If working at and arcade for several months has taught me anything, it’s that kids love prizes. The arcade itself has a pretty diverse range of both digital games and more classic machines such as pinball but the most popular games by far are the ones that spit out tickets at the end; tickets which can be exchanged for all sorts of prizes ranging from candy to water guns to toy cars.
I’ll be the first to admit that, like the kids at the arcade, I’ve become sort of addicted to the other “incentives” that are built into today’s video games. Whether it’s unlocking achievements and trophies, ranking up in an online environment, or leveling up in an RPG/MMO, I have gotten to a point where a large part of my satisfaction in playing a game is tied to how the game acknowledges my progress by dangling these “golden carrots” in front of me.
I’m obviously not alone either since it has become pretty much standard practice for developers to tie some sort of progression system into the multiplayer component of their games. Players have taken rather well to the concept of unlocking new perks, weapons, armor, and other milestones by performing well and devoting more and more time to a game’s multiplayer. This practice benefits the developers as much as the gamers since it has the potential to extend a game’s longevity way past its single-player offerings.
This practice isn’t restricted to multiplayer either. Whenever a developer releases an HD remake of a popular classic title, one of the major selling points is almost always the added inclusion of achievements/trophies that weren’t present in the game’s initial release. Soon after Microsoft pioneered the concept of achievements on the Xbox 360, other major gaming platforms such as Valve’s Steam and Blizzard’s World of Warcraft quickly hopped on the bandwagon, even taking the idea one step further by offering in-game items/rewards for completing certain achievements.
Since then the concept has grown even more exponentially to the point where some sort of achievement system has become a standard feature in most MMO’s. A few multiplayer-heavy games such as Gears of War 3, Mass Effect 3, and the Call of Duty series even allow players to reset their multiplayer rank once they reach its peak, offering even more rewards and allowing them to climb the progression ladder all over again.
So how much do these “golden carrots” mean to you as a gamer? Some players just don’t feel like they’ve “finished” a game until they unlock every achievement and/or reach the highest multiplayer rank while others only see achievements as an added bonus for playing through a game once or twice. Do achievements/ranks/xp mean that much to you? Or do you live only for the love of the game?