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Are video game achievements good?

An Ubisoft Massive dev has reignited the age-old debate by saying they're "bad for gaming"

Achievements are now part and parcel of the video gaming landscape, but that doesn't mean we have to like them. Indeed, the debate over whether the little reward messages add anything to games or not has been reignited today on Twitter by developers, with Ubisoft Massive's lead gameplay designer Fredrik Thylander saying they've been actively "bad for gaming". So we thought we'd put the question to you, readers. Do you agree and think achievements have been a blight on the industry, or do you think they're actually good way of getting more out of a game? Come and tell us in the comments.

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“Unpopular opinion: achievements/trophies have been bad for gaming,” Thylander said in his original tweet. “It narrows games down, it disrupts and diverts attention, and it eats resources that could have made the game better.”

Naturally, his stance has garnered a lot of discussion. Elsewhere in the thread, the designer explained that his views on achievements are personal, and that he co-designed the achievements for Mirror's Edge back in the day. Now, though, he feels “the one-size-fits-all mandate from platform holders to make reward systems that benefit the platform makes games worse”. Responses to Thylander’s original tweet were a mixed bag, with some commenters saying achievements are rarely handled well, and others insisting they wouldn’t have got as far through games without them.

Ubisoft themselves left out Steam achievements when Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla arrived on Valve’s storefront at the end of last year, although they were still unlockable through Ubisoft Connect. Other devs have enabled achievements in some unusual situations, like adding them to the Bible on Steam.

Even when achievements in games were still a new idea, I must admit I was pretty ambivalent toward them. I often enjoy the little chemical rush generated by achievements, but I'm also aware that's precisely one of the reasons they’re often shoved into games in the first place. That makes me feel less keen on them - unless they’re genuinely giving me a pat on the back for doing unexpected things, or finding something unusual.

One of my favourite, or at least most notable, achievements from all of games is a secret one from BioShock called simply “Irony”. Spoilers if you’ve not played the game yet or come across it, but this achievement is triggered if you choose to kill dodgy artiste Sander Cohen and then take a photo of his corpse. Cohen is so warped that I thought he should get his just desserts. Then I had to seriously wonder about myself after the achievement popped.

But how do you feel about them, readers? Are you nay or yay for constant pursuit of the cheevo? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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About the Author
CJ Wheeler avatar

CJ Wheeler

Former News Reporter

CJ used to write about steam locomotives but now covers Steam instead. Likes visual novels, most things with dungeons and/or crawling, and any shooter with a suitably chunky shotgun. He’s from Yorkshire, which means he’s legally obliged to enjoy a cup of tea and a nice sit down.