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Achievements: Hunter vs Explorer

Are you the type of person that sets out to get 1000 Xbox Live Achievement Points per game from the get-go? Those oh-so-valuable collectibles that prove to the world that you are, in fact, awesome at everything at which you try your hand. Maybe you couldn't care less about them, and will play along your merry way with no regard for the things- they don't really represent how good you are right? And even if they did, why should you care how adept your gaming persona is as long as you enjoy the ride? Whatever your mindset about Achievement Points is, there's no denying that a certain distinction has been attached to them on the Xbox 360.

We all have a friend with an insane amount of Achievement Points; you know, the one who is the best at every game ever made, or so they'd have you believe. But all you have to do to permeate this facade of greatness is take the time to look through the games. What's this? You 1000d Monopoly? Well that must have been a valuable, not at all wasted, few hours of your life racking up those die-hard Achievements. This type of person is what I'd like to call a hunter. They see every game as a means to an end, a set of goals to accomplish methodically to add to their already inflated Xbox ego.

Now surely this completely changes the game experience into a chore? It's a bit like travelling to every country in the world, but only staying for a few minutes, just so you can say you've been there when in actuality you're missing out on the amazing things each individual country has to offer!

On the other scale of the spectrum you have the aptly-named (I should know, I named them) explorers. These are the players that like to experience the game on their own terms. They don't want to spoil the game by reading ahead, and want to stumble across things when and where they happen. Whilst this could be seen as an admirable perspective, the problem with this is that by ignoring the Achievements completely, you could be missing out on some fantastic parts of the game!

Achievements should be seen as what they are; a great addition to a game, to infuse a layer of enhancement on top of what should already be an enjoyable experience. I was having a conversation with a friend of mine the other day about Tomb Raider on the original PlayStation. She was reminiscing about how much she loved playing the game with her friend, and how they played it over and over. She then mentioned how they saved up their pocket money and banded together to get the walkthrough. They loved going back through the game and trying to find bits that they had missed; extra, exciting things that they didn't know existed. That is essentially what Achievements should be seen as.

The difference is, now, with the glorious entity known as the internet, that all this sort of information is just too readily available. It's one thing playing a game all the way through and then going back to discover new content you missed; it's another thing entirely to be hand-held by a textual guide on your first play through. You get stuck in game? Google it. The need to get as many Achievement Points as quickly as possible means that this facility/luxury can be overused and it takes the fun out of trying to solve the problem yourself, in your own way.

In Kirk and Ewok's latest skirmish...I mean article... they both state that one of the reasons they loved their games so much was due to the number of different approaches to in-game problems, and the scope for creative experimentation. If you are reading a walkthrough, then you are just following one single interpretation of how to complete said task. How then, are you supposed to make the most of features like this that have been so obviously honed for your own entertainment? It's a bit like speed-playing Mario, just racing through on the most direct route for accomplishments sake, without trying all the different, fascinating ways of getting to the end.

Before Achievements there was less motivation to spoil the game by reading ahead, and the same can be said for other platforms like Sony's PlayStation 3 or PCs. Whilst there are achievements present, in my experience, the background nagging of "why haven't you got any yet?" is not constantly present like it is when on the Xbox 360.

In addition to all of the above you have the problem of the content of the Achievements themselves. In almost every game there is an award of some kind for killing certain quantities of the different enemies that you encounter. This is really when the hunter vs explorer aspect comes into play. As an explorer you will come across the Achievement in your own time, if you play enough to get it, and it will come as a pleasant surprise when you do. A hunter however will see "Kill 5000 dragons" and it instantly becomes a grind.

If you learn to balance the hunter and explorer player types, into say an Explorer PLUS, some real fun can be had. By all means play through the game unaided, explore to your hearts content, discover some cool stuff, but then take a look at those little Achievements you didn't discover. Some of them are so creative, and a real laugh to attain. For example in Fable 2 there is an Achievement called "The Teaser" where the aim is to "Make bandits respond to expressions with fear, anger, mirth, and confusion...during combat!" Now this is something that you wouldn't necessarily come across alone, but is really awesome to go back and accomplish.

Fundamentally, there is something to be said for any playing style, and I'm not saying that one is any better than the other. People are always going to play the way that they want to, and so you should. After all gaming is supposed to be an individual experience and we've all got a bit of both hunter and explorer in us. So if collecting Achievement Points is your thing, then good for you! If not, who cares.

Myself? I'm pretty sure I've never 1000'd an Xbox 360 game, but then I'll only play a game while I enjoy it! The second something becomes a labour to play, I turn it off. Gaming is supposed to be fun, why bother if it becomes something tedious. Real life is full of enough hard-work for my hobby to turn into that too.

Emsey out!

Emseypenguin | 9th February, 2013
Kaostic's picture
Love the idea of this. I can't say I fit into either category though. I'm more 'I'll play a game, get bored and move on'.
I haven't 1000'd an xbox game simply because some of the achievements will be online and I have a pc, so i don't want to pay double-internet to pwn noobs from Korea.
I don't really aim for achievements/trophies in games unless they either serve a purpose or are interesting. I'm playing Xcom Enemy Unknown at the mo (amazing game, pick it up :P) and one of the awards is for completing a difficult map with one lone soldier instead of the requisite 6. That's interesting and a challenge.
Call of Duty's challenges are useful to complete because they reward you with XP, which can be used to customize equipment and upgrades.
If, however, a game just hs some token achievements slapped on, like scoop 1000 poops, or kill an entire town's worth of zombies (i'm looking at you Dead Rising!) then that's just a waste of time.
Well....more than playing videogames are already :P
Ewok's picture
I'm with Renthar. I don't generally 1000'd or plat a game because generally it has pointless, grindy achievements.

Kill 1000 of this - no thanks
Collect 1000 of that - no thanks

There's no skill or 'achievement' in that for me, it just a grind and I'd rather spend my time enjoying the game than wasting hours engaged in something that is a chore rather than a pleasure.

Seems to me most games have these 'filler' achievements thrown in.
Emseypenguin's picture
Originally Posted by Renthar View Post
I'm playing Xcom Enemy Unknown at the mo (amazing game, pick it up :P)
If you like XCOM you should def check out the article by Ewok and Kirk I mention in mine as Ewok argues that XCOM is the best game of 2012.

It does sound amazing, and I will be checking it out for sure!

Also I noticed that this was your first post so welcome to the forums!!

Ewok I totally agree, grindy achievements are boring!!
Misterwoot's picture
I don't know which category I would fit into. If you'd included "grumpy long winded old git" it'd be right, but then you already knew that Emsey.

I reckon I'd be an Explorer. Half the fun is digging about and looking for silly things. E.g. the achievement "the coolest thing ever" in Brutal Legend that you get for jumping over one of the Mammoth looking things in the car and the scrotality achievement for getting Shadow to perform a crotch takedown in Dead to Rights : Retribution.

Achievements are fun to get... but not the be all and end all of playing these games.
Dead Alive's picture
I usually go explore happy. Achievements are a bonus, but I generally won't go out of my way to get them in any rush.

Since I had to review Dragonborn I've started a new character (not my fault this time, the game fucked my level 36 guy up something rotten), and am happily plodding away. Took me two hours to get out of Riverside, as I was busy chopping firewood, collecting ingredients and just generally wandering. I think after the ungodly amount of hours I've played Skyrim, I've unlocked less than 50% of the Steam achievements. I haven't even started/thought about starting the Dark Brotherhood quests, or the Thieves Guild yet.
Emseypenguin's picture
Originally Posted by Misterwoot View Post
I don't know which category I would fit into. If you'd included "grumpy long winded old git" it'd be right, but then you already knew that Emsey.
:O Woots I would never insinuate you were "long winded"...never... >.>
Platinum's picture
Surprised Dawson hasn't posted here yet
Ewok's picture
Why's that Plat? Is Dawson an achievement whore.... I mean hunter?
Platinum's picture
Massive whore (Achievements that is!)
evilgiraffeman's picture
Really enjoyed the article.

As much as I hate to admit it, I've taken more notice of achievements over the last year or so than previously. Usually only on the Xbox 360 though. I'm not too fussed with Steam or PS3.

However, I usually will only put in the effort to get a full score on games I really like and enjoy. If the achievements are specifically designed to get the most out of the game (ie Deus Ex: Human Revolution or Dishonored) then I'll definately put in the time as it doesn't feel like a job.

I dislike some games that put a lot of emphasis on purely achievement aspects, eg Alan Wake for collecting hundreds of collectables that do not give any in-game benefit whatsoever. Unlike the hidden packages from the old school GTAs which would give a tangible reward like weapons or bonuses.

L.A. Noire was awful too with achievements that required you to drive every vehicle in an enormous city when it felt like they were totally random.

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