Achievement Porn
April 27, 2011 6:13 PM   Subscribe

Achievement Porn
posted by anotherpanacea (87 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
*cough*
posted by leotrotsky at 6:15 PM on April 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Any achievement in a video game is a “fake achievement.”

Piffle.

But the true effect is to disincent him from getting caught stealing.

I like how this was in bold because it really brought home a profound truth that nobody has ever clearer stated before, realigning my worldview and bwahahahaha
posted by DU at 6:18 PM on April 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


It does not seem to have achieved not being slashmefidotted. Posting this while waiting for the page to load.
posted by localroger at 6:23 PM on April 27, 2011


[favorites post]
posted by stp123 at 6:23 PM on April 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


I recently got connected to XBox Live and my indifference toward Achievements has been replaced by shame at my low gamerscore. It's pretty silly.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:24 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


question: is 'ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED' replacing 'PROTIP:' as the stock gamer phrase? or do they work together? I once left my favorite pub before 3am. I felt like that deserved an Achievement. Too bad Facebook Places killed FourSquare for my social group or I might have got one.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:26 PM on April 27, 2011


It's actually a good article. There is definitely an uptick in these kinds of vacuous achievement systems online and in games. They're fun and engaging, but are only there for a hook. They often don't add real value to environment or the participants.
posted by stp123 at 6:27 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Previously
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:28 PM on April 27, 2011


alright now that the post is up it looks like pseudo self-help, 'GO OUTSIDE!' bullshit. Achievements actually can aid in relaxation because, if they're designed well, they encourage fucking around and doing cool shit after the game is done. I have found that the number of games I complete on the XBox is higher than the number I completed on the PS2 since I want at least the easy 'story' Achievements.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:32 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


This guy seems to think "disincent" is a word, which usage I cannot help regard with an eyebrow most archly raised.

Also I think he's arguing about games in bad faith. Games certainly are increasingly manipulating human notions of achievement, but I don't find criticisms of that manipulation which themselves are based on the a priori assertion that all games are a complete waste of time to be particularly useful or convincing.
posted by pts at 6:33 PM on April 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


I was starting to think of a bunch of hilarious Porn Achievements to post in this thread, but then I realized I value your respect too much to actually type any of them.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:34 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was starting to think of a bunch of hilarious Porn Achievements to post in this thread, but then I realized I value your respect too much to actually type any of them.

Pretty sure the Bulletstorm writers have already used them all.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:35 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not a very compelling article :/

Achievement Unlocked: Read the article before posting comment!
Achievement Unlocked: Trash the post!

Really would have preferred some actual porn.

Achievement Unlocked: Stereotypical Internet Male!
posted by d1rge at 6:41 PM on April 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


I once left my favorite pub before 3am.

Why? You had the whole day ahead of you!
posted by Jehan at 6:41 PM on April 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, Achievements are no different than score or even just "beating" a game. They do give an easy way for a developer to include "alternate goals" in a game. In my experience they tend to extend the fun of a game rather than hurt it.

The article seems to think that people are really like "wow I achieved something today!" in some different way than people felt when they hit the high score at Pac-Man or something. I think thats a straw man, that no one actually believes what he's worried people believe.
posted by wildcrdj at 6:41 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Disincent"?
posted by WalterMitty at 6:41 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The article seems to think that people are really like "wow I achieved something today!" in some different way than people felt when they hit the high score at Pac-Man or something. I think thats a straw man, that no one actually believes what he's worried people believe.

It depends on the game. This weekend I finally played through Portal (thanks to a MeFite) and consuming that piece of pop culture I'd put off felt like I'd finished a goal, even it was a silly one. Same with beating a long game or mastering a hard bit in a game.

I mean obviously I realize it's all pointless, but sometimes it feels like pointless and more 'yes! got you, pesky boss!'
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:45 PM on April 27, 2011


I can't even unlock the essay, much less any achievement.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:47 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mean obviously I realize it's all pointless, but sometimes it feels like pointless and more 'yes! got you, pesky boss!'

I think this was the point of the article... what is it you're disagreeing with?
posted by moxiedoll at 6:48 PM on April 27, 2011


The whole tone just felt scolding and strangely self-help. But thanks for making the incredibly original observation that Achievements aren't really for things you achieve. Is his next blog post going to point out that most of my Facebook Friends aren't the same as 'real' friends?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:53 PM on April 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I actually think the achievement structure is what keeps me chained to academia. I don't know what it's like for people in real-life jobs, but for us it's horribly treadmill based:

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: Got into fancy grad school!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: Conference presentation!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: Published an article!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: Passed exams!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: Received external grant!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: ABD!
...etc., etc.

It's horribly addictive because the goals are so fine-grained and within reach, but many of them are achievable only after repetition and grinding. A lot of people (including myself a lot of the time) develop such severe tunnel vision that they're completely unable to separate living their life from getting the next achievement. It's a sick system, since at the end of the process you're likely to end up much like someone who beats a game at 5am: vaguely sick, dirty, ashamed, and with no more real-world skills than you started with.
posted by nasreddin at 6:53 PM on April 27, 2011 [63 favorites]


I know that voice will pop up because like every bullshit treadmill that exists, it exists because it’s correlated with something we consider “good”. Just like punishment is correlated with good behavior, education is correlated with scientific advancement, and money is correlated with value, your treadmill of choice is correlated with something good too:

* With Facebook it’s “reconnecting” or “staying in touch.”
* With Twitter it’s “influence.”
* With WarCraft it’s “forming friendships.”

The fact is that each of these correlations are pretty much true, but none of them are necessary.


BULLSHIT.
Explain to me how to organize my social life - one where I have a few close friends and large, loose group of gig buddies, mates, and randoms - without Facebook and Twitter.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:55 PM on April 27, 2011


That voice will tell you all the really great benefits of your bullshit treadmill in an attempt to convince you that it’s meaningful.

Oh crud.
posted by Glinn at 6:57 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


"With WarCraft it’s “forming friendships.”

Oh yeah. And this is weird and untrue.
Also, the author is a pirate. (Take that as you will.)
posted by Glinn at 7:02 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


He also forgot to mention fishing for Likes/Favorites/Retweets, which is a pretty decent part of my online life.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:05 PM on April 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Explain to me how to organize my social life - one where I have a few close friends and large, loose group of gig buddies, mates, and randoms - without Facebook and Twitter.

So, within 5 years of Facebook and Twitter coming out, you're so hooked to using those two services that you can't imagine social lives without them? ;)

(I use Facebook and Twitter, though recently I deleted my Facebook for a few months and did life without it. I worry more and more about how the Internet is undermining more traditional communities, and in just which ways my social world suffers from that undermining.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:07 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait, so if you haven't actually "achieved" anything when playing games, why are there some achievements which I can't get, despite trying really hard? What word would he suggest to use in place of "achievement"? "Accomplishment"? I suspect he'd disagree there, too. "Managing to do something which you have been trying to do, but which is difficult to do"? He'd probably agree that that's a reasonable description. I have a shorthand word I use synonymously with that long sentence: achievement.
posted by Bugbread at 7:08 PM on April 27, 2011


Man, I totally thought that this was going to be about how porn has been ruined since, like, when deep throat came out by the tendency to simply go for 'achievements' catering to particular audience groups. And I was all, like, Yeah, I can get behind that. Coz, like, everyone loves a good narrative attached to their porn, right? As opposed to just three solid hours of hermaphroditic sex? Like, I'm totally curious about how this hermaphrodite came to be naked in an abandoned asylum with all of these midgets. That's fascinating, and yet, the story is never told.
posted by kaibutsu at 7:08 PM on April 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


He also forgot to mention fishing for Likes/Favorites/Retweets, which is a pretty decent part of my online life.

Ugh, tell me about it. It's gotten to the point that people tell me in meatspace how good I am at finding stuff on the Internet, and I can't tell if they're saying it with mild admiration or fascinated disgust. I suspect the latter.
posted by nasreddin at 7:08 PM on April 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


I get so tired of this "all video game achievements are fake" bullshit. Its no different than if I learned to play the guitar without ever playing in front of another person. I like it, there is a chance that some of that skill will spill over into something else. Learning and instrument can help manual dexterity and learning music has some mental benefits. Video games help learn to work within a system of rules, can help with spacial reasoning, and a bunch of other stuff depending on the type of game. I did tons of number crunching in some MMOs and put a lot of basic economics to work with crafting.

Heck, with Rock Band 3 you can combine the two. Learn guitar and get useless achievements all at once.

Even if there is no benefit to the video achievements outside of the game (or in it) I enjoy it and its more engaging that watching a movie. The rest is irrelevant. If I find it personally enriching, isn't that enough?
posted by VTX at 7:15 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Explain to me how to organize my social life - one where I have a few close friends and large, loose group of gig buddies, mates, and randoms - without Facebook and Twitter.

People organised (and still organise) their social lives without those tools. Five years ago, I used a strange device, a 'telephone'. I contacted the people I wanted to speak to, or see in real life. I arranged to see them. Then I saw them. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Seriously through, I used to send out invites to events via SMS. Then everyone would respond to me, as de facto event coordinator. Then I would send out a confirmation, and people would show up.

Now, since I'm at a desk all day, I can use email, or (shock horror) Facebook.

People adapt to the tools at hand. It's not rocket science.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:17 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I use SMS for stuff that's a bit more serious. Like my birthday drinks are coming up, so I'm spamming Facebook. But real friends/crushes get an SMS. Facebook is also a great pool for things like Xbox Live and Words with Friends friends.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:20 PM on April 27, 2011


I'm personally trying to figure out what these types of website achieve other than being non-productive, self-sustaining ad-revenue traps. There's dozens of them, all with a vaguely positive, charismatic positive attitude GTD vibe, and I can't help but think that all they're getting done is making a profit off *discussing* getting things done. It's kind of pissing me off - what the hell is this guy, or any of the generators of other really similar sites, contributing to the world?
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 7:24 PM on April 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Well, I certainly don't live my life this way.

/runs off to check if comment in Obama birth certificate mega-thread has gotten any more favorites
posted by benito.strauss at 7:25 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really enjoyed that he ended his piece with a paragraph that just happens to mention "I have a 110″ inch screen in my media room." Do you suppose he realises that the game of mentioning one's ever-larger screen is Yet Another Achievement Treadmill, and that he's consciously partaking because he thinks it's fun?
posted by pahalial at 7:28 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, similarly with the footer telling you to sign up for his Twitter, in definite "you should" terms because that increases the conversion rate, as he read on HN awhile ago. But I'm sure his twitter follower count is not just an Achievement Treadmill, it's Serious Business.
posted by pahalial at 7:29 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


My mission is to inspire people to think clearly, to live deliberately, to conquer fear and embrace possibility, to express beauty, and to love completely. Prepare to be scorched then reborn, authentic and complete.

Whatevs, aspirational pirate dude. You no can haz my monies.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:30 PM on April 27, 2011 [14 favorites]


Even learning, when it really does happen, is not itself an achievement
I think he's serious...

I fancy myself a scholar. I fully intend to spend my life studying things and finding better ways to study things and maybe, if I am very lucky, finding some knowledge that no one has ever found before.

I consider this a worthy achievement because... I do. Oh, I could argue the practical benefits, "just think of the potential!" and all that, but the truth is that I have no idea what, if any, potential this might have. It's great if my discoveries aid some people, but that's not why I'm doing it.

A lot of the terminology that we here on Metafilter use to talk about consent issues--often, but not necessarily, dealing with sex--originated in fetish clubs. The people who worked out that terminology weren't trying to recontextualize any discourses, they just wanted to have a different type of sex than usual. Benefits like that tend to just fall out of whatever activity you want to invest way too much time and effort in.

Video games are no different. Reality TV is no different. Walking the streets of the city you live in without really looking for anything is no different--people do that all the time, because who knows, they might find something interesting.

The original article that this one here refers to has a very specific meaning of "fake achievement" in mind. "Fake achievement" is that which requires little skill. But this reaction article that we're commenting about has something else in mind--suddenly skill at a video game is not "real skill," I suppose, or else "achievement" requires much more than just the skill.

Yelling at kids for wasting their lives on Starcraft is not much different from yelling at chess players for wasting their lives on a board game, and the Starcraft kids manage much bigger armies in much smaller time-frames.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:40 PM on April 27, 2011 [12 favorites]


I honestly use videogames as a form of meditation sometimes. Focusing on being someone else shuts up alot of the mental static.
I think that's a good argument against Achievements - that they take you out of the flow or story or whatever zone you're in by reminding you you're playing a game.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:43 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


relevant
posted by LogicalDash at 7:44 PM on April 27, 2011


Superstimulus.
posted by grobstein at 7:45 PM on April 27, 2011


[...]

188 likes. Sign Up to see what your friends like.


lol
posted by indubitable at 7:52 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I tiry to avoid all this bu underacheiving.
posted by jonmc at 7:59 PM on April 27, 2011


From the little "about" box on pirateboy's blog:

Prepare to be scorched then reborn, authentic and complete.

This is the most bombastically egotistical thing I've ever read in a blog, and I don't think he's being ironic. This guy could give lessons to Donald Trump. Wow. Just…wow.
posted by adamrice at 8:00 PM on April 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think the difference between achieving "wins" or whatever they are labeled in game-land and "wins" in real life, and the personal psychological issues such confusion may entail, have pretty much been talked to death already.

For thousands of years, the difference between what society deems as achievement and what YOU deem as achievement has already been talked to death as well.

Aside from the video game debate - and it is not an insignificant point that, psychologically, winning a video game could possibly work at cross-purposes to winning in life, the core of this particular thesis - a more essential (and existential) question would be: how much does "achieving" or "winning" in life relate to 1) making a difference in the world and 2) finding personal meaning in life?

Sorry for the transcendental derail.
posted by kozad at 8:01 PM on April 27, 2011


Many games work on the principal of achievement, long before computers (Monopoly? Mah Jong?). The mistake he makes is to turn that into a social criticism, to suggest that the high rate of game playing is associated with society-wide false achievement. In truth, many people play games because we have more leisure time than ever before, due to the achievements we've made in standards of living.
posted by stbalbach at 8:02 PM on April 27, 2011


Wow. Why do I feel like I read a completely different article than most of you? This isn't about whether games are good or bad. Or whether they are better with or without achievements. It's hardly about games at all. It's about the underlying system of Flow, the balance between rewards and incentives, whether in games or life. He's only saying give it some conscious thought. Be mindful of what you are doing. Do what you do because you want to, not because you feel you have to. Don't just grind because if you just hang in there long enough, you will "level up." Define for yourself what success is and achieve that, once again, in games or real life.

I'll grant you, he's over the top. But, I get the feeling that he thinks he's trying to help other people.
posted by Roger Dodger at 8:07 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is the most bombastically egotistical thing I've ever read in a blog, and I don't think he's being ironic. This guy could give lessons to Donald Trump. Wow. Just…wow.

But, adamrice, he has an eyepatch. He's seen things.
posted by SomaSoda at 8:15 PM on April 27, 2011


My mission is to inspire people to think clearly, to live deliberately, to conquer fear and embrace possibility, to express beauty, and to love completely. Prepare to be scorched then reborn, authentic and complete.

Whatevs, aspirational pirate dude. You no can haz my monies.


BitterOldPunk, you owe me a new keyboard! Note to self: do not drink while reading Mefi pirate snark.

Also, from the post itself (achievement unlocked! Best Ironic Comment): So did you get the gay pirate eye patch at level 8 or 9?
posted by misha at 8:25 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's about the underlying system of Flow, the balance between rewards and incentives, whether in games or life.

I thought Flow was the state a good game puts you in where you are 'one with the game' and you utterly lose yourself.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:42 PM on April 27, 2011


Has anyone used this app, epic win?
posted by cazoo at 8:45 PM on April 27, 2011


Even learning, when it really does happen, is not itself an achievement

Yet somehow "to embrace possibility" has a coveted place in the Kingdom of Ends.
posted by Beardman at 8:50 PM on April 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


(4. Trade) gnomeloaf: Dude. If yr goin outside, can I have yr stuff?
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:56 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow. Why do I feel like I read a completely different article than most of you? [...] He's only saying give it some conscious thought. Be mindful of what you are doing. Do what you do because you want to, not because you feel you have to. Don't just grind because if you just hang in there long enough, you will "level up." Define for yourself what success is and achieve that, once again, in games or real life.

Agreed. I think he's right that a lot of games (and social systems; for a lot of people Work is the grindiest game out there) are rigged to encourage repetitive, relatively empty behavior -- I've said this about MMOs and other subscription-based games before -- and I think he's also right to point out that that's fine, as long as you're being up-front with yourself about what you're doing. "My admonishment is not to tell you what is worth your while, but simply to be brutally honest with yourself about that." Seems more than reasonable to me; I think self-honesty is as close to an ideal value as you can get.

The followup article, Meaningful Work, makes it clear that he's not talking about an easy, bright-line distinction between "real" achievements and "false" ones. It's all about what you really, truly consider to be beneficial in your life... and if that's being a guild leader in WoW and/or writing a bombastic self-help blog, so be it.
posted by vorfeed at 9:16 PM on April 27, 2011


Lovecraft in Brooklyn > I think that's a good argument against Achievements - that they take you out of the flow or story or whatever zone you're in by reminding you you're playing a game.

God, you're right.

Pok-POK! System-branded text box appears in an attention-grabbing slidey motion, with small text to distract you from the game you're actually playing.

*googles* Oh, good, apparently they can be turned off. I am so doing that the next time I feel like sitting on my ass in front of the 360.
posted by egypturnash at 9:38 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whatevs, aspirational pirate dude. You no can haz my monies.

I decided to get interested after getting annoyed and here is the story behind the author's eye patch and possibly a number of his other decisions.
posted by furiousthought at 9:48 PM on April 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Pok-POK! System-branded text box appears in an attention-grabbing slidey motion, with small text to distract you from the game you're actually playing.

*googles* Oh, good, apparently they can be turned off. I am so doing that the next time I feel like sitting on my ass in front of the 360.


I've got a theory that this might be intentional though. If I spend too long in front of a game I get alienated and depressed. If something takes me out of that reality and reminds me I'm playing a game the effect can be forstalled.

I may need to think on this further.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:51 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hrm. For HN-muck devotional capitalism bullshit, that was actually pretty damned good.

He's right about false achievements – completely right. I play the trumpet in my spare time, and my roommate plays video games (mostly MMOs). He gets better at the MMOs, yeah, and he interacts with people online, etc. But at the end of the year, I'll be able to play the trumpet, and he'll just have to start over on a new game.

It's not necessarily some big thing, and I'll never be the best trumpet player in the world. But still – when I play the trumpet, I actually feel like I'm making something, in a way. Yeah, it's just fun, and yeah, I am not very serious about it; but it's a nice feeling at the end of the day, knowing I'm getting better little by little.

That's why video games almost always bore me, and I wonder why people really enjoy them. I mean, I see my roommates get frustrated, really frustrated, at stuff in games; and I see things really annoy them. Why would you want to do something that frustrates and annoys you? The thing is that, I know, you're drawn back in by the false achievements, and completing something in the game feels good. But... doesn't that just mean that the frustration and annoyance was totally pointless? That it was for nothing? So – why? I always feel this emptiness after I get done playing – knowing that whatever I feel like I achieved, it's really just a lie.

I don't know. I'm not really anti-video-games, but sometimes I look at my friends who play more than an hour a day and I wonder. It seems kind of like a waste of life.
posted by koeselitz at 9:57 PM on April 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


the trick is to figure out a punishment that will make him think twice about stealing, but not one that will just make him more savvy.

I think it's time to talk about The Wheel.
posted by honest knave at 10:36 PM on April 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


> If I spend too long in front of a game I get alienated and depressed. If something takes me out of that reality and reminds me I'm playing a game the effect can be forstalled.

I find that seeing my scraggly, ungroomed reflection in the glass during black loading screens worked pretty well for that. Admittedly this is getting rarer as more and more games get played on big-ass non-reflective flat screens.

I mostly solve this problem these days by sticking to small, "arcadey" games rather than sprawling sandboxes. A little escapism with easy victories over imaginary challenges now and then is fine. Wallowing in it for most of your waking life is a problem.

Sometimes when I talk about video games I feel like I sound like an ex-alcoholic. I know just how sweet that constant stream of carefully-designed "challenge" and resulting minor victories is. There's a part of me that would be completely happy to just sit on the couch for weeks on end getting fatter and playing the things. Especially when I'm depressed. "Real" achievements look a lot harder then.

And ultimately I guess it becomes about what achievements you choose to celebrate. Which is kinda the point of the article at hand.
posted by egypturnash at 10:55 PM on April 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's why video games almost always bore me, and I wonder why people really enjoy them. I mean, I see my roommates get frustrated, really frustrated, at stuff in games; and I see things really annoy them. Why would you want to do something that frustrates and annoys you? The thing is that, I know, you're drawn back in by the false achievements, and completing something in the game feels good. But... doesn't that just mean that the frustration and annoyance was totally pointless? That it was for nothing? So – why? I always feel this emptiness after I get done playing – knowing that whatever I feel like I achieved, it's really just a lie.

That's why I like the Xbox 360 Dashboard, that lines up all your games and Achievements and helps you remember them.

I dunno... it's a balance. I spend about 70% of my life going to gigs and pubs and 30% vegging out in front of the XBox. If I don't have that 30% I go (more) nuts.

I mostly solve this problem these days by sticking to small, "arcadey" games rather than sprawling sandboxes. A little escapism with easy victories over imaginary challenges now and then is fine. Wallowing in it for most of your waking life is a problem.

Yeah, there's that. Probably why iPhone games/Wii games/XBL Arcade games are so much fun.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:17 PM on April 27, 2011


That's why video games almost always bore me, and I wonder why people really enjoy them. I mean, I see my roommates get frustrated, really frustrated, at stuff in games; and I see things really annoy them. Why would you want to do something that frustrates and annoys you? The thing is that, I know, you're drawn back in by the false achievements, and completing something in the game feels good. But... doesn't that just mean that the frustration and annoyance was totally pointless? That it was for nothing? So – why? I always feel this emptiness after I get done playing – knowing that whatever I feel like I achieved, it's really just a lie.

For me, certainly, and I'd guess I'm not the only person who thinks of it in this way, it's not terribly different from trying to work out a puzzle or a crossword or something similar. Of course it can get frustrating if you can't work out a part of it; but then, eventually, you do work it out, and you are pleased! Or you don't, and it doesn't really matter.

Or think about it another way: you are getting better at playing the trumpet. Why are you doing it? Why practise? Is improving your trumpet playing an end in itself? Why is improving that skill "making something", but getting better at playing a game not?
posted by Dim Siawns at 12:37 AM on April 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I dunno, Eli Wallace seems to be making a difference to the universe.
posted by unliteral at 2:42 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


My mission is to inspire people to think clearly, to live deliberately, to conquer fear and embrace possibility, to express beauty, and to love completely. Prepare to be scorched then reborn, authentic and complete.

Really. Well, this guy has fazed me with his prose, but I think I'd have to watch Youtubes of him reading his posts to, you know, get the full effect.

@koeslitz
HN-muck devotional capitalism bullshit
Funny, how certain attitudes tend to cross each others' paths.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:12 AM on April 28, 2011


It's a little hard for me to take the author seriously when he not only uses a non-word like "disincent" but also doesn't know that it's "vice principal," not "vice principle."
posted by cerebus19 at 5:14 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like Angry Birds.
posted by pianomover at 6:07 AM on April 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


adamrice: This is the most bombastically egotistical thing I've ever read in a blog,

Getting someone to say that about the text of your blog... that's an achievement.
posted by TheKM at 6:59 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


He offers a critique of the following:

1) that "[o]ur society is set up to make us feel as though we must always achieve and grow"; and
2) states that "[a]ny achievement in a video game is a fake achievement"; and concludes;
3) you should "Get off the treadmill. Go for a walk."

He seems to conflate all of these, but they are different things. Is western society to achievement oriented? Probably so. We live in a capitalist system -- compounded growth is the norm. The problem with fake achievement is that all of the real achievements seem insignificant by some measure. When the heat death of the universe eventually comes what is the value of any achievement?

On the other hand, leisure has value. It can recharge us or give space to contemplate. Fake achievement can waste our time too but when we are in later years I wonder how much of the important stuff of the day will seem like valuable achievement then?
posted by dgran at 7:08 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah reductionist nihilism.

Nothing is an achievement. Eventually you die. And then, what have you really done?
posted by keratacon at 7:10 AM on April 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Alternatively, am I totally okay with doing this just because I like doing it, laboring under no illusion that it benefits me or anyone else?

I thought that the article was rather preachy and misguided until he dropped this line and I realised that not only is he not addressing me, he knows that his reasoning is not for everyone.

Sure I'd still take exception to the idea that most of my activities don't benefit me or anyone else at all but I'm more than comfortable with the idea that it is a small sphere of benefit. I'm definitely more of a "part of the slime-mould of humanity" kind of person rather than "potential lever of societal/global/cosmic change" type.
posted by MUD at 7:49 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've read to the end of another MetaFilter thread, yay me!
posted by Meatbomb at 8:02 AM on April 28, 2011


Not any more, Meatbomb! Keep reading. It's a treadmill.
posted by Xoebe at 8:13 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not necessarily some big thing, and I'll never be the best trumpet player in the world. But still – when I play the trumpet, I actually feel like I'm making something, in a way. Yeah, it's just fun, and yeah, I am not very serious about it; but it's a nice feeling at the end of the day, knowing I'm getting better little by little.

This is exactly how I feel about playing video games. Each day I've made a little more progress. Sure, some parts can be frustrating but so can learning to play an instrument. Its continuing to work in spite of that frustration and then finally making some progress that feels good, lets you feel like you've accomplished something.

I feel the author is missing the point about some of the achievements. I understand his comparison to a treadmill but he doesn't take it far enough. Yes, leveling up is like running on a treadmill but it doesn't stop there. The reasons people grind away at leveling up in an MMO are similar to the reasons people run on treadmills (or run outside) some enjoy the mindless activity, some like looking around and exploring while they are leveling. Some want to level up so that they can tackle the more challenging, higher level quests or do better in PvP. Its no different than running on a treadmill to get ready for the big race.
posted by VTX at 8:22 AM on April 28, 2011


Amnesia: The Dark Descent deliberately eschews Steam achievements because the developers feel they inhibit immersion. Of course, the game also starts by suggesting you set yourself up with a nice set of headphones and turn off the lights. (Even disregarding that advice, it's so scary I've never been able to finish it.)

If I recall correctly, Braid has an achievement that requires you to wait close to two hours for a very slow-moving platform to make it across the entire level.

One of the achievements in the Steam edition of Eversion ("What Have You Done") can only be unlocked if you muck around in the file system and deliberately load a corrupted level.

You get a couple of Portal 2 achievements for dying in amusing ways, and one is unlocked purely as a punch line. ("This is that part.")

Intangible gold-star stickers rewarding you for a leisure activity are a weird and wholly modern concept; there's a lot of room in there for developers and players to have fun with exploration, motivation, replayability, and fourth-wall breaking, and definitely a lot to think about regarding satisfaction, relaxation, addiction, and so on. I thought this particular article was kind of shit, but I like that people are talking about this nonetheless.
posted by Zozo at 8:54 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well. That was quite negative.

I'm gonna go "achieve" talking to my therapist now.
posted by zennie at 9:51 AM on April 28, 2011


He gets better at the MMOs, yeah, and he interacts with people online, etc. But at the end of the year, I'll be able to play the trumpet, and he'll just have to start over on a new game.

I played World of Warcraft for six years -- I just quit last month, in fact. I ran a guild, so my involvement in the game was fairly substantial. Playing the game this way taught me a LOT about marketing techniques and group policy building and what makes a good leader. I learned conflict resolution strategies. When I started playing WoW I was almost pathologically shy, but that is greatly diminished today thanks to lots of interaction with (virtual) strangers and public speaking. It became the inspiration for me to teach myself various little technical projects like managing JSON feeds and running an eggdrop bot and advanced PHP. I can break down and reassemble a phpBB forum while blindfolded. When I was trying to switch careers from desktop support to technical writing a few years back my initial portfolio included a game boss strategy I wrote as an example of instructional writing. Nowadays I've had articles about the game published in magazines, which looks damn fine in my current portfolio.

And that's not even touching on the people! I went to Vegas last year with 21 of my guildies and had adventures that I am sure I'll never be able to duplicate again. I have made genuine, real life friends and even, yes, fallen genuinely real life in love with one of them. I've celebrated at weddings, mourned at funerals, and was even named the godmother to an adorable little boy.

All this is not to denigrate your hobby -- learning how to play a new musical instrument is awesome and good for you! -- but I kind of get twitchy when I see the whole "games aren't real, go outside" argument. Every hobby can enrich our life in some way if we let it, even gaming.
posted by jess at 10:59 AM on April 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


I played World of Warcraft the trumpet for six years -- I just quit last month, in fact. I ran a guild band, so my involvement in the game music was fairly substantial. Playing the game music this way taught me a LOT about marketing techniques and group policy building and what makes a good leader. I learned conflict resolution strategies. When I started playing WoW I was almost pathologically shy, but that is greatly diminished today thanks to lots of interaction with (virtual) strangers and public speaking. It became the inspiration for me to teach myself various little technical projects like managing JSON feeds and running an eggdrop bot and advanced PHP learning to read/write music, music theory, whatever other musical equivalents are. I can break down and reassemble a phpBB forum song while blindfolded. When I was trying to switch careers from desktop support to technical writing (insert music profession here) a few years back my initial portfolio included a game boss strategy song I wrote as an example of instructional writing my work. Nowadays I've had articles about the game the music industry published in magazines, which looks damn fine in my current portfolio.

And that's not even touching on the people! I went to Vegas last year with 21 of my guildies bandmates and had adventures that I am sure I'll never be able to duplicate again. I have made genuine, real life friends and even, yes, fallen genuinely real life in love with one of them. I've celebrated at weddings, mourned at funerals, and was even named the godmother to an adorable little boy.

Can we stop treating video games like they are so fundamentally different from other forms of media/entertainment/hobby now?
posted by VTX at 11:16 AM on April 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


The whole tone just felt scolding and strangely self-help.

The whole tone felt a little SEO sleazy.

"Also, you should sign up for my updates!"

or what pahalial said.

It seems like the author is framing the situation as "your achievements are empty but mine (and my friends) are serious bizness."

Can we stop treating video games like they are so fundamentally different from other forms of media/entertainment/hobby now?

I think there's a tension between creating/participating and consuming. What jess describes above is an active participation in a niche community. Which is great. Some might contend that the medium itself pushes many users the other way, into "meaningless" achievement.

However, as keratacon aptly noted, "meaningless" is awfully subjective.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:09 PM on April 28, 2011


jess: "I played World of Warcraft for six years -- I just quit last month, in fact."

Thanks, I find this interesting. If you don't mind my asking, why did you quit?
posted by koeselitz at 1:20 PM on April 28, 2011


Oh ... my lord. This guy has come up in my Quiver on OkCupid.

Also, I am fairly sure he mentions no 5th-grade son in his online dating profile.
posted by Devika at 1:44 PM on April 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


*cough*

I dunno. I integrated an achievements system into my latest site, and I did give some thought to what it really meant, beyond the obvious surface thing of possibly giving folks incentive to participate more.

Everyone approaches achievements (in the sense of in-game things) differently, depending on the way their brain works. Some folks are completists and puzzle solvers, and they play the meta-game the way they play the games themselves -- trying to get 100% completion. Some folks try for one class of achievements over another -- the grindy ones over the skill-based ones, or the goofy ones over the core-gameplay ones. Some, like me, ignore them completely until there's a notification that they've unlocked one, and feel a very mild tingle of pleasure, then go back to playing.

So when I added achievements to Gamefilter (an ongoing process), I did it mostly from my own perspective: that they are meaningless, essentially, and although they can, in the context of a website, be designed to encourage positive interaction (in the same way that favorites here act as an upvoting mechanism but there is no public corresponding downvoting mechanism -- an important and smart design decision), they are really just a way to provide a little pleasure, an unexpected juice jolt that happens in addition to (not as a replacement for) the actual 'work' that someone does in participating on a website -- posting, commenting, and so on.

As such, I don't think for most people there's any real confusion or interpenetration and corruption of the idea of 'real' achievement. Just a system of milestone markers, the observation of which gives more pleasure to those who are more interested in quantifying and measuring their own positively-directed behaviour, even if the goal to which the behaviour is directed is a self-referential one -- one that has no external result other than its own achievement. (That is, beating a boss in a game as opposed to learning the trumpet.)

Games are certainly a more intense, personal experience, and in many ways more ephemeral. If you unlocked an achievement here on Metafilter for making 1000 front page posts, say: well, that's very public and 'forever' in some sense. Games, generally, don't have that same permanence.

But I'm not sure how good an argument can be made that for the most part (other than grindy, work-for-no-purpose-other-than-the-achievement (which is just bad design)) most game achievements are different in nature than the benign backpats I've created on Gamefilter.

The whole thing is an interesting question, but not one I'm certain the linked essay addresses fairly.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:59 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can we stop treating video games like they are so fundamentally different from other forms of media/entertainment/hobby now?

I think the article makes it pretty clear that video games are not "fundamentally different from other forms of media/entertainment/hobby". His argument is that, like many things in life, "they are treadmills that are impossible to fail at, that exploit our deep-rooted desire to achieve, and that are sorry substitutes for whatever you’re trying to convince yourself they are good for, friendship, connections, influence, or otherwise." Those who get beyond the treadmill to create true friendship, connections, influence, etc through games are doing fine; given her story, I doubt anyone would claim that jess is an underachiever.

Like jess said, though, "playing the game this way taught me..." The game itself didn't teach that stuff, and all of it could have been learned through the same degree of participation in many other activities. I would agree that "every hobby can enrich our life in some way if we let it, even gaming"... but if so, the question becomes whether games like WoW are enriching, in and of themselves, as compared to similar hobbies. That's a question each of us can only answer for ourselves, and it's completely separate from meta-level achievements like "I made friends, wrote articles, and went to Vegas". If you're truly happy with what WoW provides, fine -- the point of the article is simply that we should ask ourselves what certain hobbies bring to the table, as opposed to what we bring to it ourselves.

Besides, I think it's a mistake to hold up highly self-motivated/participatory individuals as an example, especially since the game itself is rigged to encourage engagement on the treadmill level. For every guild leader and every active member of a niche community on WoW, there are fifty or a hundred people who log on only to chat and grind for five hours, same as they do every weekend or every day... and they're the ones this article is aimed at, not people like jess.
posted by vorfeed at 2:44 PM on April 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks, I find this interesting. If you don't mind my asking, why did you quit?

The final push was a change in my work schedule that made attending our group WoW events untenable. Mostly, though, after six years of building and maintaining a volunteer organization, I was tired! Time to try something new!

For every guild leader and every active member of a niche community on WoW, there are fifty or a hundred people who log on only to chat and grind for five hours

Oh sure, but I think the same can be said for other hobbies too. For every person who reads and ponders a poem, there are 100 more (oh, let's be honest -- 1000 more) who just re-read Harry Potter over and over. I took the time to learn how to play Frère Jacques on the recorder, but I wouldn't dream of comparing that to koeselitz's drive for trumpet knowledge. I'm not saying that video games are a superior way to spend time, and I realize I'm kind of off-topic from the original post, but I think they get short shrift in the hobby world.

All this, of course, ignores the fact that sometimes we do stuff like collect achievements because it's fun, personal growth opportunities be damned. :)
posted by jess at 2:59 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Getting someone to say that about the text of your blog... that's an achievement a paddlin'.

FTFY.
posted by ostranenie at 3:56 PM on April 28, 2011


The mistake to is think that the treadmill type achievements are the real achievements in the game. There are plenty of achievements in-game without getting to the meta-game type stuff. Big dungeons/raids with tough bosses, difficult PvP fights, quests with fun stories, these are the achievements for which running on the treadmill is preparation.
posted by VTX at 5:52 AM on April 29, 2011


*is to think
posted by VTX at 8:24 AM on April 29, 2011


The mistake to is think that the treadmill type achievements are the real achievements in the game. There are plenty of achievements in-game without getting to the meta-game type stuff. Big dungeons/raids with tough bosses, difficult PvP fights, quests with fun stories, these are the achievements for which running on the treadmill is preparation.

I would argue that these are the periodic rewards meant to keep people on the treadmill. All of those things can be found in games which don't expect you to pay monthly, to say nothing of the real world, so why would one need to run a treadmill for six months or a year to "prepare" for them? If that's what you really want, why not play something like Starcraft or Team Fortress or Neverwinter Nights, or go do paintball or airsoft or D&D?

From the company's point of view, the treadmill is indeed the "real" achievement of the game (that's why achievement in WoW and similar games is largely a simple function of hours played). Everything else is window dressing.
posted by vorfeed at 11:29 AM on April 29, 2011


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