Achievement Systems in Video Games

All games have goals. Used properly, achievements can provide an alternative set of "success" criteria to the main game mission, providing incentives to play the game in different ways. Different ways which are, hopefully, also fun.

For years, video games have been a fringe market, traditionally viewed as "for kids" or "for nerds".  Now, we are witnessing a huge push towards the mainstream in games, and achievements are just some of that mainstream marketing settling in. Many people are finally realizing that video games are big money, and achievements are a clever way to capitalize on this.

In some cases, developers are generally forced to add achievements to their games by Publishers in order for them to be officially released— and will often become interviewed as to why some of their achievements are 'ridiculously easy in comparison to so-and-so's achievements'.

Achievements can be extremely effective if used correctly and ethically. Some achievements encourage players to try different aspects of a game they may not have before. One reason that some achievements are too easy may be to condition the player to expect and want more of them.

This has been thoroughly abused by MMOs like World of Warcraft, which reward levels on an upward curve to hook players in the beginning and encourage them to sink more time into the game. Part of what makes it successful is a willingness of the player, due to the financial investment they make and a desire to be entertained.

Achievements are of particular interest in the area of “serious games”. The serious games industry, which creates games that enhance performance and learning, has been much slower
in their adoption of achievement systems. However, this form of feedback and reward could be
beneficial to an industry that often struggles with making games entertaining as well as
educational.

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