Over the past year or two I've read a couple of books and watched a couple of films that personally I think would make epic video games.
Achievements: The Death of Old Games
Here is a simple quote from a friend of mine who was playing Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: “Why would I want to do a sidequest? I’m not getting any achievements for it.”
Since the spawn of the Xbox 360 Achievements and the PS3 Trophy System that followed quickly after, it seems that all people want to do is get that little imaginary number next to their gamertag as high as possible to be the king or queen of their friends list. Now, I love achievements as much as the next person, but even I have noticed it starting to affect my gameplay as of late. I constantly find myself pausing the game in the middle of play to see if there’s anything I should be keeping my eye out for, always searching for those extra 10 points.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m well aware that we as a species are built to find and overcome obstacles in life, and achievements are just more challenging obstacles placed in front of us. But now it’s just become too much. There were many times where I actually thought of going through a bad game again just to get the other achievements. We have become almost obsessed with these points and letting our friends know what we have accomplished. This became even more evident when the PS4 decided to put a “share” button on its controller. Really… a “share” button. Now we can go on and on about whether or not game achievements are killing how modern games are being played (and this has been thoroughly discussed throughout the gaming community), but that’s not my point today.
I was sitting at a restaurant with a few friends, and we were discussing a couple of our favorite old games. Sure the usual obvious choices came up, ranging from Super Mario Bros. and Pokemon Red all the way to Unreal and Half-Life. After a while, we started bringing up a little bit more obscure (but still great) games. I brought up, for example, Vagrant Story: one of the great, yet overlooked games of the PlayStation era. When I asked my friend if he’d like to borrow it, he said he probably wouldn’t play it because there aren’t any achievements. He said this jokingly, but he then added that he honestly wouldn’t because of that fact. This is a guy who was raised on the NES, SNES, and Genesis. And this made me come to a scary realization.
My point is that these achievements and trophies have made it so hard for many gamers to go back and try to play through any of their old games. I mean, who cares if you beat an old game that nobody else is playing and you have nothing to show for it? When our gaming lives start to revolve around getting more points and getting the next weapons and armor upgrade for your avatar it makes it really hard to care about anything else (such as… I dunno… Playing the game to just play the game!). So my question is this: Are my games gonna go to shit when I have my kids because they don’t have achievements attached to them?
As weird as this may sound, I want my future children to play Vagrant Story. I want them to play Jet Set Radio Future, Psychonauts, Ocarina of Time, and so many others. But if my friends and other people of my generation –people who were born and raised playing video games with no achievements—can’t even do that, then what is going to happen to the next generation? Can someone raised with micro-pats on the back be able to withstand the long haul of Xenogears? Will someone who is used to earning something in almost every moment of their gaming experience be patient enough for Chrono Trigger?
I’m well aware that there have been rereleases of video games, such as Final Fantasy 7 and Shadow of the Colossus, that now have achievements alongside them. I’m sure this gives gamers incentive to go back and play the old classics, but sadly this is only happening with a handful of games, and that’s what worries me. With the rereleases of some classics having achievements tagged with them, what reason do gamers have to play the other games old now? Who would want to play not just an old game, but an old game with no achievements!
Maybe I’m just that old guy who thinks that televisions are the devil’s work and I’m just being utterly skeptical, but I remember a time when someone would sidequest on Legend of Zelda for fun. Now, not so much. I hope I’m wrong, but I think achievements have begun of the downfall of pre-achievement-era games for this and for following generations.