The games that make you forget about achievements
You're exploring a massive dungeon. You're looking for something or someone, but all that matters at that particular moment is your survival as you face a small gang of orcs who want nothing more than to club you to death. And while that group of enemies may be small, there are still four of them and only one of you. You get in some nice shots with your sword, maybe fry a couple of orcs with your fire magic, and you survive the onslaught. You continue on and find a locked treasure chest. Using one of the last lock picks you have, you manage to reveal its contents: armor, a nice sword, and gold.
Then, just a moment later, you hear a familiar chime informing you that you've officially picked 50 locks and 50 pockets, in the process earning the Thief achievement in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Wait, this game has achievements? Completely forgot about that, did you?
I know I did. When I captured my very first Trophy in the PlayStation 3 version of Skyrim, I was completely caught off guard. I usually pop in a game and quickly scroll through the list of Achievements or Trophies, and I always remember a few so that I can immediately hunt those. I did that before playing Skyrim, but then I completely forgot about them. That was, of course, until that familiar chime rang.
Achievements and Trophies have changed the way a lot of people play video games. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because everyone is entitled to play a game in whatever way he or she chooses. Personally, I've always admired tradition — I love video games for the reasons people used to play them before the arrival of achievements systems. That said, though I genuinely love the traditionalist mindset of playing a game the old school way, I can't deny the fact that sometimes I really like digging for achievements.
But even though gamers like shooting someone in the nuts in Saints Row: The Third or getting multiple S-ranks in Sonic Generations for the sole purpose of collecting Achievements and Trophies, there are many of us who appreciate the fine art of just not giving a damn about those things. So yes, even though I like Trophy hunting in games like Borderlands, Shadows of the Damned, and Rayman Origins, I also appreciate games that really make me forget about that stuff.
Despite the fact that the Wii doesn't have an achievements system, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a great example of a game that I truly feel never needed any added incentive like that. Playing the game and experiencing the game was incentive enough, and the payoff of seeing what Skyward Sword had to offer was amazing on its own. No, the game never had achievements because of the console it was on, but even if it could have featured the enticing little rewards, it didn't need them in any capacity.
The newer generation of gamers may not agree with me, and there are likely a number of jaded individuals out there who will argue that I'm wrong and that video games need Achievements and Trophies, but the truth of the matter is that oftentimes, they really don't. I've played countless indie games — titles such as Cave Story, Where Is My Heart?, Terraria, and Mighty Jill Off — none of which had an achievements system, and none of which ever felt empty or lacking because of it. These are the games that hark back to a more traditional model, and they succeed in pulling it off because they're so damn good that they don't need to resort to that one modern quality that makes so many gamers go bonkers in their pants.
If I had to be 100 percent honest, I would have to say that I absolutely adore Achievements and Trophies. The fact that I can get rewarded for killing a set number of certain types of enemies in an action game, or for performing a tricky stunt in a platformer, genuinely brings a smile to my face and joy to my gamer heart. I like that there are additional objectives outside of the main game to keep me coming back for more, even if some of them can be infuriatingly difficult to accomplish.
But even though I love Achievements and Trophies, I also respect games that can make me play the way I used to. Games like the aforementioned Skyrim and Skyward Sword; indies such as Inside a Star-Filled Sky and Spelunky; even older titles in my backlog like Killer7 (which I'm currently playing) that don't force me to think, "Oh, well, that would have been a great achievement right there." These are all games that don't rely on weird goals or tricky objectives just to reward me with something intangible. As someone who's been playing video games for about 21 years, I have to respect the heck out of that.