Chasing Achievements

Much like the sticker board in elementary school that gives children incentive to read more, achievements within games seem to have a kind of strange power over gamers. In World of Warcraft, I have seen teams of people spend dozens of hours of planning, and fighting to defeat a boss that gets them nothing, except the respect and admiration of their peers. Oh yeah, and an achievement.

In video games, there are goals that, when completed, give the player an “Achievement.” More difficult accomplishments give more “Achievement Points.”

Having a tangible representation of our achievements in life is something that everyone craves. One of the writers for this site, Kevin Johnson, is a high school teacher. He recently started incorporating achievements into his classroom and has seen students enthusiastically respond to them. Like any game, some achievements are integral to the class “turn in all assignments on time,” and some are there purely for fun, “walk backwards to the computer lab without saying a word.” Ask yourself right now, how many high school students do you think would go for that second achievement? If you guessed two thirds of his class, you are right.

At some point, every gamer has fallen under the spell of obtaining achievements. Whether it is creating a band logo in Rockband, collecting all of the outfits in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, or smashing 5000 wooden blocks in Angry Birds, these tasks are purely for fun and unnecessary for finishing the game. But boy do they feel good. And isn’t that what gaming is all about?

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