Glorious Gratification (Bejeweled 3 and Achievements)

They told me I had a problem when I entered a room with patterned wallpaper and pressed myself up against the wall, scouring for matches of three. “Look!” I cried, “This butterfly could get us hundreds of points if we swapped it with that ladybird! Think of the points!” And then I began frantically scrabbling at the wall until they took me to a quiet room for a while.

I’ve recently begun trying to get 100% of the achievements in Bejeweled 3. As of this time of writing I’m at 88% completion, or 57/65, and there’s only a few performance related achievements left I’m struggling to get, most of them in Ice Storm mode. I usually pop on an old Rooster Teeth Podcast, boot up the game and match until I can match no more. Since my endeavor began a few days ago, my game time has shot up from 6 hours played to 18, and after whiling away for so long and coming so close to completion, I felt it was time to address my lust for achievements.

The original idea for achievements was to allow for competitive gaming even in single player games, and I suppose that it does that pretty well. They became so much more, however, when given the wider context of profiles. On Playstation, Xbox and Steam, achievements are displayed as a public metric on your profile to measure how much of a game you’ve played and what specific feats you’ve, well, achieved. Playstation shows it in Profile Levels, Xbox in Gamerscore, and Steam in a few ways: the number of achievements, how many you’ve perfected, and that god damn average completion percentage. Mine is at 20% and it’s become a sort of metagame to earn at least over 20% of a game’s achievements before I put it down.

This is why I like achievements. I know nobody is going to sift through my account and look at what I’ve done, or feel impressed by my showcase of my rarest ones. It’s more of a personal endeavor. It gives me a goal to work towards within my games and it’s shareable. People don’t care about individual achievements, but I enjoy being able to tweet a screenshot of a 100% completed game; in the past, I could have done it with a credits screen, sure, but I like having some sort of digital trophy for it. It’s hard to explain. I probably like it for the same reasons I’m attracted to Runescape. The accomplishments may be arbitrary, but they’re sure as hell gratifying.

I also find that achievements keep me playing and enjoying a game for longer than I otherwise would have. Had there been no achievements in Bejeweled 3, I wouldn’t have gone back to play it as much as I have, and whilst some may see it as a pointless grind, I’m actually enjoying my time in the game. And that’s what really matters. They encourage you to play the game in a different way sometimes, for I’d never have begun playing some of my favourite game modes if there were not achievements in them. And some of them even have pretty little pictures in the thumbnails. It may be silly, but if I’m playing a game that doesn’t have an achievement system in it nowadays, I can’t help but think that something is missing. It sways my opinion on if a game is worth buying, although that’s probably taking it a little too far.

Achievements can also be done wrong. Achievements such as “play the game for 8,000 hours” or “get 1,337 kills with this particular weapon in multiplayer” in a game that nobody plays. Games which require you to start a new save file if you fail to collect or trigger one thing for an achievement. Nobody wants to be dealing with that. Difficulty tune your achievements, make them fun for us to get, not some metric for measuring the average user’s playing time. I’m looking at you, Garry’s Mod!

But anyway, if you’ll excuse me, the gems are calling me… as is the life of overwhelming emptiness when I finally attain 100% achievement status.

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