Things we Hate About Gaming: Cheevos (and Penis Hats)
I always get asked the same question. Whenever I explain the Achievement system of the Xbox 360 to non gaming friends and/or hired goons. “So, what do you do with those points?” It takes a while to explain that the gamerscore is just there as a Penis Hat for people to stare at.
That’s my biggest gripe with the Xbox 360, apart from it breaking every 2-3 months. The achievement system is just a useless number behind your Gamertag, solely there to give bragging rights to the legions of screaming retards. And why call them achievements? Most of them are things everyone does while playing the game. 200 points for playing some shovelware crap on easy? Come on.
Achievements should be something you get for doing really hard or crazy shit. Like carrying a garden gnome through Half-Life 2 Episode 2. Or playing through Devil May Cry 4 on the Hell or Hell difficulty. Or taking the whole world hostage with your giant, satellite aimed, cold-fusion powered death ray. You know, something you ACHIEVE that isn’t handed to you like candy from your grandma.
It should certainly not be like in King Kong, or a lot of sports games where you can get the whole 1,000 points by just playing through the game once. (Okay, 4-5 hours may be more realistic with Madden.) Granted, you could argue that it’s an achievement just to survive playing King Kong. And I know, it depends on your skill what is an achievement. But that is no reason to make it piss easy. Oh hi there Prince of Persia.
Another problem with the whole achievement system is that the notifications take the suspense out of a game ending. Instead of waiting for the credits to roll you know instantly that that was the last boss. It also very easily kills the mood. Hey your best buddy just got his head blown off. You have to feel sad. On the other hand, YOU JUST GOT 30 CHEEVOS! AWESOME!!! Yeah, high five!
As an extreme example for easy achievements, here’s the list for NBA 2k6:
Get a Triple-Double (250 points): Get a triple-double.
Grab 20 Rebounds (250 points): Get 20 rebounds with the same player.
Make 15 3-Pointers in One Game (150 points): Make fifteen 3-pointers in the same game.
Score 140 Points (200 points): Score 140 total points with any team.
Score 50 Points (150 points): Score 50 points with a single player.
I’m not that into Basketball, or sports in general, but even I know that you can get all of these achievements easily in one match. Just set the AI to easy and 5 minutes later, BAM! 1,000 shiny new points. That removes any meaning of the achievement system. At least from my point of view.
If we look at it like Microsoft, however, it all makes perfect sense. Give the people a small feeling of success and a numerical value to compare each other. Next watch how the pressure of competition kicks in. And there we have it, Penis Hats. Can we change something about that? Not really. But at least we can ignore it. And maybe they will add an option so we can switch the achievement notifications off, while still displaying the friend messages.
I doubt it, but a man can dream.