One of my favorite additions to games over the past decade has been the introduction of achievements. I know this is a point of some contention, and there are camps of varying stridency on the topic, but I find myself fixed firmly in the camp of people who get a little rush whenever one of those little notifications pops up.
I wouldn’t have necessarily thought this is where I’d end up on the matter. When achievements were introduced into mainstream gaming on the Xbox 360, I was as skeptical as anyone on why anyone would care. But since then I’ve come around on the issue, and I find myself actively missing achievements when they aren’t there. Particularly if it’s a game I play with any kind of consistency, having the occasional pop-up letting me know I’ve crossed some arguably arbitrary threshold is just another form of motivation.
I noticed this recently with Diablo 3’s introduction of seasons, which specifically measures who among your friends, who among your clan and even who among your entire server is amassing the most achievements over the season. As a result I’ve found myself scanning the bloated tome of possible achievements looking for any low-hanging fruit I can pick, and from which I can suck dry the sweet nectar of validation.
It occurred to me recently, though, that the achievement is nothing more than a slightly recast version of one of the oldest standards of video games: It’s just a new version of “score.”