This post has not been edited by the GamesBeat staff. Opinions by GamesBeat community writers do not necessarily reflect those of the staff.

Editor's note: William wonders if Achievements and Trophies are actually hurting the games industry by encouraging lazy development practices. Do you agree? -Brett

Penny Arcade Strip

Progression is a normal part of technology, and as gamers we are readily able to see progression in not only how the games we play look, but also in how we play them. Like the evolutionary path of a humble creature without legs crawling onto land and eventually evolving into man, so has gaming evolved from the early days of one joystick and a black and white game of Pong to the immersive 3D experiences that we enjoy today.

But the biggest progression in gaming, in my opinion, has not been the technology but in the compulsive way we play. We are long away from the days when the high score called our names. Instead, we serve a new master: the Achievement.

Are we being tricked into inferior experiences for the same (or higher) monetary price?

Maybe. Let us take a look.


No doubt, the point of gaming is either to win or to achieve. Whether we're saving the princess (even if she is in another castle), defeating an ultimate evil, or obtaining a particular score in order to progress, we have a goal to reach.

In early times, these goals were much simpler. Often, just getting your initials on the high score list in games like NBA Jam was enough to keep you going. I certainly remember many afternoons spent with NBA Jam Tournament Edition, taking the time to beat each team in the single player mode just so I could plaster WBH on that endgame screen.


Why? The other initials taunted me. I had to best them. So I did. That was enough. I was content.

As games became complex, the reasons that compelled us to play also had to adjust. No longer were high scores enough to sate the palette of gamers. The idea of the high score shifted to become more like a progress meter, something like, "You must be this tall to play the next level."

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater used this method effectively. I remember many an evening spent sitting around, attempting to get a particular score just to get an imaginary medal or to unlock a new character.

With the introduction of online play to the console experience, the way we played our games once again changed. We found ourselves able to compare our feats on a global scale. We didn't have to resort to sending in photos of our high scores to gaming magazines, as if to say "Ah hah!" to our competitors. Now we could not only say "Ah hah!" but also beat them in a game firsthand thanks to online multiplayer.

That worked great for lording our skills over individual players here and there, but how could we easily compare ourselves to the rest of the world? And so Microsoft created the Achievement system and the Gamerscore.

Left the House Achievement

Achievements have introduced a new era of replayability into games. New goals can now be reached far beyond the simple completion of a game.

But there's a dark side to Achievements. Are we being hoodwinked into thinking we have more, when we really have less?

For those of you with a college education, think back to your psychology classes and the works of B. F. Skinner. Aren't Achievements really just operant conditioning at work? Perform a task, get a reward, no matter how menial the task. Are we so easily manipulated?

Those that work in the gaming industry cannot deny that part of their job is giving players a reason to keep playing their games. And if Achievements help to achieve that goal, I can understand why developers are eager to use them.

But I also wonder if Achievements are degrading the overall quality of games. If a lazy developer knows that all he has to do is throw in some achievements in lieu of real content, what's to stop him?

If this is the case, we gamers don’t seem to mind. Take World of Warcraft, for example. Since the introduction of an achievement system into the game, some players spend the majority of their time simply completing tasks related to achievement points. Blizzard has merely taken old content and recycled it in a way that incentivizes players to go through it again.

Even I have become weak to this trendy beast. I've become near-obsessed with collecting Trophies and Achievements in my games. Here is an example of a conversation between my girlfriend and I recently (our EXACT words, mind you):

Will: “I want to borrow one of your games. What do you suggest?

Rachel: “Well, darling, my love, my dearest, he who rocks my world, what about Assassin’s Creed? It has a few problems, but the game was fun, and the sequel is even better so at least you’ll have the back story.”

Will: “….Does it have Trophies?”

Rachel: “………..Really?”

Will: “If it doesn’t, I don’t want to play it.”

Rachel: “…..You’re ridiculous.”

Yes, even my own gaming habits have became focused on showing off how big my E-Peen is. Cheap convention? Maybe. But, I don’t mind.

Is there a trophy for not minding?



Currently Playing: Assassin’s Creed, Grand Theft Auto IV

Currently Listening To: Brand New – Your Favorite Weapon

William Harrison needs YOUR support! Well…maybe not you. Yeah, you in front with the gimpy leg and hair extensions. He doesn’t really want your help.