Getting achievements and trophies has never been one of my gaming goals. Not to say I don’t understand their appeal, seeing as they basically are a different representation of a 100% completion on your save file. I mean, some can be a really great way of recognizing the player’s actions, like in Bioshock, while all others do is directly indicate your standard level-clearing.
Thing is, to me, for the most part they tend to feel like a separate entity from the game itself – it’s not that unlocking a trophy grants you extra stuff on the game, it’s just another incentive, another way to make you feel you’re getting the most out of your game. I get that and have absolutely no problem with it. But, what they also have the power to do is shape the way we play. In some cases, in order to get that Platinum trophy we may end up playing something way beyond the point we actually enjoy doing so. I’ve seen people go from having a blast with a game to totally resenting it, all from being so obsessed with “truly completing” said game.
Fortunately, this is not something I have experienced myself. What I have experienced though, is being influenced by something that’s not technically an achievement in the sense I described before. It’s this very specific kind of achievement which has actually influenced the way I game, and for the worse. And wouldn’t you know it, Nintendo was the one who set the stage for that troublesome experience.
So, the 3DS has this pretty useful feature where it lets you check how much time you’ve spent on a game in total, by day and an average by play session. While not innovative by any means, truth is not every game lets you know how much time you’ve spent playing it, and that information can be an important factor to consider for organizing your time or when suggesting a game to someone else (especially as you get older), for example.
That’s all well and good, but then we get to the crucial little detail that influenced this entire post:
You see that little crown with the numbers inside? That tells you which game you’ve spent the most time playing, which one you booted up the most times and the one you’ve played the most by session. And it’s this last one that awoke something within me. It triggered this unwelcome aversion to simply booting up a game because it’d mess up the average playing time and preventing me from getting back to the Home menu because it could mess up those numbers.
I really get a strong sense of accomplishment from organizing stuff, like my games and DVD collection, but this is probably the most OCD thing I ever felt compelled to do and with no positive outcome. There were times when I simply didn’t turn off my 3DS; I left it in sleep mode in order to not lose more time.
In a rather twisted way, it was like I felt I was doing those games a disservice for not playing them long enough for a certain stretch of time. Especially the ones I enjoyed the most. At a subconscious level, I was measuring my own appreciation of them by a totally irrelevant measure, where no one but me gave a damn. And I even I didn’t want to care about it!
I’m a pretty introspective person, and I try to be aware of myself, my thoughts and my emotions at all times. Meaning I was completely aware of this issue from pretty much the get-go, but couldn’t do anything about it and let it go on for far longer than it should.
I don’t feel the urge to let those little crowns and their numbers matter anymore, but I feel it’s also an important example to consider when designing UIs and such. We have to be aware that, with competitiveness being such an intrinsic aspect of ourselves, little things like assigning 1st and 2nd place can bring it out when you least expect it.
And yes, people take advantage of those exact things but, as I’ve shared, even the most seemingly innocuous elements can get twisted and have an (unwanted) impact on a player’s experience.
What about you? Any habits you’ve developed or thoughts you knew were actively impairing your enjoyment but had trouble ignoring? What did you do about it?
Thank you for reading and keep being great!