A Nintendo Argument Against Achievements

"We're not opposed to Achievements," Nintendo's Bill Trinen told me earlier this week, even as he confirmed that his company's next system, the 3DS, won't have one of the more popular features in Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC gaming.

Perhaps Nintendo has found a trend worth bucking.

Since the launch of the Xbox 360, gamers and game creators have appeared to collectively, if not unanimously, embraced the idea of associating certain actions in a video game with some sort of accolade or point value that can be added to accolades and points earned in other games in order to represent a player's overall accomplishments. Since Microsoft started doling out Achievement points on the Xbox 360, PC gamers got to do something similar with Steam Achievements, PlayStation users with Trophies and iPhone users with Game centre Achievements.

Nintendo has been the outlier, offering an Achievement-like system in its 2008 game Wii Sports Resort but declining to implement anything system-wide or even make the practice common in its games. Mario games don't have Achievements. Zelda games don't. Just about nothing Nintendo makes does including the Nintendo 3DS, which is Nintendo's big hardware release, coming to America on March 27.

"When they create their games, [Nintendo's designers]don't tell you how to play their game in order to achieve some kind of mythical reward," Trinen said, explaining his view of why Nintendo's top creators have stayed off the Achievement bandwagon. Trinen is currently head of product marketing for Nintendo of America, but has also long communicated with Nintendo's top development talent in Japan and would be privy to their design philosophies. He continued: "Basically, the way the games are designed is they're designed for you to explore the game yourself and have this sense of discovery. To that end, I think that when you look specifically at games from EAD [the group long led by Mario and Donkey Kong creator Shigeru Miyamoto]and a lot of other games that Nintendo has developed a well, there are things you can do in the game that will result in some sort of reward or unexpected surprise. In my mind, that really encourages the sense of exploration rather than the sense of 'If I do that, I'm going to get some sort of artificial point or score that's going to make me feel better that I got this.' And that, to me, is I think more compelling."

Trinen is aware of Nintendo's own exceptions. He recalled an Achievement-like bonus system in the GameCube's Super Smash Bros Melee that rewarded players for doing specific, sometimes-unusual, things in the game. But he pointed out that even that game didn't tell its players in advance that they would be getting rewards and how to attain them.

Achievement-scepticism is not a Nintendo-exclusive philosophy. Plenty of other people have wondered what the worth of Achievements is, how they affect the way we play games that contain them and, ultimately whether they are good or bad for games and gaming.

It's not clear if Nintendo's top people would go as far as saying that Achievements are bad for video games, but Trinen articulates a valid wariness about what their cost may be. It's hard to imagine a Zelda game that contains Achievements. It's harder still to imagine one that feels as magical and surprising as they best of them do.


Comments

    Good on them. Achievements / trophies are a giant waste of time, and have a distorting effect on games to the point where I've actually seen people say that their purchasing decisions are influenced by how easy it is to get achievements.

    I don't mind them on a game-by-game basis where they actually give you some benefit within the game (e.g. in Call of Duty where you get XP which helps you level up and unlock stuff, or Uncharted where you get money you can spend to unlock extras). But most of the time they're just there for their own sake and provide no benefit at all.

    I've never been a fan of achievements. I get collectable in-game stuff, things like that. The gnome in Half Life 2: Episode 2 makes a big difference, though, because the creators went out of their way to make something special.

    I think, if the achievements are used to encourage creative game design that adds another level to the gameplay like that, then we can let them hang around. I'm never going to get excited about the stupid "fired your gun X amount of times" achievements, though. That's not content.

      Not even "The One Free Bullet"?

    Even worse than those who use Achievements/Trophies as an e-penis are those who constantly whine about how they are destroying gaming.

    I prefer statistics to achievements (in games like Zelda). Things like Longest/Highest Jump or Most Chickens Consecutively Kicked. lol

    I feel it's more fun to compare those type of things with friends than simple "I've got this trophy, do you?" :P

    Awww come on Nintendo, you've gotta put achievements into your games in order to hang with the cool kids... You know, those "hardcore" players who have no lives and wave their virtual e-peen around with their pixilated achievements that make all the time they waste playing games mean something in their go-nowhere lives. lol

      If they're enjoying it, how's it different from the value you put on entertainment (without achievements)? You're achieving "real" things in your video games so you don't need points or awards for them? You shouldn't be so quick to look down on their "go-nowhere lives" if by the end of your existence you too are proud of the video games you completed except without digital reward.

    While I have known players who are engrossed with trophies/achievements to the point it actually hinders their gameplay, I'm sure many players, like myself, get legitimate added value from them.

    I play a game start to finish and then throw myself into the trophy collection process. As a result, I get longer use and value out of a game with trophies then those without them. Not having trophies on games because some people misuse them is blanket punishment, plain and simple. If Nintendo got on board I would undoubtably get more use out of my Wii.

    THat's a pity - I like acheivements, I'll never grind for them and the boring ones where you get acheivements just for finishing levels or finishing fetch quests are boring, but some of them are quite surprising and inventive ways to get more out of games.

    I've alway felt that Achievments have a good and a bad side.
    The good side is they allow me to, for lack of a better word, achieve something in a game and have something to show for t; be in trophy, points or a score.
    On the other hand though I've always felt that achievments seem to ruin the replay value of a game. I find that if I gain all the acievments that their is little point to going bac and playing it (which I admit it stupid but thats my perception). For example ive got every single mass effect 2 achievment and now find it pointless to go back to it (the fact that ive played it so much may be the real reason behind this though)

    Achievments still have a long way to go imo. On that note, mulitplayer achievments need to be worked on. Call of Duty and Halo Reach I have to say had a better proportion between online and offline achievments (barely any). Rather then have online achievments I feel it is better to have a rank/level that is specific to that one game.

    Initially I was against achievments, especially when I heard of people buying games just for the achievments to boost their gamerscore. However, I have had some fun with achievments as follows:

    1) achievments might promt me to try different things e.g. in dead space I pursued the diffirent achievments unlocked by killing 30 enemies with each different weapon. I appreciated the variety, but with out the specific suggestion by the devs I probably would have just focused on my two main upgraded weapons,

    2) Once I have finished a game achievments can at times extend my enjoyment of the game by prompting me to go back and replay certain sections. Usually when I finsih a game I'm done with it, but for example fable 2 I got another few hours out of it by chasing some of the more fun looking achievments.

    I think where people come unstuck is when they look at the achievments too much, and play with them in mind. The game and your enjoyment of it should always come first, and if you are more worried about being able to boast a high gamerscore you are probably doing it wrong ;)

      I think if the game is made correctly, every point you made becomes irrelevant since you will have done those things without trying. Not saying you are wrong, because the ideas you gave are bang-on.

    I can't stand achievements, they make whatever game they're on seem kiddy and take away from the experience. Plus I can just imagine 13 year old Xbox kids bragging about who has the most achievement points and why it makes them the best gamer.

    Haters gonna hate.

    I somewhat agree with Nintendo. For the most part I find achievements entirely stupid as they seem to reward atypical behaviour; things the player wouldn't do for enjoyment but would perhaps endure for "points". An example of this is the shields Sony try to make you collect in Killzone 2 - they weren't fun to collect, and if there wasn't a trophy no one would collect them.

    We Nintendo folks got through the water temple. And that is enough.

    Bah, this just sounds like a way to appeal to the elitist indie gamers. "Hey look, we're Nintendo, we don't follow the mainstream because we don't have achievements. Look how unique we are!"

    Everyone who is trashing achievements seems to assume they're 'above' them and are sneering at everyone else from their high horse. Get over yourselves.

    Not everyone who likes achievements are 13 year old children who want the "biggest e-peen", and drawing the comparison as if it has any basis in fact is ridiculous.

    It's good to have a track record of your accomplishments in a game, and the game also gives you objectives you might not normally pursue. If you do need to give someone evidence you completed COD4 on Veteran including Mile high Club, great, but that's not all achievements are there for.

    They're just markers, milestones. It'sp leasant to play through a game for the first time and get a little bleep-blopp every chapter or so, or if you do something particularly cool that the programmers said "hey, we want to recognise when someone does this".

    People do buy or rent games if the achievements are easy, and this is sad. But the achievement system does not live solely to serve these people. The achievements encourage additional playthroughs, different strategies - heck, I've spent way longer than I needed to with Heavy Rain because I was trying to uncover all the trophies for the various endings and as a result I discovered two additional sequences that I'd completely missed my first time through simply because they don't come up unless you make some kind of mistake! I watched a youtube video compiling all of the various Ethan-related final cutscenes and realised I'd seen about half of them.

    For me it's the same reason people keep photo albums. You can remember it, but sometimes it's nice to go through them one by one and ruminate.

    I agree with Matthew.
    Achievements, if structured creatively by the developers can help "lead" you to experiences in a game that may have been missed if just going from point A to point B. They can be extremely fun to get.
    They can also be a terrible grind but that again is down to the developer.
    Some take a lot of skill, some take a lot of patients, either way I think if the awards are imaginative and not just "kill 100 bad dudes with the shotgun" I think it is a win.

      But couldn't the same effect be achieved by making that exploration and innovation part of the gameplay? Maybe someone in the game tells you that sometimes the best way to progress is to repeat and try a different path. There's no need for it to be something distinct from the game itself.

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