Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Degrees of achievement

I just performed an achievement.

To understand this, you need to know two things. What's an achievement, and how do you perform one?

An achievement is, in short, a written record that you have done something. In this case, it is written here. As you can see, it is a list of things done, and below that (as of writing) another list of things yet to do. You do something, you get the achievement. You don't do that something, and it stares at you from the undone section like a challenge waiting to be accepted.

The point of these lists is to be able to point to them and say - aha! I did it! I am this awesome! And I can prove it!

The appointed list being the proof.

Achievements come in different flavors - meaning you have to do different things in order to get them. Some are awards for doing things you'd do anyway as a part of normal gameplay. Others, you have to go way out of your way to achieve - and this is where we come to the performance part.

The achievement I just performed (master criminal) requires that you are wanted all over the known world. As in Billy the Kid wanted. Everywhere. Meaning you have to go everywhere, commit some crime and run away before the long arm of the law gets to you.

There's no in-game reason to do this. In fact, it is a stupid thing to do, as you might imagine. Especially if we take into account that if you happen to fail at something, you can (without shame) reload and try again. And again. And again. Until you don't fail. Meaning that if you play your cards right, your eventual criminal activities won't be noticed at all, and no one will be the wiser.

There might be something to be said about the difference between 'games' and 'sports' here. I'm not saying any such thing, though.

The performance in question was me running up to a town, kill exactly one guard (the minimum crime needed), run to the next town, kill one guard, run to the next town - and so on until the achievement happened. And then I reloaded a save from before this killing spree, and went on doing more productive things.

Which begs the question - why?

Because there's an achievement for it. And I accepted the challenge.

This raises some interesting questions. Such as: how much effort are people willing to exert on getting these marks on a list? What is it that makes players look at a list of possible challenges and go - you know, I'm gonna prove I can best this particular one? How outlandish do you have to make an achievement before most players think "no way"?

What makes people forego common sense in favor of getting a notation on a document?

Now, the one thing that would make these questions more interesting is to apply them to other, more real world settings. So let's do that. Let us talk about grades, degrees and other achievements of the academic world. -

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