Former Mirror’s Edge achievement creator Fredrik Thylander has posted on Twitter that he believes achievements and trophies have been bad for gaming, despite his history of creating some pretty swell achievement lists in the past.
His initial tweet reads as follows: “Unpopular opinion: achievements/trophies have been bad for gaming. It narrows games down, it disrupts and diverts attention, and it eats resources that could have made the game better.” In replies, he elaborated that, “games should have the reward mechanisms most suited for them, and the one-size-fits-all mandate from platform holders to make reward systems that benefit the platform makes games worse.”
Hot take or not, it’s a compelling argument! We’ve all played games where achievements feel slapped on as a second thought. They can seem included just because they have to be, farmed for meaningless points rather than adding anything substantial to the experience of actually playing the game.
However, fans of achievements could very well point to Thylander’s own work as a counter point proving the merits of the achievement. In Mirror’s Edge, a substantial number of the achievements act as carrots encouraging players to learn and master elements of the game, enhancing the experience.
If you’re around my age, you may remember sitting down and pushing to unlock some of the trickier parkour string achievements like Free Flowing and May I Have This Dance after school. Once you’ve earnt these achievements, you’ve got another tool under your belt, allowing you to race through maps with greater efficiency. In this way, players hungry for achievement points gain expertise in the game that they are playing. A spponful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
It’s an interesting conversation. While it worked out well for Mirror’s Edge, maybe there was a rewards system that would have complimented the game better and acted as a better training tool for players. Also, just because it worked for that game doesn’t mean the system gets a pass for every other game out there. Time spent filling out bog standard achievements is time that could be spent making a game more rewarding through avenues unique to that title.
What do you think of the take? Do you agree, or do think achievements have been good for gaming overall? Let us know below!
For more Mirror's Edge related articles, check out this rad Unreal Engine 5 Mirror's Edge project, as well as a related episode of the VG247 podcast: Best Assassin's Creed game that isn't an Assassin's Creed game and you can't pick Ghost Of Tsushima.