Confessions of an Achievomaniac (Part One)
My name is Strident and I’m a badgeaholic. An achieveomaniac. A trophy junkie. Whatever you want to call me, I am obsessed with reward systems in games.
I wasn’t always the same. In the old days, in the time before achievements and trophies, I could quite happily play games just for sheer pleasure alone. Now I’m older, my time seems more precious and those on-screen notifications of each new accomplishment allow me to kid myself that I’m doing something productive when I’m gaming; even though those points and trophies have no real-life value. So why do gamers get so obsessed with accumulating virtual rewards? Systems, like Microsoft’s Achievements, speak to the inner collector in many of us, prodding our hunter-gatherer instincts into life.
As a child you spend your time being constantly rewarded, or at least being asked to seek rewards from society. Good behaviour earns stickers and treats. Outstanding or landmark performances bring certificates and awards. Whole organisations, like the Scouts, are based around completing specific targets in order to work towards badges. After just a few years of life you quickly amass a collection of paper, cloth and cardboard that forms a physical representation of your accomplishments.
It’s not long before most children find themselves looking around for other things to collect. Whether it’s pens, thimbles, beany bears, paper weights, soaps, rubbers (erasers to our US friends!), stamps or coins. It’s not just hobby of the young, though, even in adulthood people still obsessively collect. As a species we seem to have some strong innate impulse to gather together objects, although different types of collector are motivated by different things.
To some, the quantity rather than the quality of items is important; they just want to have as big a collection as possible. Others are completists and obsessively try to collect everything, a feat that’s pretty much impossible in areas like stamps and coins. Some people are solely attracted by rare items and prefer to build collections of unique or hard to find objects.
To community collectors the draw of a group of likeminded individuals is often more valuable than the actual act of collecting itself. Then there are the investors, those that collect for future financial or personal gain, and the curators, those seeking to produce a record for future generations.
Just as there are a whole range of different motivations for collecting real-world items there are also a similar selection of reasons why people enjoy obtaining trophies and achievements. You can see the behaviour of collectors mirrored in the gaming community even though the reward badges being collected only exist virtually.
The quantity collectors are represented by those who are always striving towards a bigger Gamerscore. They determine their position in the pecking order of their community by the sheer number of points or trophies that they have obtained.
The completist collectors of the gaming world are those that try to finish one hundred per cent of every single game they own. The unique collectors, who get their buzz from collecting rare items, are the ones that particularly enjoy chasing the really difficult or time-consuming achievements.
Driven by their desire to help others, the community collectors are the ones running and contributing to the gaming help sites. Writing a decent guide, to help others collect achievements, is just as important to them as collecting those rewards themselves.
The curators, in gaming reward system terms, are those who collect achievements in order to document their play. To them, their trophy list is like a diary. It helps them record the fact that they beat a certain boss or aced a specific challenge.
There has been talk about how reward systems, such as those implemented by Microsoft and Sony, are bad for gaming but it’s important to realise they can add a lot of value and an extra level of interest to the hobby for some people. There are lots of different reasons why achievements and trophies can be important to those that enjoy collecting them, it’s not always just about trying to obtain a bigger Gamerscore than everyone else.