Achievements ‘make games worse’ claims Ubisoft developer

The Division 2 – unless it’s on Nintendo Switch, every game has an achievements list nowadays (pic: Ubisoft)

Fans of achievements and trophies have defended their inclusion after a Ubisoft employee said they have made video games worse.

It may be hard for younger gamers to believe but achievements are a relatively new concept for video games, having only being introduced in the Xbox 360 era – initially by Microsoft and then quickly copied by Sony.

Nowadays, every Xbox, PlayStation, and PC game comes with an achievement or trophy list, with Nintendo’s platform being the only outlier – although even then many of their games have their own specific achievement system.

Compared to other aspects of the modern games industry, like microtransactions and overly expensive collector’s editions, achievements seem fairly harmless. However, a Ubisoft developer recently sparked debate when they described achievements as being ‘bad for gaming.’

Fredrik Thylander, who currently works at Ubisoft’s Massive Entertainment (the studio behind The Division and an upcoming Star Wars game), took to Twitter to express the self-admitted unpopular opinion.

His argument is that the addition of an achievements ‘narrows games down, it disrupts and diverts attention, and it eats resources that could have made the game better.’

He adds, ‘I just think 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.’

Unsurprisingly, Thylander has received plenty of pushback, but judging by the responses, it thankfully hasn’t descended into needless vitriol.

Instead, people have defended achievements as something that has encouraged them to check out parts of a game they never would have otherwise. One user cites the speed run and time trial achievements from Mirror’s Edge (which Thylander also worked on during his time at DICE) as an example of this.

Others simply say that the inclusion of achievements encourages them to do multiple playthroughs rather than just play a game once and never touch it again.

That said, there are a handful that agree with Thylander’s sentiment, believing that achievements can foster a sense of elitism and capitalise on addictive personalities. Not to mention some achievements can be mind-numbingly boring or impossible to unlock if they’re tied to online multiplayer and the servers don’t work anymore.

Some people can become obsessed with earning achievements just for the sake of it. There are games that you’ve probably never heard of (particularly on Steam) that only exist to give people easy achievements to complete.

There’s definitely an interesting discussion to be had here, with the responses highlighting many varied pros and cons. There’re even split opinions about whether Nintendo needs to integrate its own achievement system for Switch or if the lack of one is a good thing.

The responses seem to prove, however, that achievements are too popular to ever be removed. Which is frustrating for developers such as Thylander who have no choice but to include them in their games.

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