Not Serious: Achievement overload

When Portal 2 came out last year I had to make a tough decision: videogame or rent. Seeing as, if I failed to pay rent, I would have nowhere to play said videogame, there was only one sane decision. It was only when Steam reduced the price of Portal 2 to less then a tenner that I finally got a chance to play this game.

Detractors can get stuffed — it is at least as enjoyable as the first iteration. It may be slightly less challenging, but instead I like to think that I have simply become cleverer in the 12 months since I finished the original.

About the only thing I can point to, as a major fault with the game, is the achievement system.

The first achievement I received in the game was the “Wake Up Call” award, which, apparently, I got for simply turning the game on — this was not a good sign.

Following my first “achievement” I was peppered with similarly unavoidable awards, which seemed to be designed to cheer me on for not giving up and simply deleting the whole affair from my hard drive.

Did it ruin the game for me? Certainly not, but I found the constant pings followed by meaningless accolades to be somewhat ridiculous.

I believe (although I’m not certain) that the first time I ran into one of these achievements was while playing Counter Strike — another Valve title. Then it was somewhat restrained, only recognizing players for genuine accomplishments like a headshot or a particularly long kill streak.

I was perfectly happy to allow these rewards to slip by, and barely noticed that they became a ubiquitous accompaniment to videogames. It wasn’t until I got an Xbox 360 a few years ago — again, very late, due to budgetary constraints — that I realized how widespread this whole achievement malarkey had become.

I couldn’t load a game without being rewarded, like a puppy that gets a treat for not peeing all over the floor. Eventually achievements became background noise and were all but ignored.

When I played Portal 2 I realized, much to my dismay, that this system had invaded the PC gaming world.

In my mind, the PC world had been where the adults played; a place for those who don’t need to be coddled. Not anymore.

I’ve been forced to resign to the fact that achievements are a part of modern gaming, and I wonder if it is not a reflection on society as a whole.

We live in a world where we are not allowed to criticize. Not allowed to fail; everyone must win. Videogames were the only place left where actions had consequences and we could lose. But this is no longer the case.

Limited lives was replaced with declining heath, which itself has been replaced by a system where health regenerates automatically — leading to games that you cannot help but beat.

Videogame designers have decided that we need to be coddled and encouraged, even for the most mundane actions, and should be given a fool’s chance of winning.

I long for the days when videogames were hard and the only achievement worth a damn was getting to the end.