Last week there was a new panel on the Inside XBOX channel within my XBOX dashboard. This is not, in itself, newsworthy; the channels of the dashboard are often used to advertise upcoming games and movies, new panels appear every day.
This panel was mildly interesting insofar as it signified growing innovation of the Inside XBOX team’s use of Twitter. What the team were advertising with this panel was the introduction of the “Tuesday Tweetbate”, a weekly debate to be held over twitter. The topic for discussion this week is:
Are Achievements the saviour or scourge of gaming?
My repsonse on twitter was:
#IXTweetbate achievements are an essential hook to fish me into playing games I would otherwise consider complete
Although the response took a day or so to filter through to my twitter account from the XBOX, there are a few other positive responses. The problem with twitter in this case is that it is difficult to fully explore a topic in 140 character segments (128 with the hashtag).
The achievement system on XBOX 360 adds a compulsive, addictive quality to gaming. When I think back to old school XBOX gaming it seems alien to think of playing without them. I know that sounds awfully shallow and probably makes me look like the kind of achievement-whore that has simple children’s titles in their list for the extra 1000 gamerscore.
The thing is, very few games would hold me through the duration without something to trigger my inner addiction center. Games that do are usually those with some form of character progression or immersive gameplay. Morrowind kept me playing for years without the hook of achievements, as did Deus Ex.
Other games, often racers and fighting games, would unlock new areas or in game items as progress was made through the game. With this in mind it is difficult to see why achievements were introduced, other than as a gimmick.
On the other hand, not all games can have progressively unlockable content or character progression to hook players in. Achievements also add a competitive quality to games. This is an especially attractive quality for single player games to compete in an era where multiplayer games dominate the marketplace.
I might be able to test my Halo skills online against other players but I can’t do the same with Mass Effect or Oblivion. With achievements I can compare my progress with friends, often leading to competition.
Of course, I would initially argue that titles like those do not need achievements, so strong is the immersion each game – and games like them – having a massive replay value and strong character progression to hook us through to multiple completions. That argument does not stand up to scrutiny however; I’ve played both Fallout 3 and Dragon Age: Origins to completion on multiple playthroughs and would normally stop playing them now. I had two outstanding achievements on both games, before they were 100% complete through ther achievement system. This led me to load Fallout 3 and play until I had the last two. The same challenge awaits for Dragon Age, which has an expansion out this month with the promise of even more achievements!
So to conclude, I stand by my original tweet, achievements are essential to XBOX gaming and I can’t imagine gaming without them.