If you’ve played a video game lately, you’re probably familiar with achievements. For those of you with social lives, achievements are little objectives in games that, when completed, reward you with points. You can then show off how many points you have to all your friends, because why play video games if you can’t brag about how awesome you are at them? Unfortunately, not every achievement feels like one—the 10 kinds below are less-than-satisfying to unlock.
10. The Insultingly Easy
Achievements are supposed to make you feel like, well, you’ve achieved something. It’s sort of right there in the name. So when games just hand them out like they’re training bras at a Justin Bieber concert, you end up feeling a little insulted. “Wow, you pressed the start button? Way to go, champ! Here, have five points!” Thanks, video game. That wasn’t patronizing at all.
There are a few variations on this theme, but they’re all inane. “You had the patience to sit through the entire three minute opening cut scene? Have ten points for your remarkable triumph over ADD!” or, “you looked in the options menu? Nobody ever looks in there! Here’s five points to reward you for your exhausting exploration!” Come on, that would be like us congratulating you for clicking the link to this article. You’re not getting any praise until you read every last word!
9. The Insulting
Another category that seriously misunderstands the meaning of the word “achievement,” these achievements “reward” you for being bad at a game. Guitar Hero III, for example, offers you pity points if you fail a song 10 times in a row, and more pity for failing a song after completing 90% of it. Look game, the only reason we bought you in the first place is because we aren’t talented enough to play a real guitar. Don’t rub it in.
Even worse are the achievements that require failure on a scale unknown to anyone who’s functional enough to pick up a controller in the first place, such as Guitar Hero II’s achievement for failing a song on Easy. If you haven’t played Guitar Hero, trust us—the only way to fail a song on Easy is to be an uncoordinated quadriplegic who gets interrupted by a home invasion. So you can either fail on purpose just to get a few lousy points, or not complete the achievement at all. But how could you not complete it when it’s just so easy? Don’t fall into that trap—it may be easy to unlock, but it’s hard to convince your friends that you meant to fail, and aren’t actually the worst gamer since Helen Keller played Guess Who.
8. The Mind Numbing
There are some achievements that are excruciating, solely because of how pointless the tasks they ask of you are. By the time you’ve unlocked them, you’ll feel less like a video gamer, and more like a rat in a cage, pressing a button for food pellets.
Commander and Conquer 3 has what is probably the single dumbest achievement ever conceived: press the A button 2047 times during a single mission. Yeah, that will give us a real sense of satisfaction! Wait, no—not satisfaction, that other thing. Carpal-Tunnel Syndrome.
While we recover from our injury, we can earn Guitar Hero II’s achievement for watching the game’s infamously long credits. Sure, you can start the credits up and walk away, but you’ve still got to stop playing the game for about 20 minutes to earn this one. What do they expect us to do in the meantime? Read a book? Go outside? We play video games to avoid that crap!
7. The Pointless Collections
Everybody’s played Pac-Man, right? Isn’t it crazy how a game that revolved entirely around collecting little dots became so popular? Games sure have come a long way since then.
But it doesn’t feel that way when you play a game with achievements that ask you to run around a giant world and collect a few hundred briefcases, or orbs, or dildos, or whatever. Assassin’s Creed is a prime example, as some jackass hid roughly 12,000 flags around the Holy Land, and your master assassin has to waste his time tracking down every last one. Or there’s Grand Theft Auto IV, where the hardened gangster protagonist takes a break from shooting police officers and running over hookers to search an entire city for a couple hundred pigeons. Pretty much every sandbox game has a variation of this tedium.
These achievements don’t sound too bad at first, because you think you’ll find most of the items just by playing the game anyway—but then you come up half a dozen pigeons short and have absolutely no clue where to find them. So you’re forced to either waste hours scouring every last inch of the massive game, or bore yourself to tears by using a guide to methodically search every location. Either way, you’d rather be mowing down more prostitutes.
6. The Advertisement
Some achievements are nothing more than a lackluster attempt at advertising. NCAA Football 2008 is a notable offender, as it featured two achievements brought to you by Old Spice, and another from Sprite. Because when we decide what brand of deodorant to buy, we’re going to go with the one that reminded us of its existence when we won the virtual Rose Bowl.
But, while cringe worthy, those aren’t too bad—at least they’re not achievements that require you to go out and spend money, like Rainbow Six’s 30-point achievement for creating a character based on a picture of you. How do you get that picture? With the Xbox Live Vision camera, a mere 30 dollars! That’s a dollar a point! God, just make a “Gave Microsoft Your VISA Number” achievement; it would be easier for everyone.
5. Multiplayer Achievements for a Game Nobody Plays
Some achievements are now impossible to unlock because they require you to play against other people online, and many older games have turned into virtual wastelands. Now, most of these achievements had perfectly reasonable requirements for their time, so it’s a little unfair to complain about them years later. But a few had demands that laughably overestimated how popular the game would be, making the achievements inaccessible from day one.
The classic example is NBA Live 2007, which had an achievement that required you to be one of 1000 people playing the game at once—a figure that turned out to be very wishful thinking. Websites dedicated solely to earning achievements ended up scheduling specific times for their members to log in and get the points so, unless you were able to coordinate your gaming sessions around a bunch of OCD nerds, you were out of luck.
Other achievements severely overestimate a game’s staying power, such as Gears of War’s achievement for getting 10,000 multiplayer kills. That’s a lot of virtual chainsaw murder, and if the game’s many glitches and design flaws didn’t make you sick of the multiplayer, the constant steam of profanities and slurs you’ll encounter online probably did. Come to think of it, that would make for a much better achievement: “tolerated 10,000 questionings of your sexual orientation!”
4. Achievements for Achievement Whores
There are some gamers who seem to care more about unlocking achievements than they do about enjoying the games they’re contained in. And that’s fine—how they waste their time is their business. But when the people who make the games embrace the same philosophy, the result is ridiculous.
Pretty much every game based on a movie has this flaw, because they’re shoddy, rushed products (Hannah Montana: The Movie is especially simplistic, although the true achievement comes from surviving the mockery of people who see that you’ve played it). But the most famous example is Avatar: The Last Airbender, which allows you to earn all of its 1000 points in about three minutes (apparently also the amount of time it took to make the game).
And then there are some games that flat-out brag about being perfect for achievement aficionados, like Dash of Destruction. This free game was sponsored by Doritos, and was advertised as a quick way to get achievements—you could beat the game in about 30 minutes, although the fun ended after minute one. Damn, we expected better from the gaming visionaries at Frito-Lay.
3. The Insanely Difficult
We’ve established that achievements are no fun unless you’ve actually achieved something, but achievements that are impossible for the average person are even worse. Sure, we want to be challenged, but we’re playing video games, not performing open-heart surgery—so tone the pressure down a notch, OK?
Mega Man 10, for example, offers you 30 points for beating the entire game without taking any damage. NO damage. In a MEGA MAN GAME. That’s like asking someone to win a boxing match against Manny Pacquiao without getting punched once. Or there’s Call of Duty 4’s infamous Mile High Club achievement—you need to beat a level designed solely to be infuriating on the hardest difficulty, and you only get 60 seconds to do it. With the amount of attempts it took some people, it would be less time-consuming to stop playing Marine, and actually become one.
Guitar Hero II and III show up in this category as well, as they both offer achievements for beating ridiculously challenging songs on the hardest difficulty. Some people even offer to unlock these achievements on your profile, for a price. Because if there’s one thing even sadder than dedicating dozens of hours to mastering the virtual guitar, it’s paying someone else to do it for you.
2. The Insanely Time-Consuming
They say great art takes time, but shooting space aliens in the head is not an art form. Unless the achievement in question is “beating the game,” it shouldn’t take dozens of hours to earn, because some of us have jobs to go to and would also like to maybe have sex once in a while.
The classic example is Dead Rising’s “7 Day Survivor” achievement, which requires you to stay alive for 14 straight hours. Real time. And you can’t save—one screw up at the 13-hour mark and you’re back to the beginning. Man, the real achievement here is that somebody found a way to make a game, based entirely around killing zombies, boring.
But at least you can pause the game, which is more than Rock Band 2 allows for its Bladder Of Steel achievement. To earn it, you have to complete every song in the game in a row without pausing—that’s roughly eight straight hours of rocking out on your plastic guitar. Never mind the fact that your hands will be ready to fall off by the end—the name of the achievement makes it clear what the real obstacle is. We shudder to imagine how many “accidents” have happened in the name of unlocking this one.
1. The Insanely Difficult AND Time-Consuming
So we have time-consuming achievements, and achievements that mere mortals can’t hope to ever obtain. It was inevitable that some madman would combine the two, creating the perfect storm of bad design.
Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter and Quake 4 are the worst offenders—both offer you points in exchange for becoming the number one ranked player in the world. Yeah, you want those achievement points? Then spend countless hours mastering every aspect of the game. Those of us with less than ideal reflexes and hand-eye coordination are already out of the running but, even if you’re great at the game, you just know there’s some unemployed jerk sitting in his parent’s basement halfway across the world, whose leaderboard position means more to him than life itself. How can you compete with that?
Well, we wrote a whiny list for the Internet. You’ll have to figure out something for yourself. Oh, and as promised earlier: YAY, YOU READ EVERY WORD OF THIS ARTICLE! You have earned three points; feel free to brag.