Finished the Game? – Here, have some Achievements
I’ve decided to add a little something of my own opinion on a current practice in video games. As many others have probably noticed, video games continue to get more expensive, though many of them are also getting shorter, or contain less content. Two practices come to mind that are tied to this phenomenon: DLC and achievements. I’ll only talk about the latter, but I sometimes disapprove of the former as well. Regardless, when do I believe achievements are abused?
A long time ago, back in the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, video games were short and horribly difficult for a variety of reasons. One was to do with the fact that it wasn’t nearly the massive business it is today and that people creating these games were part of smaller teams. These days, everything has gotten grander and more expensive. A reason these games were so difficult is that they needed to artificially lengthen playtime and replayability. The challenging factor turned finishing games into a bout of trial and error and only those that pushed through and got increasingly better at it, managed to finish them. With the advent of consoles such as Playstation and even the first Xbox, games started to get grander with average playing times increasing significantly. One could say that the games industry was nested in the cozy place between too small to reach a big audience and so big it becomes like many other industries. However, it has gone beyond this now and the amount of money being poured into many game titles takes away power from the people who create them and also make for tighter deadlines and less ambition.
What does all of this have to do with achievements? Now that games are in this zone of difficult deadlines, games are being shortened once again. Beautiful graphics take the place of heaps of content (not always, of course, but many games remain half-finished in favor of eye candy and strong graphics engines), to the detriment of playing time. So, to be able to ask the same amount of money for shorter games, new methods need to be found to lengthen games in a cheap way. Sometimes, achievements and badges offer this possibility. They give reasons to replay titles only for the sake of getting some of the achievements you missed, or even performing dull, tedious and silly tasks all because you think it might have something to do with a hint for a certain badge. Is this a bad thing? Yes and no. Games have always had sneaky ways of increasing their play time, but when you pay 60 euros on average for a next gen game, you would expect its team to use less underhanded ways to create a longer experience. Putting some badges together, using an existing interface supplied by your chosen platform or an application like Steam, is cheap and easy to make, making production costs easier and criticism less likely to stick.
However, I don’t believe that all games do this, but enough that I see it as a trend. I only hope that it doesn’t become a widespread practice and that achievements stay what they were intended to be initially: a nice little extra feature for those who want to collect them. Just like with DLC, this “ideal” can get a little corrupted and/or muddy.
Agree or don’t?
If any of you have any thoughts on this, please comment, I’d love to discuss it. Also, if there’s any interest, I can give my thoughts on some of the dirty “business” practices surrounding DLC.