Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Opened the fridge: Achievement unlocked!

I quite like achievements in games, but have you noticed how they, and general ‘gamification’ is now showing up everywhere, including really silly places?
I posted a question for the first time recently on stackoverflow, a site where coders ask and answer questions. I asked ONE question, and got 6 replies. For this, my account unlocked what seemed like a dozen ‘badges’ and ‘achievements’ I think I got some ‘reputation’ and probably other crap too. Meh…

I notice project wonderful is doing the same thing. As an advertiser, I can unlock ‘achievements’ there too.

Sorry but this is bullshit. I like earning super-duper-medals when I’m pretending to be space captain cliffski or slaying dragons, but when I pick advertising or debug my code I don’t need to be treated like I’m playing pokemon. It’s just silly. I’m sure it *works*, and makes busienss sense, but I still find it a bit weird.

What’s the strangest place you’ve encountered points, achievements and gamification lately? Does it bug you?

25 thoughts on Opened the fridge: Achievement unlocked!

  1. I think I could do with some achievements when debugging if they were all written to make fun of me.

    “Achievement Unlocked: Boolean Inversion!

    Congratulations! With only a single character (or lack thereof), you told the computer to do the exact opposite of what you wanted it to do and completely screwed up your entire program, way to go!”

  2. Badges on these sites are just one way like another to reward good behaviour. Care about it or not, after, it’s another topic.

    Reputation, however, is a good system. As someone asking a question, it’s useless to you, at least directly. But as a frequent user/answerer, reputation drives nicely the whole system. You earn reputation from people voting up what you posted. You posted a great, clear, useful answer (or interesting and clear question)? Then you are rewarded for that.

    It works great not because people want to have a bigger number than the other, but because people with higher reputation unlock more “moderating” rights. So in other words, people who are the most “trusted” by the community for their answers are entrusted with moderating possibilities, like the right to edit posts for more clarity.
    At crazily high levels of moderation, users have access to tools like the actual moderators.

    The point is, it works. You experimented it yourself. You had 5 answers in 5 minutes, and the one which solved your problem was given a minute after you posted your question. (
    This reputation system is not only a gimmick, it actually pushes the community to provide fast and detailed answers.

    (ps: there are other sites from the same network, including one dedicated to game dev: While its community is less important than StackOverflow’s one, you could have an interest in it)

  3. The last one I found was stackoverflow. And I actually thought its reputation system is very well thought (the more reputation you have, the more things you can do; with a high enough reputation, someone can, for example, fix your question without asking you for permission).

    The badges, I’m not so interested about.

  4. I think part of the the point of a reputation system is that the person who is asking the question is more likely to trust the person answering who has the higher reputation. It works in a very similar way to a post count, but rep. points take into account quality rather than quantity.

  5. I got an email the other day from Yahoo stating my account has reached “Level 2” as a result of answering a certain number of questions on Yahoo Answers. The funny thing is, I’ve never used Yahoo Answers! So, aside from being mildly annoying (and something I apparently can’t opt out of), it’s pretty pointless, and apparently does not apply since I’ve never actually taken part in the Yahoo Answers community.

    Achievements in games are usually good to extend replay value, though.

  6. I have fun trying to get more badges at the gamedev stack exchange. The “consolation” badge, the tumbleweed, bothers me though. If I wanted to get all of them I’d have to intentionally produce a question that is useless to the community and I still might not even get it.

    I think the achievements make sense in the advertisement realm too if they are structured to encourage people to use the system in a responsible manner and not spam or other undesirable community activities.

    As far as games are concerned though, they need to be actual achievements and not encourage poor game play or going against the theme/flow/feel of the game. If I’m in a tense scene where I am supposed to be hurrying to the end, but I want to stop to make sure I get all the collectibles before I move on, that’s a failure on the part of collectibles and the achievements encouraging you to get them.

  7. As others pointed out, the reputation system and the badge system need to be considered independently. Reputation systems work very well at places like Stack Overflow. They allow people to gain high reputation (I have 6800+ reputation) and the system also notes the categories (C#, SQL, Haskell) that your questions have been well received.

    This means you can consider the probability an answer will be good by the reputation they hold and acts as an incentive for people to answer questions quickly and accurately.

    On the other hand, I ignore the badges entirely.

  8. I don’t mind the achievements on Stack Overflow so much. They could be compared to rank titles you get on many message boards after x postings.

    What does bug me though are most of the Steam achievements because 98% of any of them are indeed pure BS. You have started the game, you have finished the tutorial, you have met your first NPC.. Etc. Can somebody say “pointless”. If I get for any kind of worthless shit an achievement it’ll negate the point for them to exist.

  9. I think the point of those achievements is to give the game makers an easy, if crude, way of tracking how far the players make it into the game.

  10. @RaveBomb – I guess some are just for personal “reward”, there are people who are attracted and driven by such kind of things to unlock.

    But indeed you have always the ones which are following different steps of the game. It’s interesting (and concerning) to watch these ones, even for other people. Steam is aggregating all of them, so it gives interesting insight on what people are actually doing.

    And like often with Steam games, you will see things like this : – 10% of people didn’t even play the game for more than a few minutes – 25% didn’t play past the introduction mission (this game was offered as a preorder bonus for another game, I think, it could be a reason), and onl 17% of people reached the end. – 13% of people didn’t open the single player (manual override is not even something to really play through, only an introduction). More interesting piece of statistics, 40% of people didn’t play multiplayer, or played for a very short time, according to the high five achievement (which is happening at the end of the coop tutorial).

    In a way, it allows devs to know what people actually played or not. It can be instructive (and demoralizing) to see that less than 65% of people actually finished the game (so the others didn’t get to or managed to finish it, for some reason).

  11. I’ve actually seen the opposite too; in iBomber Defense I’ve finished the Allies campaign except for the last level, and I still haven’t seen one achievement. The achievements are like “Finish all levels on hardcore without letting one enemy pass”.

  12. @Gnoupi Ok so then these are statistics! Then why not call them statistics instead of “achievements”? I would set the word “achievement” equal to “hiscore”, something that players can get as a reward and be proud of.

  13. Cap’n Lee: I was thinking the exact same thing (having got one of those cards a couple of days ago). Is it a new thing? They’ve never mentioned a card to me before.

  14. To flip this around, did being offered points/rewards/badges/xp actually cause you a problem?

    It’s just that it’s been clearly proven that stuff like this DOES promote loyalty and encourage people to play your game/use your site more – I’m surprised, as someone who’s always looking for ways to market themselves, you’ve not realised that??

    End of the day it’s not like they’re an inconvenience???

  15. I think I first noticed it in the original Portal game (one of the first I played that had achievements, as I’m not one for shooters generally and they seemed to be the focus for achievements). “Rewarding” me for taking required actions is pointless and devalues the other achievements that you have to actually work for. At least half of the (single-player) achievements in most games these days could have the description swapped for “Congratulations, you are still playing”.

  16. Point is if you declare those achievements as ‘rewards’ then they are cheap, watered-down rewards that nobody needs in games, other than as a decoy for statistics. Such stuff might not harm you but it certainly doesn’t make a game more meaningful.

  17. I noticed them on Project Wonderful as well, thought it was totally bizarre and out of place. They have them on Reddit as well, always strikes me as odd.

  18. While there’s always a dark side to things like this, gamification in non-game places can actually be used to great positive effect. This: is a video from the Extra Credits guys that talks about how gamification can/has been used in the education system to make learning more fun and engaging and ultimately improving kids performance, which is certainly no bad thing.

    You’re definitely right in how some places use if badly, but I think it’s ultimately a tool and it’s more about how it’s used than where it should/shouldn’t be, and I don’t think there is a ‘bad’ or ‘stupid’ place to use it if done well. Much like in advertising, there’s the booth babes/Evony adverts and there’s the clever and engaging adverts that respect their audience.

    I agree too with some of the remarks here, particularly Kemp’s that some of them are basically ‘well done for playing the game’. A game should be engaging and rewarding enough on its own that I want to complete it without giving me an award for doing so. I think Civ V was probably the most egregious that I’ve come across (despite being a good game), with a ridiculous number of achievements, almost all of which were ‘win a game playing as Britian/India/Japan…’ or ‘Win on a big/small/medium/… map’, etc. None of these prompted me to play the game in a way I wouldn’t otherwise have done and none of them were a challenge to get outside of how you’d normally play the game.

    Examples of achievements done well, I think, would be TF2, which I remember having a number of amusing and quite challenging achievements to get for doing fun things that you might not normally try (though there were also the standard ‘win 10 matches’), such as ‘kill an enemy spy while he’s flicking a cigarette’ or ones that make apparent game mechanics you might have overlooked (reflect x rockets with the flamethrowers compressed air blast).

  19. Saw that on Civ V too, so many worthless achievements. Another problem I have with the Steam achievements is that they are detached from the game. They are part of Steam, not part of the game. It makes them all smell too much of a systematic approach to the whole thing.

    Back in the heyday of Arcade games we had hiscores. They were worth something for the one of got them. But Steam achievements (and similar systems, e.g. on iOS) feel like a statistics system made by a committee of marketing people. It’s all way to unattractive for me to care about.

  20. It is quite unique. The points you ‘earn’ you can also ‘spend’ when you ask a question noone seems to be answering. You start a ‘bounty’, offering some of your points for the first person who answers. Believe it or not, it helped me solve a few problems I couldn’t find the answer to. Weird, but works.

  21. I like achievements in games when they actually represent something–in fact, I recall suggesting as much to you for one of the Kudo games. A developer can consider short, medium, and longterm goals, then give out a nice back-pat to players as a trophy/badge/etc, in order to encourage further gaming. But to give an award in Sim Medieval when your kingdom has no security whatever? Or no money? It’s a sort of reverse achievements award: “You’re doing nothing, so we’re going to poke fun at you.”

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