Remember the days when video games were about having fun? Sure, there was a challenge to be faced and it took time and skill to accomplish, but tougher challenges meant more satisfying victories. I remember playing old NES games that never allowed you to save your game. No save points, no password to input that let you skip levels, just your raw skill as a gamer to try and get you through to the end. When you finally managed to beat the game, there was no online record for others to see. You just walked up to your friends, told them about how you kicked the boss’s ass last night, and listened as they commented about how awesome that was to hear and let them share stories of their own conquests. The thing that made these games worth playing over and over was the content. Not that modern day games have no enjoyable content, buy nowadays it seems like games have to bait you with additional features to keep you interested. It’s like how Hollywood thinks that as long as the visual effects look good that you’ll love the movie and buy a ticket every time. Game companies now apparently feel it’s necessary to dangle a pretty little carrot in front of your face to hold your interest. I know that I’m personally guilty of falling victim to this idea. The big problem for me is that it feels like work instead of a game. When you progress through the storyline, you’re having fun, learning something about the world and seeing new things. Once you get to the point when you’re grinding to get through extra content, the game stops being fun and starts to become about repetitive mundane tasks that ultimately mean nothing. I already have a job, and I don’t need a source of enjoyment to feel like another one.
Let’s take a look at the Profession and Reputation Systems that many MMOs employ nowadays. Typically you choose a set of gathering and production jobs, go out into the world, either gather or barter for the materials you need to create items from your list and then you produce a final product that either you or someone else can use. You’re expected to do this over and over again until you reach the maximum level possible to make that one special item at the top of your list that will most likely be replaced once your next raid drops an item that would go in the same equipment slot. Now, especially considering my last post about RP in games, I know that professions are there to add another real world feel to the game. But honestly, if I wanted to have another job, I’d go out into the real world and get another job! To me, professions are a waste of time and effort. You work your way up to being the best at what you do, even though everyone else in the game can do the same thing. Sure it can be used to make yourself some quick in-game currency, but when everyone else is doing the same thing then all you’re doing is for naught. Faction reputation is just as bad, and it’s actually one of the things that caused me to leave World of Warcraft several months ago. You quest through the storyline to become familiar with a certain group of NPCs. They don’t trust you, so you have to go out and do work for them, either killing their enemies or repeating a series of quests they give you which you’re expected to do every day. And once you’ve done enough, THEN they’ll be your friend and sell you that one item you were really looking forward to having (which again will most likely be replaced soon). Hell, even the Beta preview of Star Wars: The Old Republic advises players not to spend money on faction items because of how easily they’ll be replaced. So again, what’s the real point? Bragging rights? Could it be the acquisition of Achievements, perhaps? Well, let me touch on that topic too then.
Achievements aren’t exclusive to MMOs. In fact, they originated with console games. Honestly, to me, these things are pointless. First of all, some games have achievements that you can get very easily while others you could spend whole months trying to do and never get them. The EA Sports games are an example of the easier side. I remember playing Fight Night, and by the time I was done with story mode I had every possible achievement. Then you have games like Assassin’s Creed, which is an amazing game, but has achievements that would be almost impossible to accomplish on your own, like the “collect all of the [insert item here]” ones. Some games even have achievements that require you to take a certain action at a certain point in the story. If you miss it, you have to play through all over again. Fable II is a great example of this: When you got to the end of the game, after having defeated the final boss and claiming the spire of power, you have to choose one of three possible futures for the world. Each choice gave you a unique achievement. Once you made the choice, the world continued on with the effect of your decision in place. Afterwards, you could either keep exploring or start a new game. Well, what about the other two achievements? Well, someone discovered a glitch that occurred when you powered off your console right after making your selection. You got the achievement, but now you could replay the last scene and select the other two to get all three achievements. If it hadn’t been for this little discovery, you were expected to play through the entire game TWO MORE TIMES to get the others. And I know some achievements give you special items, like the pets and mounts in WoW. That’s nothing more than bait; a shinier carrot to be dangled in your face.
At the end of the day, you’ve accomplished nothing. You’ve wasted time that you could have spent raiding, leveling another character to see more of the game, playing a new game all together, or even (god forbid) going outside into the sunlight and talking to someone face to face. Your crafted items are useless and your achievement score only serves to say to people “I have no life outside of this game” more and more as the number increases. It’s like walking up an MC Escher staircase: you’re constantly working your way upwards, yet you’re never getting anywhere (Thank you, Boose, for that clever comparison). Games are meant to be fun and enjoyable. You spend good money to purchase a game and enjoy it. So why would you want to waste your time by doing things that could basically be considered to be a virtual job that pays no money. You could be making real money with a real job. In the end, it’s all about personal enjoyment and what floats your individual boat. For me, at least, that ship sailed long ago, and I’m perfectly happy on the Island of Misfit Gamers.
PS: Think I’m wrong? Well, I’m not alone. Rooster Teeth, the makers of the Red vs. Blue series, made a video public service announcement that touches on the pointlessness of achievements. Check it out (http://youtu.be/mdZC5LJswFE) and see for yourself what their opinion is on the matter.