMENT"

You see, my gamerscore is quite pathetic. I have owned a 360 for well over a year now and I still clock in on just less than 2000. I blame this on the fact that I have been cursed with two hugely incompatible human traits; perfectionism and being really shit at games. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve played games longer than I’ve been able to balance on two legs, but my skills have only improved marginally since then. I used to be able to play on most games on Easy or make use of as many shortcuts as were given to me and still be able to live with myself, but this changed when achievements entered the fray. Now, I can’t simply block out that I need to use the training wheels on almost any game I play, because it will show in my gamerscore regardless. Anybody can log on and see which achievements I haven’t yet managed to get. Thus, there is one corner of my brain which is constantly preoccupied with the thought that hundreds – nay, thousands – of people are constantly laughing at the fact that I still haven’t got the Wax Off achievement in Geometry Wars, or that I never played Bioshock for longer than a few hours, or that I couldn’t even beat Mirror’s Edge.

I recently played some Left 4 Dead when I received a message from somebody I was unfamiliar with. With a devastating wit to rival Wilde, it simply read “u suck”. The person who sent it was not in the game I was currently in, nor could I recall having played with him at any other time. I am therefore forced to assume that was simply summing up my person based on my lowly four-digit gamerscore. It’s not like I can argue with him. I do suck, and he was just observant enough to notice and rude enough to point it out in my face. So what am I to make of achievement hunting, an activity I’m genetically inclined to pursue but not skilled enough to be successful in? In the case of Mirror’s Edge it has clearly led me to lose sight of the actual game in favour of, let’s be honest here, useless additions to a useless number tied to my gamer profile. I’m not sure if I am some kind of freak or if other people have fallen into the same trap, but if so; come forth. How many games have been bought and abandoned because of this senseless hunt for perfectionism?

Hard to argue.

A point hard to argue with.

This week marks the release of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, a game I’m quite excited about but likely won’t have a chance to play until the prize withers somewhat. It also marks the first use of Nintendo’s Super Guide system which allows the player to hand control over to the game itself to finish difficult stages for them, or at least show them how they are meant to be completed. On the one hand this feels like a slightly odd addition, since one of the most rewarding aspects of gaming is to feel the difficult curve slowly rising and feel your own skills rising accordingly. But there are sad cases like myself who will love a game only to find themselves at its mercy in a section where the difficulty curve shoots into the clouds. The Super Guide is there, the game will probably even suggest it in a patronising “Do you want us to help you, show you how it’s supposed to be done, yeah?”-way, but our own internal gamer will stop us. Maybe it’s more healthy for the soul to just leave a game entirely than to suffer the shame of having the game play itself because you’re too crap. Maybe that’s just a stupid thought which makes us miss out on a lot of exciting experiences later on in the games. Maybe, just maybe, it’s okay to use the available tools, sacrifice a few pointless achievement points and avoid limiting our enjoyment of the games themselves. From now on I think I will subscribe to the latter. But then again, what do I know – my gamerscore is just 1970.

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Written by Rikard O

9 comments

  1. A well written and enjoyable read, especially with gaming becoming more and more focused on Trophies and Achievements. We can’t lose sight of what’s important when playing videogames: fun!

    • Rikard O /

      Spot on! I’d like to quote Yahtzee here: “Yes, fun. You know, like we used to have before gaming felt like a second job.”

  2. GAMERJET /

    I wouldn’t take to heart what that gamer said. It really doesn’t matter; and this is coming from an addicted Trophy Collector (+1550 Trophies) on the PS3 side. I’m willing to accept when I can’t achieve a certain Trophy and I just let it stay locked; because some of them are just ridiculous.

    Anyways, to my point. Don’t worry about it! Just play, get trophies (or achievements in your case) as you please, and ask yourself, is really worth getting this stressed over? I mean really, think about it!

    Good Luck,
    GAMERJET

    • Rikard O /

      I do try to not let it affect how I play games, but sometimes it’s inevitable, especially with Arcade titles I’ve noticed. It’s just so much Pavlovian satisfaction baked in to the little “Achievement Unlocked” notice.

  3. LordCancer /

    achievements suck. most of them suck the fun out of a game pretty quick like the warlord achievement in farcry 2 requires 1.5 million xp. After more then 400 hours I am a level 25 (700,000xp) I’m never going to get that.

    I don’t even suck at games, I beat all of cod2 on veteran and have beaten several levels on veteran between modern warfare 1 and 2. Though to be honest I’d rather play a game on normal and enjoy it vs hardcore modes where the difficulty curve is a massive hp and damage boost to enemies which in my mind only magnifies the short comings in a games design.

    Some of the achievements that really wound my psyche are the collectathon achievements. The search the level for one or two hidden items crap that get you nothing but a few gamer score. I only made it a few levels into condemned criminal origins and I enjoyed the game but got sucked into searching for hidden items and after not being able to find them all on a level I was frustrated and discouraged and never finished the game.

    I just picked up battlefield bad company I managed to get all the single player achievements but had to use a guide to find all the hidden stuff. I hate the idea of wasting time looking for stuff I’ll never find on my own. Some of these levels are huge you could spend hours looking and never see or simply overlook one of these items. What really bothers me is finding these hidden objects don’t reward you with anything at all. In modern warfare as bullets and rpgs scream over your head you don’t have time to look for enemy Intel items and when you find them, nothing happens except the ticker acknowledges you found it… whats the point?

    I also really hate online achievements, I can’t invest hundreds of hours into every game to unlock them.

    Another thing that bugs me is thing like in fear theirs an achievement for beating the game using less then 500 bullets? what the hell kinda nonsense is that? It bugs me that I have to play a game a certain way to get these achievements or play to enjoy the game and get zero recognition.

    Before achievements it was about enjoying the games I played now its about a struggle with the short comings of human psyche.

    Bioware’s mass effect game is the only game I’ve played that uses achievements in an intelligent even innovative way unlocking in game bonuses that give you an advantage. I think that’s cool but still dislike the manner in which you have to unlock many of them because its bioware telling you how to play the game which for me just really sucks the life and fun out of a game.

    I had more fun with xbox games then I’m having with xbox 360 games. For me achievements have made a negative impact on how I play and enjoy games.

    • Rikard O /

      That’s a really good point, I think. I really hate it when achievements are awarded for things which you would never have done if there wasn’t an achievement or a trophy in it for doing so. Some games do it well, like you said with Mass Effect, and and another clever one is Left 4 Dead.

  4. trained_killa /

    Mate,

    I hear you and you are right about perfectionism. Now I am on PS3 camp and we have trophies. I have Killzone2, GTA4, MGS, Motorstorm Pacific Ridge and Bioshock to finish. All of them bar MGS have trophies. Do I just balst through them aon easy to finish and not to worry about the trophies or like I am doing at the moment go for the hardest level and struggle so much that I piss myself off of the game. I am slowly slowly coming around of the idea of not worrying about the trophies. It’s much more enjoyable that way. If by any chance I unlock some trophies it is all well and good if not I enjoyed the game didn’t I? That’ll do. I achieved Platinum in little big planet because I loved it. I could stand playing it time after time. Soem games just will not lend themselves to that hence go enjoy it any way you like rather then trophies.

    Take care

    Koray

    • Rikard O /

      Absolutely true. If you enjoy a game you’ll probably get the majority of the trophies or achievements just by playing it a lot. Mirror’s Edge’s achievements are actually some of the best I’ve seen, because most of them are awarded for doing things that you would do when you played the game anyway, and that’s exactly what it should be.

  5. I fell into the same trap you did. I became so concerned with squeezing every possible point out of the games that I slowly but surely stopped enjoying. Just forget achievements and view them as nice surprises when they happen. A bonus only. Not something you NEED>

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