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Achievement Points, What's the Point?

posted Sep 4, 2012, 9:34 PM by Darryl Giors   [ updated Sep 4, 2012, 9:35 PM ]
February 9, 2008

Anybody who owns an Xbox 360 is probably familiar with the system's achievement points. Most commercial games for the system have up to 1000 points you can earn which get added to your Xbox Live user's gamerscore.


What's most impressive about the system is the frenzy it has caused online with numerous websites and game FAQs explaining how to milk every achievement point from Xbox 360 games. Although the points don't have any redeemable value, it's interesting that I have caught myself playing my 360 games differently so that I can unlock the many achievements available.

Achievement points remind me of days long ago where people would challenge each other at Arcade games, trying to outscore one another. AP takes this concept online where you can earn bragging rights by comparing your score to others you encounter. It's actually a great motivator to do well in the games you own because there is a "measuring stick" for your progress that others can review.

Even though I like the AP system, it does seem biased in a few ways.
  1. People who buy more games can obviously earn more AP. Usually over half of the points can be earned in a single playthrough. Each subsequent playthrough has diminishing returns. A person who owns 20 games and earns half of the points in each will likely not have to work nearly as hard as a person who owns 10 games and earns perfect scores in each.
  2. Play time is often the determining factor in earning achievements. A casual gamer, no matter how skilled will miss many AP such as defeating X number of enemies in single player or online. They will likely miss other achievements that require finding every hidden item of a particular type in a huge game world.
  3. Repetitive play is rewarded. In days passed people would measure their progress by how much of a game they have completed. Finishing a game once was typically considered completing the game. Now many achievements require you to finish the game multiple times on different difficulties or using different characters on each playthrough etc. There seems to be a trend that games are getting shorter with the expectation that you will replay the same content over and over again.

Even though I find AP to favor the full-time gamers of the world, I have to admit that they are fun to earn and give you a target to aim for. Who said you need to earn all of the AP for a game? Perhaps some achievements are there simply as a reward for going the extra mile. If you continue playing a game for months online isn't it nice to receive some recognition for doing so?


My conclusion is that achievement points do enhance the gaming experience, but they get in the way of having fun in a game when they become the sole focus. There have been a few games that I am very fond of that I made a point of earning all of the AP. Did I change my play style to do so? Indeed. Did I still have fun? Of course. If you truly enjoy a game you may keep playing it even though there is nothing new to see or do. At least with achievement points there is some sort of goal that lasts well beyond the completion of the game. Would I play a game I dislike just to get the AP? No. Period. I suppose that's the point. If you enjoy doing action Y for X number of times then why not go for the AP? If you are feeling put out or that getting there is a grind you may want to reconsider why you are playing and do something that is actually fun.
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