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Achievements and the Overjustification Effect [roundtable]
 
I just came across this article, and it made me think of achievements in games (partly because it says "Achievement Unlocked" at the end). I think it shows really well how achievements could ruin gaming for some people.

I can see how it's had an effect on me. When I'm planning on picking up a game that got mediocre reviews, it's easy for me to justify it because, even if the game sucks, I can increase my gamerscore. But if that game is on the Wii or DS, I don't have the gamerscore incenctive. The only incentive I have is if the game's story is really good or if it's a game that truly require skill to beat. When I think of the BIT.TRIP games or Rhythm Heaven, achievements aren't even a concern. I just want to master the game.

Just look at someone like Greg Miller- nine times out of ten, if a game doesn't have trophies, he won't play it. Extrinsic rewards have completely changed the way he goes about his favorite hobby. One time on an episode of GameScoop, Daemon Hatfield said, "With no achievements, playing Wii games just isn't rewarding." It could just be Daemon being Daemon, but it's still scary.

So, what do you think? Will there come a time when any game that doesn't have achievements is doomed? What's the most rewarding part of playing games to you?

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Posted: 12/23/11, 02:20:12
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I love achievements, but I'm still relatively new to the whole 360/PS3 gen of machines (I only have a gaming PC), so I'm not even sure what a gamerscore is. (I mean, I can figure it out due to context clues and past run-ins with the term, but I've never experienced it firsthand. If Steam keeps up with some sort of gamerscore, I've yet to find it or even be notified to look for it.)

So I only buy games that I'll like to play in the first place, and any Achievement possibilities that the game comes with are just free extra objectives that I can try to do for fun (almost like little sidequests that don't give you anything but bragging rights and a feeling of having done everything in the game).

For someone who knows what a gamerscore is and is constantly exposed to an environment of comparing this score with the score of his or her friends, I could see the harm in Achievements. However, if the gamerscore wasn't there, the Achievements wouldn't be a negative incentive at all as far as I can tell.
Posted: 12/23/11, 02:29:08  - Edited by 
 on: 12/23/11, 02:29:50
Yeah, I'm with @V_s on this. I do have an Xbox and I am familiar with Gamerscores, but I don't actually care so much. I too generally play on my PC, and if it's a game I really enjoy (such as Portal 2), I will go for the achievements, thus completing the game itself. Any score outside the game I just don't care for.

It is true, however that some people's priorities are different. My brother-in-law rented a bunch of games a few months back just to up his gamerscore. Once he was done with the easy achievements he was done with the games. When I lent him the Avatar: The Last Airbender game he nearly went nuts (that's the one with the infamous easy achievements).

The times are-a-changin', but I'm not really. I like achievements, but I tend to keep them localized within the games I'm playing.
Posted: 12/23/11, 02:43:05  - Edited by 
 on: 12/23/11, 02:44:30
Hmm, you guys should go back and listen to Episode 5 of the Negative World Podcast where I specifically talked about achievements. Though they shattered my convictions, you might find it interesting.

I like the idea of achievements but I wont go out of my way to buy or play a game just for them. No way, no how.
Posted: 12/23/11, 03:12:24
I like achievements/trophies (I play on PS3, so it's trophies for me) and I like to collect them all when possible, but I don't go overly out of my way to collect them. I'm striving for the trophies in Rock Band 3, but I'm enjoying the challenges that Harmonix built in aside from the trophies, and I'll get the trophies along the way (as some of those challenges unlock them). Same with LittleBigPlanet 2. I still need to finish my level in there...

But yeah. I like them when the way to get them isn't outrageous.
Posted: 12/23/11, 04:22:24
I like the idea of them -- to an extent.

The fact that people will play/rent a game SOLELY because they can pick up some credit or something is mindblowing. Can you imagine if they had "life achievements," and people ONLY went to the Dentist or something to get credit for it? Or "you unlocked 'Tax Master'" or "you just ate at Denny's!" Its weird.

And the fact that games are AVOIDED because they don't have these scores is even more jarring. Ok, are you playing the games, or are you playing "increase my gamerscore?"


There is a side effect to achievement type things, too. There are things like this in the newest Madden game (keep reading, the fact that its football matters not). Hey, I like these things (to an extent, remember?), so trying to achieve them while playing the game isn't so bad. You get them for making 25 completions, or returning an interception for a touchdown, things like that. The one I've been working on for the past few weeks in my season has been "Put the team on your back," where you have to run for 250 yards with your running back. 250 yards is A LOT. So, through this, while trying to run as much as I can (as opposed to passing), my scores have dropped, 1st downs come much harder, and I almost lost (I'm currently undefeated). Furthermore, my once ranked #1 offense has sunk to 5th in the league. Had I been playing the game how I was, averaging about 100 rushing, 300 passing yards, I'd be #1 in the league for sure.

So yeah, an ancillary mission has actually controlled my primary objective. Frightening.
Posted: 12/23/11, 04:26:21
I don't think I read the same thing in that article you did, Secret_Tunnel. Not at all.

According to the research, the extrinsic reward shouldn't make Daemon, for instance, feel like without achievements playing games feels less rewarding. According to the experiments, he should enjoy gaming less as a whole. So I don't think that's what's happening here.

The gist of what I got is that a reward in itself shouldn't change the enjoyment you get for doing something you love, but the expectation of the reward would. But the effect wouldn't be to turn you into a reward whore. It would instead turn you off that task.
Posted: 12/23/11, 04:51:40
I think I'm more interested in what this means for more valuable rewards than a gamer score. For instance, does knowing that there are unlockable levels in a Mario game make the task of getting all the star coins less fun than the task would be otherwise? Would the secret levels being entirely unexpected (and at this point, they can't be, we just expect that out of Mario) something that would make the game more fun to play?

I find this hard to believe.

I'm fairly convinced that I play the games I play in the way I play them, because I genuinely enjoy it. Not for the promise of a reward. But who knows. Research apparently shows I'm wrong.
Posted: 12/23/11, 04:55:43
@Mr_Mustache

Are you having as much fun as you did before you went for the achievements?

Guillaume said:
The gist of what I got is that a reward in itself shouldn't change the enjoyment you get for doing something you love, but the expectation of the reward would. But the effect wouldn't be to turn you into a reward whore. It would instead turn you off that task.

But you'd be turned off by games with no achievements before being turned off by games with achievements. Eventually, you'd only play games that you could get intrinsic value from to avoid getting burned- but since you can't tell whether you'll get intrinsic value from a game until you play it, you'd just have to go based on reviews. Basically what I'm saying is that gamers would start being even MORE cautious when it comes to playing games that score belong a 9.

Guillaume said:
I think I'm more interested in what this means for more valuable rewards than a gamer score. For instance, does knowing that there are unlockable levels in a Mario game make the task of getting all the star coins less fun than the task would be otherwise? Would the secret levels being entirely unexpected (and at this point, they can't be, we just expect that out of Mario) something that would make the game more fun to play?

Maybe. If there's no known reward for completeing a really hard challenge, less people will go for it, making the people that do go for it feel all the more badass once they get it. If there was an unlockable World 4 in BIT.TRIP RUNNER for getting all !!s, I'm sure a ton more people would have tried to perfect every level. Would you have felt as god-like for perfecting the game if you knew that everyone else had done the same thing?

Guillaume said:
I'm fairly convinced that I play the games I play in the way I play them, because I genuinely enjoy it.

Right, you get intrinsic value out of them.
Posted: 12/23/11, 05:48:40  - Edited by 
 on: 12/23/11, 05:50:30
I like achievements. Always have.

Like many things in life, they don't "need" to be there to make a game fun, but they almost always universally make them feel "fuller" by their mere presence.
Posted: 12/23/11, 06:24:37
I like achievements:

- In arcade games, which usually don't have many ways to play. It can be fun to do different challenges like play the game without collecting a powerup or something like that.
- When they signify an unusual feat (like in a multiplayer game when you've gotten X amount of kills, or played X amount of games).

I just don't like them when I'm playing some epic, immersive game, and then all of a sudden BWHAP you get an achievement for beating a boss. Just takes me out of the game a bit.
Posted: 12/23/11, 07:55:30
@Secret_Tunnel

I'm not sure. It was cool when I unlocked "Pocket Monster" (and I giggled at the name while an icon of a cartoon crab sticking out of a pocket popped on the screen), but the mounting frustrating of going week after week and not even coming close to cracking that goal is starting to add up. There is another one where you have to get 8 Sacks or something. What the heck, the most I've had so far is 4.

So yeah, its creating friction that wasn't there before, and that probably isn't good. If I had nothing to shoot for, I'd be playing football untethered!
Posted: 12/23/11, 11:17:31
Achievements are ok, but I'd prefer if they were in-game and tied to some sort of unlockables. I much more enjoy the "think outside the box" type achievements than the progression achievements, which can even get annoying with the text pop-up.

In the end, it's not a feature that will dictate my enjoyment of a game in any way.

Yet.

Nintendo has something cool going with the play coins on the 3DS, but as it stands you can only earn them by walking. I think you should be able to earn them while playing, and achieving stuff, and then use them in the same game or other games, to unlock special stuff.
Posted: 12/23/11, 17:36:00
I'm pretty indifferent to Achievements. If they are there, great. If not, whatever.

I don't care much for a Gamer Score. But I do like getting "tangible" rewards for Achievements. Stuff like, if I collect enough Star Coins in NEW Super Mario Bros. Wii, then I get to unlock more stages to play. Or in Mario Kart 7, after collecting enough coins through the various races, I can unlock more kart parts. (although that is more like just playing the game, not really going out of my way to do that stuff)

Back in the day, I remember going for all Gold Medals in Starfox 64, so I could unlock the on-foot Battle Mode (and have Fox wear sunglasses during the "main" game!). That's the kind of stuff I like. Arbitrary scores are kinda pointless in comparison.
Posted: 12/23/11, 17:40:44
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