Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Gaming Gamification


The Xbox 360's achievement point system and the PS3's trophy system are small parts of the big picture that will define this generation of gaming: social interaction. Not only did individual achievements act as simple ways to increase the longevity of our expensive games, but the accumulation of these achievements resulted in a total 'gamer score' which acted as a measurement of our worth as a 'gamer'. Games without leaderboards suddenly had them in the form of increasingly difficult challenges rewarded with arbitrary points, and while arbitrary they most certainly are, the feeling of accomplishment when receiving that platinum trophy and the bragging rights that follow may just be worth it.

So should gamers really be upset about the recent news of the WiiU having no universal game point system?

I read this very news via Nintendo Life yesterday morning, which put a smile on my face. "Good for them." I thought to myself, remembering the sacred virginity of the original Wii; a clean, pure experience free from the ridiculous idea of games needing further gamification. This isn't just a knee-jerk reaction either as I have weighed up the positive and negative aspects of Microsoft's achievement system in the past. I don't have a PS3, although I'm aware that of it's similar trophy system, but of course it has had no direct affect on my gaming.

When it comes to achievement points though, I'm a developer's puppet-on-a-string. The idea of missing out on something that could have a positive impact on my gaming experience drives me into a achievement grabbing frenzy. A prime example of this is the romance aspect of Mass Effect 2 in which I forced my Commander Shepard to engage in sexual intercourse with a woman he and I both despised for the sake of one Xbox 360 achievement. You can read more of this romantic entanglement in my Venture Beat article.

There are pluses. Bragging rights are bragging rights and, when speaking to the right people, I'm the first to boast about a tremendous gaming feat I have achieved and can be safe in the knowledge that I can prove it. My brothers in particular can get exceptionally competitive with regards to besting one another, and it's a special kind of achievement to get a coveted Xbox 360 achievement before your siblings.

It's also rewarding to be acknowledged for completing a difficult challenge. I have plenty of retro games that I have triumphantly beaten after hours upon hours of trying, but with no one around to congratulate me.

The longevity of my gaming experience is also genuinely increased by having me push myself to reach goals I would have otherwise not been interested in beating. However, I cannot be sure if my unwillingness to achieve in non-Xbox 360 games came before or after I started playing the Xbox 360, as I was certainly a completionist in my younger days. I still don't have that last fourth bottle on Ocarina of Time though.

At the end of the day, I'm still glad that Nintendo have chosen not to play copy-cat and create their own achievement system. The Wii was a trend setter no matter which way you look at it and anyone that has ever managed to squeeze some fun out of the Kinect or the PS Move essentially have Nintendo to thank for it. To me, the lack of achievements speaks quite a lot about Nintendo's approach to games which is still, and has always been, to offer games of the utmost quality that are devoid of gimmicks and stand strong on their own merit.

I suppose it's just a shame that I'm too skint to even consider buying a WiiU.


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