Sunday, May 13, 2007

Have Achievement Points™ Ruined Gaming?

In my post about the Shivering Isles, I wondered whether Achievements have ruined gaming. (Or maybe ruined me as a gamer.) Dead Rising, which has received acclaim for its creative use of Achievements, seems like exactly the sort of game that is either making our lives as gamers more wonderful... or more revolting. If anyone has any advice for how I might cure my illness...

Just to re-cap.

From my ruminations on Shivering Isles: "And that's why Achievements are a beautiful thing. (Or are they?) I visit all the changing rooms at the Willamette Mall... because it's an achievement. I comb the Pacific City skyline for orbs... because it's an achievement. GoW II rested in its original wrapping for weeks and even Puzzle Quest is hardly enough to lure me away from my 360. My PS3 is gathering dust (mostly) and my Wii is left by the wayside. All because of those lovely, addictive, damned points. Seriously... why would I ever play Cloning Clyde instead of Twilight Princess!?!"

The sad reality.

There is an achievement in Dead Rising that requires you to kill 53,594 zombies in a single play-through. (That's the exact population of Willamette, according to the opening cinema.) After browsing the message boards, my boyfriend discovered that the best way to earn this achievement is to take a car into the maintenance tunnels, do a quick loop to mow down any zombies in your path, then rinse and repeat. About 150 times.

To me, this represents the ultimate in gaming insanity. Yesterday, I watched him drive this monotonous route for nearly 3 hours of straight, tedious gameplay. All for an Achievement. He is currently spending another 7 hours playing through the game a third time (and wrestling with some pretty frustrating AI) so that he can escort 50 survivors successfully (and answer all the transceiver calls). And when he's finished this, I have no doubt that he will play through a fourth time to get any achievements he might be missing. This is insane! This I do not condone! This is exactly... what I want to do now! I'm not proud of this weakness. Why should we keep playing a game when it becomes painful? Aren't there a hundred beautifully designed games begging for our attention? Is any frackin' game worth 200 Achievement Points?

But whether or not they foresaw the Achievement craze, Microsoft must be feeling pretty smart about now. I am buying and playing games for this system because of Achievements. Of course there are exceptions. (Any true gamer buys a game like Rainbow Six: Vegas on 360 because of online play.) But why preorder GTA IV or Assassin's Creed for 360 when they will be co-released—and potentially more graphically stunning—on PS3? Because that's exactly what I did.

I have absolutely no defensible point to argue here.


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