Achievement whoring, as I define it, is the act of expending great effort in a video game towards an arbitrary goal with no promise of significant game play or story rewards. This is a working definition that may need more elaboration, but it’s the best I have at this time.

Achievement whores are everywhere. This affliction has struck deep into the gaming community. Some are brazen, openly whoring around with Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Simpsons Game. Others are more tentative, experimenting with the Achievements in good games like Mass Effect, Plants vs. Zombies and The Orange Box. Achievement whoring is increasingly common, and it spreads every day. Some whisper that even our illustrious co-founder of Bitmob, Dan Hsu, has tasted the dark fruits of whoredom. If such a paragon of gaming, a man of unparalleled virtue and wisdom, a man whose beauty blots out the stars themselves, has fallen, what hope can we mere mortals have. I must admit, I have suffered, and am suffering still, under a mild form of this blight on the gaming community. In an attempt to free myself, and in so doing rescue us all, I have begun an investigation into the strange compulsions that cause otherwise sane gamers to begin Achievement whoring. My preliminary findings have revealed three distinct types of Achievement whore.

 

1. The Collector

This whore is driven by the same compulsions that motivate collectors of all kinds. Just as a stamp collector will want to have every stamp depicting an eagle, but feel completely unmoved by Buffalo stamps, the Collector will focus on the games he owns. The Collector would never buy a game for Achievements. But he might spend 10 grueling hours trying to find that last pigeon in GTA.

The Collector doesn’t just want to beat games, he wants to conquer them utterly. Collectors feel that if a game is not beaten in every way imaginable it is not truly beaten. To the collector that 73% completed in the corner of his save game screen is a sign of failure.

This is a moderate form of Achievement whoring. It can drive the whore to play to the point of boredom and frustration. Time that would have been spent having fun with a different game or other entertainment activities is being devoted to something that is no longer fun. On the other hand, Collectors are not spending any more money than regular gamers, and may even be spending less. Also, they are at least playing games that they enjoyed at some point, and on some level enjoy still. Finally, you can’t discount the powerful feeling of satisfaction they get knowing that they have seen every last empty, lifeless, boring inch of their games.

 

2. The Competitor

This is the most pitiful kind of Achievement whore. The Competitor no longer cares about the games he plays. He cares only for the meta-game. He wants to maximize his gamer score to beat his friends, or even worse, to beat strangers. His competitive instincts have driven him mad. He will sink to any low to satisfy his dark urges.

This is the Achievement whore that will buy games just because they promise easy Achievement points. It’s impossible to maximize your time/money/points matrix if you limit yourself to good games. So this whore will spend good time, and good money, on games that he hates.

These tortured souls are experiencing the worst kind of Achievement whoring. Their game time has become a source of suffering but their compulsions force them to continue on. I know of no cure, so I must regrettably recommend that these whores be shot on site. You’ll be doing them a favor, their every leisure moment is torture. Just make sure you aim for the brain and avoid blood to blood contact.

 

3. The Goal Seeker

The Goal Seeker is looking for a way to extend his gaming experience. He likes his game, a lot. He likes it so much that he wishes it was longer. He could start it over again, or, depending on the game, he could just run around and do random stuff. But it’s nice to have some kind of mission that focuses his activities. So the Goal seeker will look at the Achievements and see if they’ll give him something fun to do.

For the Goal Seeker Achievements are just another kind of side-quest. They’re an excuse to keep playing a fun game for a little while longer. Just like with side-quests, if a particular Achievement seems too hard, or too boring, it can just be skipped. I count myself in this category. I look at Achievements, and sometimes try very hard to do them, but I don’t feel bad if I skip some of the more insane ones.

This kind of Achievement whoring might sound harmless, even fun. It is indeed the most mild form, with few inherent negatives. But it acts as a gateway drug to the other two forms. Sometimes in pursuing a particular Achievement the Goal Seeker can try a little too hard. Sometimes the desire to complete Achievements can grow, mutating the Goal Seeker into a Collector. Or a Goal Seeker could start paying attention to his gamer score, observing how high it is, thinking about how easy it could be to make it higher. These thoughts could lead him down the disastrous path of the Competitor. The only way to be safe is to ignore Achievements completely. So long as Goal Seekers expose themselves to Achievements they are in danger of being seduced by the Dark Side.

 

I will continue my research into Achievement whoring alone, if I must. But I’m afraid that I am inadequate to the task before me. I beg you, gentle readers, share any insights you might have about Achievement whoring. Perhaps there is some rare type that I have not found. Perhaps some of you have been afflicted and yet miraculously recovered. Help me, in any way you can, and maybe, together, we can find a cure.