Why I Love and Hate Achievements

Why I Love and Hate Achievements

As I predicted in an earlier post, the newly-fledged Achievement System turned out to be more than just a cosmetic change to World of Warcraft. In fact, I was far too conservative in my predictions. Instead of adding another layer of accountability to progression mechanisms already existing in the game, the Achievement System has in fact created its own unique avenue for progression–casual style. Achievements are so appealing because anyone can work on them, alone or in a group, and there’s a reward for every little thing you do. Even, famously, picking your teeth.

The Benefits

There’s a certain appeal to accomplishments that are tracked, defined, detailed, and instantly accessible. I find myself reading through the achievement tooltip when I’m in flight or waiting at an instance for a raid to start. I am by no means immune to the siren call of Achievements. In fact, I’ve been spending all the casual time I have in pursuit of non-combat pets. I have 49 of 50 to date, and I’m sorry to report that no matter how many times I log in when I’m supposed to be working, Syd somehow just cannot get a Sinister Squashling, either through the boss event or through trick or treating. My failure of an alt, Marfisa, has gotten two of them in treat bags so far. Never fear, dear reader, the cute little skunk pet will be mine–as soon as the Darkmoon Faire rolls into town and I buy an ugly old frog.

Moreover, I think the Achievement System is a brilliant move on Blizzard’s part. Many casual players are coming back to the game right now to refresh their knowledge of their characters ahead of the expansion, and the tracking system–and the cleverly written little tasks–breathe a little life into old content.

However, Achievements are not all sunshine and rainbows. Briolante–who’s smarter than me most of the time–tried to tell me a few weeks ago that Achievements were going to be a real drag. In fact, I think his comment had a lot of expletives in it, but his major fear was that Achievements would become the new badge gear–the measure of success that our guild members would pursue, doggedly, until they got every single possible thing. It turns out that he was right, and, like badge gear, many of those achievements require a tank’s help. Hence, the expletives.

Now, it’s not as if Briolante doesn’t like to help people out. In fact, he does, but in moderation, and for things that make sense. I’m starting to feel a little resentful of Achievements myself, even though I haven’t done a single thing I wouldn’t otherwise do in pursuit of them. What, then, is the source of my angst? Read on, dear reader. . .

The Drawbacks

1. I feel like I’m spying on my guildmates. If someone is crazy enough to go explore all the corners of Winterspring, even the really inaccessible one over by the cave full of crazed Moonkin, I don’t want to know about it. Without wanting to, those achievement reports influence how I think about each of my guildmates. It’s almost like opening a bathroom stall door while someone else is in there–very, very uncomfortable. I know I could turn the alerts off–but I can’t make myself. What if I’m missing important information that could be used for the good of the guild?

2. There’s a little voice in my head telling me I’m lazy. I have a ridiculously low number of achievement points for someone who has raided as much as I have. Perhaps it’s my competitive personality, but whatever the metric, my instinct is to catch up. However, it would be hard to do that without running all those heroics and Zul’Aman again, and to be quite honest, I’d rather not. That goes for most achievements–world exploration, holidays, and reputation grinding included. The non-combat pet is my only exception, as I’m all about achievement if the reward is cute enough. However, I’m not interested in the proto-drakes or other flying mount rewards. Syd never uses anything but flight form–nothing compares to the grace and freedom of actually being a bird.

3. The structured Achievements have altered my understanding of the game world. What I love most about the world of the MMO is its open, anarchic nature. I actually like remote locations like Winterspring–where I spent a lot of time grinding rep with the Wintersaber Trainers–because they feel wild and unused, just like the remote corners of the real world. If the game is telling me to go to a certain place to get points, it just doesn’t feel like a hideaway any more. For the most part, when I was grinding rep in Winterspring, I was the only player there. I love the sense of a hostile world with only me in it. I suppose, in general, that I would rather that my “casual time” be as unstructured and solitary as possible. However, that’s me. I’m a raider, and I have plenty of structured things to do in the bulk of my play time.

4. I haven’t felt it too strongly yet, as healers are a dime a dozen in my guild, but there’s a good chance that, as the game moves on, guild members will start to post events–dungeons and raids–for achievement purposes only, and that they’ll need a healer. I tend to run instances following a very practical model. If there’s something that someone needs–that I recognize as valuable–I’m happy to help someone do it. If there were a mount, a pet, or a piece of gear involved, I’m glad to come along. However, I feel the same way about Achievement Points as I came to feel about Badges of Justice–it’s a bit of a stretch to do something unpleasant just for points. Now, if I or my groupmates could buy pink bunnies with those achievement points, I’d understand. But without that, I’m just not going to feel motivated to revisit old content. I like new things, and once I move on from an instance, I really move on. There’s a very good reason my alts haven’t been through Karazhan. I follow the same rule for things like holiday events. If they are fun or profitable, I participate. If not? I let it go.

So what can I do? As a player, I am going to strive to use the Achievement system as a tracking-only mechanism. Where possible, and pet skunk aside, I am not going to let the tooltip tell me how to play. That way, when I pore over my achievements panel, it will really let me track Syd’s journey as a character.

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  1. I feel similiary to you in that Achievements should reflect the journey, and not be a journey in and of themselves. My problem is that there are a ton of achievements I SHOULD have for stuff I’ve ALREADY done that I basically have to go back and REDO just to get credit. That I find a little irksome.

    honorshammers last blog post..It Finally Clicked

  2. The Achievement system is a little like that car wreck you pass on the side of the road — you tell yourself not to stare, but you can’t help yourself and you gawk anyway. I have to wonder: how many people have killed themselves trying to get the ‘Going Down’ achievement? () This has been an excellenet move on Blizzard’s part, keeping people playing when they might otherwise be doing something else.

  3. Once people have actually stuff to do, achievements are going to fall to the wayside. It’s just popular to do right now because there’s really nothing better to do. Or at least that’s how people are feeling with an expansion on the horizon.

    Veneretios last blog post..The New Warning signs of a Bad level 80 Spec

  4. I am not into the whole achievement thing at all. I have been spending my time leveling another alt (a shammy this time). I am collecting pets on my main to get the skunk. I also started buying up mounts to get the Albino Drake, but then I realized I was going to have to grind rep and lost interest. Other than that….my alt clears every area she is in. I do Achievements only when I do not have to go out of my way to do so.

    As for the squashling….maybe it hates druids. I have gotten it on my mage, my Priest, and even my baby Shammy. Every character I have actually played since the event started….except my Druid. My druid just seems to get tricks! 🙁

  5. I like your philosophy. I haven’t been inspired to go achievement grinding myself (though I did do the Hallow’s End stuff since it’s a once in a year thing), but I do wish that it was somehow retro-active so that it was a better painting of the journey.

  6. YoursTruly says:

    I already put a few guild members on ignore because they were asking whether I would tank heroics for them 2-5 times an hour despite the fact I have not logged on my tank after the first three days 3.0.2 was released.

    I tanked one heroic, one Karazhan, one Zul’Aman, and one Black Temple run since the nerf and they were so trivial I decided to level a new toon who will level unspecced and wear only five piece of armor max. A shaman if anyone is curious.

    I hope WotLK will provide a challenge again because frankly, I can’t see myself playing WoW much longer if I have to create artificial challenges to keep my interest

  7. Hats off, I too feel the same way… mostly about the drawbacks.

    I’ve found that most activities that my guildies are doing right now has to do with gettign achievement points instead of pursuing content they haven’t seen, T6. Disappointing to say the least.

    Jays last blog post..Visceral Combat – Intro

  8. Yggdrasil says:

    I don’t feel too strongly either way on the achievements. I haven’t pursued any of them with even the slightest vigor. I’m much more concerned with getting my Warrior in a full set of lvl 68-70 tanking blues and purples, so I imagine I’ll come back to them later, if at all.

  9. I am an over achiever.

    I expect my mates will hate me as much as I do for all those Kara runs

  10. > Now, if I or my groupmates could buy pink bunnies with those achievement points

    Be careful what you wish for. Someday Blizzard might introduce rewards for achievement points, and who knows if the dev in charge might not remember reading your blog post and chuckle evilly to herself… 😉

    Solidstates last blog post..Guardian of Cenarius

  11. For my part, I think achievements take some of the fun out of the game. Human beings have been using tour guides to visit foreign places as early as ancient Roman times, but they sometimes prevent us from getting lost, wandering off the beaten path, and discovering things we never expected. It’s gotten worse these past few years with mapquest, GPS, and the like. Half the time when we’re exploring a new place, we’re not even looking around, we’re just staring at the stupid GPS machine trying to figure out when the next turn is. Part of what makes “playing around” fun is its unstructured quality. All these things in WoW that now have achievements were there before, but one to had them find oneself. Post-3.0, you see people just running around in a mad dash to check everything off their list and they barely stop to smell the flowers. Part of what was/is so great about WoW is that the world is so big and you can find some little corner to piddle around in. Now you just see a steady stream of overachievers running in and out doing often ridiculous things to get achievement points. I think Syd is right, achievements should be seen as a scrapbook, not an itinerary.

  12. For the most part I have ignored all the achievements except exploring. I have explored a few new places every day until I had everything explored except Northrend (obviously). There was very little I had missed in the Outlands. The Eastern Kingdoms had a few new places with STV being the hardest to find every nook and cranny. Then it was on to Kalimdor, which was a much bigger challenge. I am really happy I did take the time out to explore it all because there were many cool and beautiful parts of the world I’d never seen before. The forests in Feralas and the cliffs and coasts of Azshara really stood out.

    Tankettes last blog post..Kael

  13. dscomboulat says:

    I agree that redoing things sucks. I’ve done everything but full clears of old naxx on my old main, and none of that but a few old non heroics, and lbrs counted. oO

    but… on my new main priest, i’ve loved doing things over, ok some of it is a drag, and i haven’t run an outlands dungeon since then, but fishing up old crafty in org as alliance, working on mr. pinchy and actually caring about the halloween event, as well as finally opening my world map. (something I had only previously done on my old warlock main, for utility) was fun. its given me sumt to do in the last two weeks before wrath. besides what? the world event of scourge which I did for the quests but offers terrible gear, which is packed with haste, which… is now nerfed!! hell I spent a fortune getting rid of haste gems lol.

    so the achievements have given me sumt to do, as well as my guildies, I got lurker and am working on solo fishing Gahz’ranka. =) there is some challenge if you look.

    and no, I won’t heal shit. unless they need an item upgrade, which they don’t. we can go back and two man the shit at 80.

  14. Just discovered the blog- well done on writing interesting content!

    Achievements are an interesting mechanic. I like them because I am a fairly casual player and running Kara for the 27th time is utterly boring. But having the impetus to do something i wouldn’t normally do makes it fun again.

    otoh my son is a hardcore raider/pvper and hates them. he thinks its childish and wouldn’t stray 2 feet from his intended path to achieve on.

    All in all I think they are a boon. it gives Blizzard an easy mechanism to add in temporary and once-in-a-lifetime reasons for world events, it gives people who want something besides pvp and raiding something to do and its (fairly) easy to ignore if you hate them.


  1. […] was reading Sydera’s post on the topic earlier today, and I have to say… I like achievements. Even the ones that are a pain, or […]

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