EWG Editorial: Underachievement Unlocked

-Steven Jackson

When I first started playing my XBox 360, there was no cooler sound than hearing the Bee-Doop of unlocking a new achievement as I progressed through a game. Scrolling through my various games and reviewing what I’ve unlocked has led me to a different conclusion. On www.dictionary.com, the first definition of the word achievement is as follows; “something accomplished, especially by superior ability, special effort, great courage, etc.; a great or heroic deed.” Load any game into your console and play through the single player mode and each level, chapter, or act completed will unlock an accomplishment. Why? We buy these games to play and beat them, is that not a reward in itself? Why is it an achievement that I completed the tutorial in Gears of War or pressed the Start button in The Simpsons? At least in the case of The Simpsons I can understand the humor in making fun of achievements. But overall, we as gamers are being rewarded for mediocrity. I ask the readers to not misunderstand this article as there are “throw your controllers against the wall and skeet shoot the disc” achievements out there, but those are for another day.

This reward for mediocrity is present in every aspect of our lives; red pens are no longer acceptable for grading, teams who don’t win the championship still get participation trophies, the list goes on and on. This mentality has now bled over into the gaming world. Sorry you got stuck halfway through Batman: Arkham City or only completed one chapter of Gears of War 3 on insane difficulty, but here are some gamer points so you don’t feel like you’ve failed. This may come across as harsh but I see a serious problem in our culture adopting this line of thinking. How well are we truly being prepared for the professional world by rewarding every little thing? Does this build confidence in the long run or is it creating a potential ego problem later down the line? The player who is 15 with a gamer score of 10,000 may well be an incredible player who has never actually finished an entire game. Going into college, or entering the working world, he or she may be surprised that not finishing classes or tasks at work are grounds for dismissal. 

I understand even as I write this that it seems like a stretch, that it is only a game achievement, and not the means to measure someone’s success in life. The concern comes in the fact that if everything is rewarded, then how do we as people develop the necessary skills in coping with failure? In the gaming community at least, we get the developers to up the ante, and give us achievements that actually mean something. No more fluff, if we are going to up our gamer scores, make them worthwhile, don’t reward us for pressing “Start” or turning the console on. 

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