Achievements, 100 Percent, And Games: Fun Or Compulsive Behavior?

Finishing a bad or uninteresting book might feel like a chore, or at least unsatisfying, but it's nothing like playing to the end of a game you don't care for. Why do so many still choose to do this?

True/Slant's Modus Pwned doesn't understand it either. Breaking a game down to its utilitarian purpose, the thing is meant to be fun. If it's not, what is the point in continuing to play it?

Dave (no last name), one of Modus Pwned's two writers, can't really answer that question. a Ph.D student in moral philosophy, however, he does point out some of what he considers the compulsions to continue to play - notably, 100 percenting a game or racking up its achievements.

Maybe it's also a feeling of being a part of a cultural conversation? I've seen plenty of films I wouldn't otherwise seek out, simply because they helped me relate better to friends talking about them, or just to be more culturally relevant and attuned. I didn't enjoy all of them. There are some games dominating the talk right now, and ordinarily I wouldn't pick them up, either, but to stay current I feel like they should at least get a rental.

Anyway, all of this is to say that games may not be the only pursuit that produces such compulsive non-fun. But they definitely are one of the more prolific. Not to mention expensive.

Forced ‘Fun': Video Games and Compulsive Behavior [True/Slant, Oct. 9, 2009.]

A rational person sees games as a source of entertainment and little else. Of course, playing games can make one feel refreshed and energized, and so may aid one's non-gaming pursuits indirectly. But, still, in these cases the usefulness of gaming derives solely from the fun and enjoyment one experiences by playing.

Now, part of rationally committing to playing games for the sake of having fun is forming an accompanying commitment to abandon instances of gaming that are not fun. This isn't a controversial idea; a parallel point holds true for all structurally similar engagements. Suppose that you decide to use an oven solely for the purpose of making a tasty cake. If you commit to using an oven only for this purpose, then-insofar as you are rational-you commit to stop using the oven if it is not serving its purpose. If the oven isn't working properly, then you should stop using the oven. It would be irrational not to change your behaviour in such a case. And, of course, the same is true for gaming. Games are meant to be fun. If you're playing a game and you're not having fun, then you really ought to stop playing the game.

[...]I often speak to people who have forced themselves to finish the main quest in games that they stopped enjoying partway through. A friend of mine spent over fifty hours playing Baten Kaitos, even though I heard nothing but complaining beyond the fifteen-hour mark.

[...]Another related example of the phenomenon I'm addressing is the tendency that some people have to try to explore 100% of a game's content regardless of whether they enjoy the process of doing so.

[...]Further, consider the bizarre and growing contingent of people who play games primarily to collect ‘Achievements' and ‘Trophies', with utter disregard for whether they enjoy the process of playing the involved games.

In each of the cases I have just mentioned, we see compulsive behaviour infecting people's leisure activities. And given that the sole rational purpose of gaming is to have fun, it is a shame to see this happen. In most other domains a tendency toward obsessive or compulsive behaviour has some potential benefit. In the work place or in school, such inclinations may result in more meticulously crafted reports. In one's personal life, compulsive behaviour may result in a cleaner living space, more attentiveness to one's partner, and so forth. Of course, even in these domains the upside is limited by the obvious downsides of suffering from compulsions. But at least there is an upside. When it comes to games, there really is no upside. Since the sole purpose of gaming is to have fun, when one fails to achieve that end one is left with absolutely nothing.

- Modus Pwned

Weekend Reader is Kotaku's look at the critical thinking in, and of video games. It appears Saturdays at noon. Please take the time to read the full article cited before getting involved in the debate here.


    Well I enjoy achievements, and I only play if I'm enjoying myself (bar two instances... since I got the games for free, and had nothing else to play). Achievements for me are an excuse to do more in a game than I usually would (ie multiplayer), and I think that's a positive thing.

    Thats actually a really good answer/view on finishing a game/getting the achievements.
    I am guilty (if i should even feel guilty) of finishing a game i really didn't enjoy just to get the achievements. I'm not some achievement whore, just you pay for the product - and you may aswell attempt at getting your moneys worth before you throw it out the door.

    There have been plenty of games i hated and would refuse to pass - but there have been others that i thought, "Hmm not too long, may aswell pass it, see how it ends" or "There aren't many achievements, may aswell give them a crack".

    I wouldn't compare it to reading a book or watching a film.
    I think it's easier to put down a really bad book - i mean i don't read much and find SEEING something more entertaining than READING it, but there have been exceptions where i've had to read before seeing or just read etc...

    But watching a film, IMO, i feel compelled to watch it all even if i don't like it, compared to reading a book or playing a game. Playing a game takes more of your time than watching a film. And by the time you're half way into a movie and you're not liking it, MAJORITY of the time, i feel - eh i've come this far! It's not like you have to try or do anything to see the outcome like you would in a bad game.

    May not make a lot of sense, but i know what i mean, lol

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