One of the things I really, really don’t understand in the MMORPG community is just how divided people get over the concept of achievements. It seems you either are a rabid fan, or you hate them with a passion of a thousand dying suns. The hatred is what boggles my mind — what are achievements doing to ruin your gameplay, specifically, if you don’t like them or want to participate in them? There’s no great answer for that, as many of the reasons stated why achievements are “bad” seem awfully petty, and have the air of one group of kids scoffing at what another group likes, just because they like it so much.
Yeah, for the most part, achievement systems are nothing more than a running “high score” count that serves for personal satisfaction and bragging rights, but little else. Few of these systems ever give you anything additional for your efforts (or if so, are rare and don’t give your character any significant advantage over others). For the cynic, it’s just a way to extend content a little further (but hey, what efforts on behalf of developers aren’t aimed at this goal?).
And yet, they offend. Oh, how they offend. It’s like the Grinch looking down on the happy Whos, doing meaningless, random tasks just because they are fun, and growing angry over it. How dare they do anything other than level and grind and raid! Why, this is just pointless fluff that’s everywhere I look! And when one of them comes over to tell me about it, I could just take their achievement points, stick them in a bag, and kidnap them to ruin Christmas!
From my perspective, I lump achievement systems in with other non-leveling content systems, such as collections, player housing, fishing, role-playing and exploration. You don’t *have* to participate to develop a great combat character, but it’s there if you want a break from the grind and want to — dare I say it? — have a little fun by doing something different. You can gnash your teeth and spout bile at it and try to convince those of us who like it that we’re not actually enjoying it, but that’s kind of ignoring the larger picture of MMOs — just what about all your efforts will you get to keep in the end, anyway? Isn’t it all doing tasks for the sake of doing tasks? People who scoff at achievement systems might well be the same ones who raid for boasting rights and better stats on their characters — stats that are, at the very end of the day, completely meaningless. Either you have fun in the process, or you imagine that you’re working toward an eventual “fun” that will probably never come.
Anyway. That was a bit of a tangent. What I wanted to steer towards was the idea of achievement systems as a social benefit to a MMO’s world. Sure, the points don’t do anything for you, but they can benefit connections between players. Some folks hate how guild chat might be filled up with achievement notifications, but for others, it’s a time to recognize accomplishments and congratulate each other — positive encouragement that strengthens a guild’s ties.
What’s more is when guilds or groups of friends take advantage of achievements by grouping together to knock a bunch of them out. I had a blast in WAR grouping in a zone and trying to do as many Tome unlocks as possible. We often had unlock/achievement parties, where a leader would take the group around on a tour of the zone, guiding us toward the unlocks, and showing off areas and facets we might have otherwise ignored on our mad quest to level quickly. I have no idea how often people get together to do these sorts of things, but it’s there, it’s something different than just doing dungeon runs, and it can really be a lot of fun. I mean, how often do we get together with friends or family in real life and do stupid, fun things as a social experience, not expecting anything else out of it other than laughs and memories?
If it’s fun, it’s not a grind, simple as that. And if I’m achieving silly little goals alongside friends and guildies, then achievements are more than points, they’re memories in the making.