How I Broke My Addiction To Achievements

How I Broke My Addiction To Achievements

The first piece I ever wrote for Kotaku chronicled my fun-sucking addiction to achievements. 15 months later, I'm back to tell you how I overcame that addiction.

Even back then, at the peak of my achievement obsessing, my resolve was starting to crack. The grind had become too tedious, too time-consuming, and too much of a chore for something that was supposed to be fun. I was fed up, but that Gamerscore kept sucking me back for more with the enticement of some imaginary milestone I was never going to reach.

Then, in January 2014, Stephen Totilo posted his annual list of games he had started and beaten in the previous year. It was the eighth year that he had posted that list but it was the first time that I had read it, and it sparked something.

At that time, I was drowning in a backlog of games. Between Christmas, the Steam Holiday Sale, and a new generation of consoles, I was hopelessly bogged down with no chance of getting out, especially if I kept slaving away for every last little achievement point. But when I read Stephen's piece, it inspired me to try a new approach to the way I had been gaming for so long.

I made a New Year's resolution - every game I started went on a list, and I too would track how many of them I beat in 2014.

How I Broke My Addiction To Achievements

(Assassin's Creed IV was the first game I beat in 2014. I only got 43 of its 60 achievements. Photo credit: Ubisoft)

On the surface, I can see how this might look like trading one obsession for another, and that's a valid observation. But what I've found over the past eight months is that this new focus has helped me enjoy gaming in a way that had been absent in the last few years. It has kept me looking forward instead of spinning my wheels, and the accountability of adding a game to the list means that I'm much less likely to start a new game unless I seriously intend to see it through to the end.

But what I've also found is that the less I obsess over achievements, the less important they become. It started slowly; buying a game on Steam instead of the Xbox even though there were achievements on the latter, neglecting certain mission-specific achievements, and spending more time on the PC and 3DS. Now, I don't even look at the achievement list when I drop a new game into my Xbox One.

How I Broke My Addiction To Achievements

(Less time grinding, more time to play achievement-less games like To the Moon. Photo credit: Freebird Games)

So consider this my final chapter in something that I first started grappling with almost two years ago. I'm still wary of falling into a new obsession to fill the void - Steam trading cards seem like a particularly devious temptation - but I think that if I stay vigilant and focus on my new goal then I'll be able to keep gaming as what's supposed to be in the first place - fun.

It feels good to be free.

How I Broke My Addiction To Achievements

(Thank you Reddit user DeadGirlDreaming for the wonderful Girls und Panzer gif.)


    Never really cared for achievements

      Same. I never understood the point of them. There was no tangible benefit to you. I liked the Payday/Payday 2 take on it. Yeah I needed to kill x number of tasers using a certain weapon, but I got rewarded with cash or an extra weapon mod or something. If you're gonna have achievements in your game, that's the way to do it!

        The xbox one also broke my achievement addiction. I moved to regional NSW for 6 months and I didn't have any internet. Without internet, achievements on the Xbone don't unlock. So I kind of had them denied to me. I also stopped playing rubbish free to play games that encourage a daily login (Simpsons Tapped Out).

        When I moved back to Adelaide and had internet my achievements all popped at once but I didn't seem to care. Then a got achievements for watching YouTube and twitch etc, further devaluing achievements.

        I still like them, but they're not as critical to my experience and I don't find myself hunting them or browsing them when I first install a game.

      Yeah, it's like the Assassins Creed games, oh I didn't get 100% sync for that mission. I don't care at all as long as I completed it.

    The Xbox One broke my achievement addiction my making the achievement menu harder to find and use and occasionally accidentally launch the game instead of just showing me the details of what the achievement is for. Now I've stopped caring. I like unlocking achievements but now it's distantly as some kind of abstract concept rather than motivation to do those little extras that I might otherwise overlook.

      lol... yep... xbox one is just horrible...

      for me it was a combination of xbone and playing more things on PC... i still like them, don't get me wrong, but I'm not going to play something or do certain things in a game just for an achievement like i used to

      This is an important point, while I was never as bad as the author when the 360 first appeared I was an achievement whore to a point.

      The first thing I did was check the achievements when I put in a new game and I knew it was ruining the games for me so I gave up entirely. However while I no longer actively went for them they still popped up and it was so easy to browse them after getting one which tempted me a few times and I would start hunting for a couple hours before I realised I wasn't having fun.

      But the XB1, hah, if an achievement pops up it is so painstaking slow to check even MORE so now that it pops up with the stupid snap nonsense as now it takes almost 30+ seconds for something other than a loading bar to appear. Thanks to that I've stopped even looking at them and it couldn't be better. However I would still like the opportunity to turn them off, no pop ups no score shown, just hide all of it for me so I don't even have to be reminded.

      Last edited 25/08/14 2:38 pm

        X1 doesn't allow you to turn off the pop up?
        Just got a PS4 and browsing the settings there is the option to turn off the trophy pop up. I like seeing when I get one, but would be a good feature for someone in your situation.

      How is it hard to find it on the X1? "Xbox Go To Achievements" or if you are a real Achievement Hunter "Xbox Snap Achievements"...easy for me, but depends how you use it I guess.

        I have the achievement page pinned but it takes ages to load and takes longer to navigate to the thing you want to see. Accidentally press the wrong thing and it launches the game with the achievements snapped on the side. That's cool if that's what you want, but I personally just want to have a quick squizz at what I unlocked at the end of a session.

        I hope more games start introducing their own internal achievement menus so you can see what you have unlocked - some had this on the 360 but more often it would just open the guide menu.

      If you snap achievements rather than "go to" you get a streamlined version that is very helpful :)

        I might give that a go for a quick glance in the future. Cheers.

      The xbones achievement menu is the pits.

    I like getting them, but I also know when there's something I'm just not going to get (like the Insanity achievements in Mass Effect - I have no real interest in playing it on Insanity, or multiplayer ones in games where I have no interest in multiplayer), and when to let go if it's just not going to happen.

    I think in some cases they can be fun too - ones like "do x number of [this thing] to [enemy]" can encourage you to play a game differently and try new things, but again, if it's something I know I'm not going to get (like anything that involves stringing together combos, I am SHIT at combos) I don't stress too hard about it and hope that maybe luck will take care of that achievement in the end.

    I broke mine by missing one flag in the original Assassin's Creed. One. Of something like 500. Spent hours going through every location, following video walkthroughs, online maps, even built myself a little web-page to manage which ones I'd found, so I could cross them off the list. I never found it. Never cared about collectibles or achievements in any game thereafter - they're for people with more time than I have.

      There is 1 film reel of 100 in The Godfather game on PS2 that I can't find. I found a map online of them all, went to every location and crossed it off...still can't find it.
      All it did was unlock a clip from the movie that I have on DVD... :/

        I did the same thing with all the CDs in Saint's Row 2. :/

    I think I started moving away from achievements with Assassin's Creed 1. All those banners to collect? I'd rather be completing missions than endlessly hunting for banners!

    I could see myself getting sucked into this big time. Although I game on a Wii U so no worries!

    My friend broke the addiction for me, they being more obsessed than me and ruining multiplayer games for me by playing them just for the achievements even though he was having absolutely no fun doing so. At a point I just got sick of the constant complaining and was scared that people thought the same about me so I decided I'd do the ones I could but if I wasn't having fun with a game anymore, I wasn't going to keep playing it just for some gamerscore. Since then I've played games I normally wouldn't have and been having way more fun with them!

    I try to balance the 2, achievements and game completion. I try to get achievements unless they are outrageously time consuming and I persist through the rubbish games until completion unless I absolutely hate it.

      This was my appoach playing ACIII recently. I could have gone after another 30-50 achievement points but chose not to because it would have probably meant another couple of hours and since I wasn't going to get any of the multiplayer achievements so 100% completion was out of the question, I felt that was not time well-spent. I already collected all the feathers and only got a useless outfit for my efforts. >:(
      At least doing the Captain Kidd side missions nabbed me a really cool outfit and an item that partially deflected bullets.

    Jumping ship from 360 to PS4 has weaned me off them somewhat, since Trophies are so much more arbitrary (does anyone even understand the "level" system? How silly) and sometimes don't even have a Platinum for completing the trophy list, it's disjointed and isn't nearly as appealing as that magical 1000/1000 with the little game picture on your profile that the 360 had.

    That said, if it looks like I can achieve the trophies on the list without going TOO far out of my way, I'll do it anyway. Or if I really, really love the game and want any excuse to keep playing against the rational "go play another game" voice in my head. And that's why I've got about 20 hours of grinding ahead of me for Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn. ORE WA GUNDAMUUUU

    Edit: just googled the levels of playstation profiles, still seems pointless.

    Last edited 25/08/14 3:17 pm

      I prefer trophies. As a platinum is on any retail game with trophies (only won't appear on indie games, or some PSN games).
      You can also earn the platinum without 100% trophies (e.g. Borderlands, get all base game trophies and get the platinum, even if you have earned half of the DLC trophies - I have the platinum and like 75% trophy completion). Xbox doesnt do this, if you have 1000/1400 (all base and no dlc) it wont show as a "completed" game on the profile. So comparing Platinum vs Completed Games I prefer.
      Also the leveling system is kind of cool, I like seeing what level I am compared to friends. Very similar to comparing gamer score either way.

      Try out Infamous Second Son. My first (and probably last) ever Platinum. Its ridiculously easy compared even to some Bronze trophies on other games.

        Oh really? I haven't looked at the list for it, I've got the game but haven't played it yet, I thought I would've finished the earlier games before it came out but I got distracted (isn't that always the way). I'll have a peek, thanks!

        Last edited 26/08/14 2:00 am

    The only time i have done them all was Sonic's megadrive collection. They were fun because you had to play the games to unlock them or use cheats for some of them.

    Was never into achievements since it takes too much of my time. I'd rather use the time to play the next game in my pile of shame.

    Having less achievements which are more rewarding would make me try and complete them all. In games like Stanley Parable I tried doing all the achievements because they were weird and different and there was only like 10 to do.

    With other games I just play them and if I get an achievement I look at what it was for then keep playing.

    Octodad Dadliest Catch does trophies/achievements right.

    I like acheivements, if done properly they can get you to do stuff in the game you otherwise might have missed or not done. But sometimes they can be a pain, so i try to know when to say enough is enough and move on to the next game.

    Some cheeves feel worth it but sometimes they're just stupid, like "Seriously 2.0" in Gears

    I don't get people who must have all the gamer points or whatever for a game. If the achievement is a fun one I might go out of my way to get it. But I've never been completionist in games really, unless its one I really like and have fun getting them all. As soon as its no longer fun I just no longer care.

    Double post.

    Last edited 25/08/14 5:55 pm

    When I worked at EB some people would come in and ask my Gamerscore - just so they could tell me their's. I'd always say "I'm really not sure", and they'd be flabbergasted. How could I not know? How could I not care?
    They'd pause for a moment and proudly announce how many tens of thousands of grind-milestones better than me they were, and my life would not change one bit.

    I kicked my completionist habit some time ago, I stopped grinding for those gold, silver and bronze pixels. UNTIL when playing Watch_Dogs see that big ole pin wheel with the progression percentage in the middle. Needless to say I got my platinum trophy just this last weekend after completing the game 100%.

    I think it was just a throw back to a previous time, I didn't enjoy the drinking games. But did do a little dance in my lounge room once I cleared the last one.

      I read the drinking games got nerfed a bit after all the pain and tears on the internet about them, I was going to not bother with Platinum because of that but now I've heard I might give it a crack.

        Oh I just googled it and they did patch it,
        That bums me out a little, here I thought I'd nailed it, nice to have the trophy, but it's taken some pride away.

    I’ve lost interest to a large extent since the Xbone launched.
    Not sure why but I think like a lot of people the new dashboard just kinda moved them into the background.

    Also the Xbone’s system of giving out ‘app acheivements’ that don’t contribute to your gamerscore might have cheapened their worth a little.

    It always freaks me out when I see people with MASSIVE gamerscores though. As someone who bought a LOT of 360 games and only ever 100% one or two of them (despite “finishing” the main content in about 80% of them ) my gamerscore currently sits about 200 points off the 50,000 mark. I see people who have scores over 200k and I just wonder what they’re doing with their lives!

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