I don’t know what the exact number of times is, but in my mind, once you’ve passed by something a few times you simply stop noticing it. Your brain filters it out, especially when we’re engaging in a daily routine. I drive by places all the time that I couldn’t tell you what they are because I never look.
The exception to this is when there’s a reason to truly look, to examine again. Rearrange a room and you’ll really notice it in a way that you haven’t in years. Be a passenger in a car instead of the driver and you could find yourself spotting shops that were practically invisible to you yesterday. Or have someone point out something specifically to you and draw your attention to it.
While I’m not currently geocaching, that was one of the biggest attractions to that hobby. It’s not really about acquiring treasure — the caches are a placeholder goal, really. What it’s really about is the thrill of the journey and for strangers to call your attention to places that they found interesting for one reason or another. I can attest that going on geocache trips radically changed my perception of my town — a hidden world of details and secrets that I had just never noticed.
I know not everyone likes achievements. I don’t think it’s a real issue of contention because, for the most part, achievements are completely optional and tend to be tied to rewards that are fluff, if they have rewards at all. But as I’ve been going back through The Secret World’s side missions and unfinished achievements, I’ve realized that achievements are often the developers way of pointing out details and vistas in the world that they’re particularly proud of. I can only imagine how disheartened some of them must be to see players outright sprinting past all of these cool places, having tunnel vision for the next stage of a quest without seeing what’s all around them. Achievements can be that geocache to say, “Hey, this is a really cool spot! Check this out!”
And for me, I love it. Sure, I could explore on my own (and often do) and come up with my own challenges, but I’m not always a self-starter. I don’t think a lot of us are. We often function better when guided in some fashion, from exercise plans to various projects. And I don’t think there’s any shame in finding more motivation from this guidance when it comes to sight-seeing and deed-accomplishing in MMOs. Achievements can turn a previously mundane stretch of zone into a new adventure, a new challenge for me to tackle. After completing tricky or memorable ones, I often find myself seeing that place in a new light when I go by them later.
The Secret World, by the way, is a detail-lover’s paradise. I’m still finding all sorts of little hand-crafted objects and details through my adventures that I certainly skipped over the first, second, or third time through. Heck, I never knew that attacking ravens on top of the gas station in Savage Coast summoned a rare revanant, or that there was a dead body booby-trapped with mines on a small island in the same zone.
And do you like my new straightjacket outfit? Saw that in the store and had to have it!