Is the absence of a unified achievement system on the Wii U truly a detriment?
No one can deny that achievement systems have taken storm in today’s modern gaming landscape. Hundreds of articles of sprung up over the internet educating gamers of all sorts on which games to rent, decimate in a short amount of time, and reap the benefits of receiving a substantial boost to their gamer score or trophy collection with little to no effort. What is it about hearing that congratulatory chime that drives so many gamers almost to the brink of insanity, all just to bolster the scores and trophies of their virtual profiles? Is it their inner completionist? Their inner addict? Or are these records of virtual feats accomplished used simply to boast about ones superior “skills” over others? This is a phenomenon that I have been intrigued with for quite some time, and I would love to initiate a greater discussion on this topic.
The first recognized account-based achievement system came with the Xbox360 gamerscore, implemented in 2005. Although many consider that a number of games prior to 2005 included their own form of “in-game” achievements, Microsoft remains credited for popularizing this gaming innovation. The achievement phenomenon has then since exploded, spreading across all major players in the gaming industry (Sony, Steam, and even Apple) – that is, all minus one notable exception: Nintendo.
Nintendo’s decision not to embrace a unified achievement system for their newest hardware iterations has not gone unnoticed, and in itself has been able to stir up quite heated attention. Some, for instance, have taken the Wii U’s lack of a unified achievement system as fuel for the troll-driven argument that Nintendo’s demise is nigh. Typically these forum-goers and commentators are those ranting about how Nintendo has lost its touch, catering only to 7 year olds and grandmothers, and plain just doesn’t understand modern gaming enthusiasts. On the other hand, groups of perhaps less emotional achievement fans have resorted to making Nintendo aware of their displeasure via petitions and facebook groups (because we all know how well change.org petitions tend to fare!), all in the hope that Nintendo will rectify this grave “mistake.”
“Mistake.” That is a word often used in discussing the big N’s handling of achievements, but is the lack of a universal achievement system on the Wii U truly a mistake? Has anyone else taken a moment to think about these matters, and actually consider that Nintendo actually may have made an informed, creative decision meant to benefit the gaming experience? I would definitely argue so.
I have spent my fair share of time pondering what is now the common gaming convention of achievements, and I still cannot grasp why an account-based achievement system should be seen as a necessity. I certainly understand that many gamers enjoy achievements because they feel that they can add a level of replayability, or even personal humor, to some games. However, rather than adding artificial “carrot-on-a-stick” goals with no substantial benefits, why can’t us gamers simply look for more replayability and enjoyment by demanding higher quality games?
Honestly, just as Nintendo had mentioned that their “anti-used games” stance was to simply make better games that people won’t want to trade in, isn’t it more fun to replay a game because it is a good game rather than just to announce to others that you have “fully” completed it? How can anyone argue that shooting 100 helmets off of your enemies while playing through a campaign indicates a higher level of game completion (see the trophy “Safety First”)? Moreover, I findthat the addition of achievements can even be detrimental to the gaming experience. My best personal example would be the Uncharted series on the PS3, as these titles are filled with achievements related to earning a total number of kills for each particular weapon. These trophies often made me feel compelled to use a different, even less satisfying weapon over others just so there was progress made towards a new trophy. To me, it was much more enjoyable to simply ignore these “goal markers” and use the weapon that I wanted to use, and even if these achievements can be ignored as such, their existence still floats in the back of your mind and can make you feel like you are playing the game incorrectly (if that is even possible).
Now, I am aware that Nintendo has dabbled with achievements, as some of you are surely thinking. For instance, a number of first and third-party Nintendo games have included in-game achievement systems, such as Metroid Prime Collection, MH3U, and Xenoblade Chronicles. While it can be argued that this puts holes in my argument, I rebuke by suggesting that it is more-so the unified, account based nature of true achievement systems which is the main issue. Over all else, the “carrot-on-a-stick” design of achievements, and their ability to cause a feeling of playing “incorrectly” derives from their public aspects. That is to say, achievement systems are inherently designed to show off to other gamers, or to be used as some sort of gaming pedigree to prove to others that you have not only played a game, but that you have “mastered” it. My point is further supported by the fact that achievement gains can even be linked to your Facebook account to extoll your gaming highlights to the world. To me, this is the point of absurdity. Let’s be honest here, do uncle bob or granny need to know you were able to defecate on 20 killed opponents in one match of call of duty, or even beat bowser with 0 deaths?
I understand achievements can add a level of interest to already good games, but this is where achievements become an object of boosting one’s ego. In that regard, I think Nintendo has done a wonderful job in rejecting the convention of a unified achievement system, opting instead to give both the developers the choice of incorporating achievements and also allowing gamers to have a greater choice whether or not these may be goals that they may wish to pursue (by eliminating the social, peer pressure aspect). Finally, for those who truly feel a need to share their exploits with others, Nintendo has given us gamers the Miiverse, which I feel is a much more successful option than Facebook integration. In fact, I feel as if the Miiverse is one of Nintendo’s greatest innovations of late – a social network specifically for gamers, driven by gamers and game developers. It is here, in the Miiverse, where we are can enjoy gaming with other fans, and share our successes and failures with others who would actually find them relevant should we have the desire to do so.
So how do you feel? Do you think that achievements provide more benefit than harm? Do you prefer Nintendo’s current stance on achievements, or would you like Nintendo to one day further embrace achievements by adding in an account- based system? Share your thoughts with us below!
Credit for the featured image goes to my soon-to-be-wife Kris.