Rewarding Bad Behaviour

I like achievements. Achievements are a good way to add some challenge, variety and replayability to a game, as well as to make the player feel rewarded, encourage them to improve their skills and give them a sense of progress. So why do some games give you achievements for playing them badly?

Achievements – Awarding Good Behaviour

You’re no doubt familiar with the idea of achievements by now, they’re everywhere on Steam, Facebook games, Online Games and on the current and next-gen consoles (the Nintendo platforms excluded, as they are behind the times here as usual!).

Achievement Unlocked

Achievement Unlocked

You can get achievements for completing story chapters, beating bosses and winning the game, rewarding you simply for playing. Achievements can also be awarded to players who play the game well, scoring lots of head-shots for example, or to reward players who explore and find all the secrets. In these circumstances they become not just a reward but a motivation and can encourage the player to improve their skills and get more out of the game.

Rewarding Bad Behaviour?

But some games feature achievements that seem to do the opposite, and these annoy me. I’m not a ‘one hundred-percenter’, and so I will happily try to ignore any such achievements when they show up, but sometimes there’s no avoiding them. These sorts of achievements reward you for making bad decisions in games, decisions that can often lead to your character’s death. These can, occasionally, be funny, but only if they actually fit into the mood of the game (such as in Portal 2, where, for example, there is an achievement for falling for one of the villain’s traps, even when it is obviously a bad decision). Other times, however, they just seem unfair and/or pointless.

Sonic Jump

The offending game behind this rant is the mobile game Sonic Jump. This is a great little game based on the popular Doodle Jump but featuring characters from the Sonic the Hedgehog series.

Sonic Jump (c) Hardlight Games

Sonic Jump (c) Hardlight Games

The game has some questionable design decisions in it already (such as Sonic being wounded if he attacks an enemy from above, as he normally would, instead only being able to attack from below). These decisions some don’t really make sense in the content of Sonic, but I can at least understand why they made those choices for this game. What I don’t understand are some of the game’s missions. The game always has a series of active missions for you to complete, such as ‘collect X number of rings’ or ‘kill X number of baddies in a single level’, which are all well and good. Completing these missions is what enables you to level up, unlocking new characters, power-ups and content.

The missions in general are not a bad idea, but some of the individual tasks they ask you to complete are dodgy. These include ‘get killed X times by a particular baddie’, ‘land on spikes X times from above’ and ‘clear any story act without collecting any rings’. These sorts of challenges make no sense to me because, although they arguably take some skill to pull off, they are essentially encouraging and rewarding the player for playing the game badly. This makes no sense to me and, personally, I wouldn’t put objectives such as these into one of my games.

Final Thoughts

I think the idea of achievements was a brilliant one, but I would like developers to take more time to think about how they use achievements in their games. I would just prefer to be rewarded for playing a game properly and skilfully, rather than being encouraged to deliberately play the game badly.

Is it just me? Does anyone else thing that encouraging players to do badly at a game is a silly idea? Or do most of you not mind about this sort of thing?