Big Picture Mode
What did Xbox Achievements Achievemen s ever do for Nathan Brown?
So long, Xbox 360. Microsoft’s decision to cease production, just shy of ten-and-a-half years since the console’s launch, may mean it is now officially dead, but to most it died a long time ago, consigned to the attic or back bedroom to be replaced by new hardware. Indeed, it died an awful lot while it was still alive, thanks to the red ring of death and other assorted potential points of hardware failure. Even those that survived gave the impression they were going to keel over any second. I once brought my 2006-era Premium console into the openplan floor Edge shares with Future’s other gaming titles; someone from another mag based right across the office walked past my desk and said, “Oh, that’s what that noise is”.
Still, 360’s legacy goes far beyond the almost-funny anecdote every owner has about the time theirs went, or nearly went, tits-up. Much of the console’s transformative impact on both games and the tech world in general was quickly covered to death and back by the online press after Microsoft announced it was ceasing production, so I’ll refrain from going over old ground. Instead, let me just say that I hate Achievements and wish they had never happened. When they invent time travel and the death squad is assembled, I’ll be the one suggesting we leave the obvious candidates alone and instead go get the jeans-and-blazer-wearing Redmond tosspot that came up with Achievements. We can go back for Hitler, Trump and the guy that invented Auto-Tune later on.
I do, in fairness, quite like the idea. When used well, Achievements can show you a different way to play the game, as with Geometry Wars’ Pacifism challenge, or Red
Dead Redemption’s Hit The Trail. But 99 per cent of the time Achievements fall into one of two categories: an arbitrary measure of basic progress through the game, or an insistence that you endlessly grind away at a single activity, commonly in a game’s multiplayer component, for dozens of hours until you reach an arbitrary target.
Both of those, to me, are pointless, but clearly some players love them. A friend took such pleasure in the hunt to get Super Street
Fighter IV’s entire roster to rank C that he decided he’d get them all to B rank. That meant achieving around 100 wins with every character, a process that took three years and eight months. He even came up with a name for it. The Achievement that set him off was called C To Shining C; he dubbed its homebrew sequel Covered In Bs. Lovely stuff.
In that context, lengthy, multiplayer-focused Achievements can work wonderfully well. My friend was going to play the game for 2,000 hours anyway, so he might as well have something to work towards.
The current state of Street Fighter V, however, is the opposite. SFV has a problem with rage-quitters, and people have been rightly quick to criticise Capcom for not launching the game with a measure to punish players who hightail it as the killing blow connects with their stupid, cowardly shins. Yet the publisher has encouraged rage-quits through design – one Trophy requires that you win three matches in a row; another that you reach the Silver division; and another that you secure promotion to Gold. That means amassing 4,000 League Points, and the maximum reward for a win is 65LP. But in SFV, unlike its predecessor, you’re docked points when you lose: up to 100, depending on your opponent’s rank. So the Trophy hunters take wins and quit out of losses, losing even more as they rise up the ranks and come up against progressively more skilful players they haven’t earnt the right to face as they continue their pointless march towards a prize they don’t deserve.
Stuff that, obviously. While the concept of gamification predates the Achievement – painstaking research (Wikipedia) tells me the term was first coined in 2002, three years before 360 launched – Microsoft’s console was an early pioneer. The volume of Strava and Fitbit posts on my Facebook feed suggests that gamification has had a positive influence on people’s lives. But on games? They’re a pat on the back for reaching a checkpoint we didn’t know was there. A gold star for beating a boss we had to beat anyway. Or, at their worst, a weeks-long grind for some pointless ruffle of the hair that involves spoiling things for everyone else. Don’t get me wrong: I’m right there with the rest of you, raising a glass in memory of a beloved console. But there’s a small part of me that also fancies pissing on its corpse. There’s a Trophy for that, I think.
I’ll refrain from going over old ground. Let me just say that I hate Achievements and wish they had never happened