Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Achievements and Pavlov's Dogs

(Today's screenshot is actually slightly relevant to today's post, /cheer! It was taken while getting my recent Karazhan Achievement.)

The other day I stumbled across a new (to me) blog called The Underachiever where the author is documenting his efforts to earn every single achievement in the World of Warcraft in a single year. It seems like an impossible task, but he is doing well so far and I wish him the best of luck. After reading all of his back entries it got me thinking about the relatively new achievement system in WoW.

The achievement system was implemented with the 3.0 pre-Wrath patch, along with things like UI updates to get everyone ready for the new expansion. Some people went crazy with it, becoming the quintessential achievement-whore. Others enjoyed mocking the achievement system and anyone who would stoop to /hugging someone before they release just to get 10 virtual points that you can do absolutely nothing with, except perhaps stroke your epeen. I was somewhere in the middle. I enjoyed browsing through them, and going out of my way to pick up the occasional achievement, but I as time went on, I switched mains, began raiding, and pvp-ing I have grown more and more addicted to that magical dinging noise and flash of light when you get an achievement. It doesn't matter if its something as ridiculous as My Sack is "Gigantique", as time consuming as Guardian of Cenarius, or as difficult as The Champion of Ulduar, the feeling when I get my achievement is addicting.

Of my lengthy list of things to do before Cataclysm I'd estimate that about 75% of them have something to do with achievements. The question is, why are fake points so alluring. Outside of the occasional vanity reward, there is no tangible reason to pursue them. To answer this question, let's go to my favorite blogging format; The List, with Bullet Points!

  • Part of it is all in our heads. First of all its called an "achievement," the name itself makes it desirable. And I know I'm not the only one who craves the beautiful noise and graphic an achievement brings.

  • Achievements also allow us to distinguish ourselves from the crowd by going after a particularly difficult/rare achieve or title.

  • Another great feature is that it allows a certain level of character systemization. Whether you play on an rp realm or not, the kind of achievements and titles that your character earns can help to define what the character is all about.

  • While raiding is usually considered the end game activity of choice. Many players can't or don't want to raid. Achievements give them something to pursue and earn at end game, instead of killing internet dragons for their purples every week.

  • The last reason, and most important for me, is that achievements provide an incentive, however small, to do something I've always wanted to do. Before achievements I always wanted to become exalted with random, mostly useless factions like Timbermaw hold, or complete all of the Classic Dungeons I missed while leveling. Achievements make pursuing those activities go from waste of time to worthwhile. Isn't it amazing what fake points in a virtual world can do?

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