Monday, August 06, 2012

Trophies Designed To Distract


Not real, but sometimes, it feels
like this is all Achievements are these days.
I can’t be the only one who has ever wondered why you need to shoot 200 pigeons in GTAIV, or kill a Manjini with a rotten egg by throwing it down his throat as he’s jumping in RE5. Amusing, sure. But what’s the point to it?

I’m sure some of you would argue that it adds more depth to the game. Or that it improves on the replay factor. Maybe it’s a quirk to the game that gives it its charm. GTA is full of those. But why the need to kill all 200 pigeons? It’s a social notification to all that visit your profile that you have spent X amount of time running around a game to kill pigeons. It’s an achievement to be worthy of amongst the 4chan elite.

While we’re out collecting 999 rubies, or playing through Extreme mode with only our fists, we miss out on the game that the developers were trying to provide us.

Or are we?

It’s hard to deny that some of the achievements in a game are pretty stupid, and it’s obvious some of them are there to keep us playing. Left 4 Dead has a lot of these achievements. A few you can get through normal game-play such as Protecting a Survivor 50 times. You can easily pull that off within the first 2 levels. But what about head-shotting a Witch or killing 100 zombies with a headshot while using a pistol while they are in midair? Those are the type of goals that require multiple plays for hours on end, and if there’s one aspect we as gamers have been harping on for years is replay-ability.

Just shoot the damn pigeon already!
I won’t deny that achievements and trophies have their place in video games. There are a number of us that enjoy exploring the game’s environment and we like to get rewarded for our efforts with a little signal of “congrats! You took the time to do this!” even if it’s for prestige points that contain no value.

It’s those trophies of pointlessness that I’m referring to that detract from the game. They force us to not play by distracting us at the task at hand. Why? We’re not really sure. You can argue for the points I”ve made earlier, but really isn’t it just a way to keep us from noticing how crappy the game is?

I’ll use Left 4 Dead again (can you tell I was playing it this weekend?). As a whole, L4D is nothing special. 4 people trapped in an area infested with zombies, and you have to get out before you get eaten. The characters have snappy lines, and campaigns only take an hour of your time at most-good for online multiplayer. But really…that’s about it. It’s no different than any other survival horror or first person shooter. Don’t get me started on L4D2. Did these people not play Dead Rising or watch Zombieland? No sane person in a zombie apocalypse would hide out in a mall or go to an amusement park. We all know those are a recipe for death.

Do those achievements keep you playing long after you’ve finished the story? Sure. But they detract from what the game is presenting to you, the gamer. And in many ways, it’s hiding up what isn’t really there to begin with: a good game. We can argue this point up and down, but try playing any game without focusing on the trophies and achievements? I’m trying to not harp on FPS because they would be the main target. Think about all of the things the game is trying to hide by you, the gamer, not going after the achievements? You might be surprised at how little content is being provided to us these days because the trophy systems for useless prestige points have taken over.

I’d love to see more achievements that enhanced the gaming experience or provided us with additional stories that we wouldn’t originally go after. There are a number of games that offer additional stories within the main game (this isn’t DLC) that you go after, spend 10 hours on, and you’re rarely rewarded for it. But shoot 200 pigeons and you get a trophy? Where’s the logic in that?

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