Achiev(ement)ing the Impossible: What Drives Gaming’s 100%-ers and Collectaholics?

Achievement 1
The longevity of a video game is an oft-maligned factor, and rightly so. With the ever-extortionate pricing of systems and titles, the canny player wants to be somewhat sure that their investment will pay dividends in terms of sustained entertainment. If they do not receive a prolonged barrage of fun-bullets straight to their delicate gonads -even the women- you can wager your wang -again, even the women- that the internet nerdsassins will disparage the game far and wide, even as they nurse a terrible rage-embolism and/or foul themselves in their outrage. WHERE IN THE NAME OF THE DEVIL’S DANGLING MAN-PLUMS DID MY MONEY GO, they’ll entreat. Or something to that effect.
And who wants that? No one, that’s who. To curtail this situation, developers would be advised to implement an expansive campaign/multiplayer component/both/whichever is appropriate to the title concerned. Let’s consider Resident Evil 6 (hold your nose, cork your buttocks, and tentatively approach it). Primarily regarded as a ghastly travesty from the depths of Satan’s underpants by players and critics alike, there was one element upon which Capcom did not scrimp: content. The latest iteration of Resident Evil is a vast prospect, with multiple scenarios, another to unlock, alternative characters that have a (slightly, I’ll concede) different journey through said campaign, an array of co-operative and competitive online modes… it’s a formidable undertaking.
As such, players with a penchant for its action-tastic shenanigans will certainly get their money’s worth, in a manner that innumerable ‘superior’ titles could not achieve. It’s a meaty offering, indubitably, even if said meat does taste akin to that diseased horse found in the trenches of World War I in a puddle of urine, presumably stewed by ravening soldiers.
Most pertinently, artificial manners of extending games’ lifespans are common. The advent of achievements and PSN’s trophies has ushered in a brave new epoch of ludicrous, pointless and infuriating enough to drive us to punch our own eyeballs in the face tasks. These will run the gamut from the conventional (subsequent playthroughs on elevated difficulty levels and suchlike) to the remarkably demented (screw you, Gears of War 3 and your ‘Seriously 3.0’ task! Screw you always!). Oftentimes, there will be no in-game salutation to your challenge-accomplishing prowess. A meagre, superfluous logo of said title added to your completed games list is not, I’d venture, cause to burst into exuberant song and/or slide down banisters on your ass like Mary Poppins. This is often all that your trophy/achievement electronic wang-waving will yield.
Achievement 2
Why, prithee, are we so beguiled by this very notion? Microsoft dubbing the fruit of the scheme ‘gamerscore’ is surely a contributing factor. If there’s anything us denizens of the virtual realm savor, it’s bolstering a score. In tandem with this, percentage bars and empty slots are a remarkable compulsion for many players. There’s a prevailing OCD-esque tendency to ‘exhaust’ every semblance of entertainment value from a game, like a vast… fun-sponge, if you will.
However outlandish an achievement or trophy may be, enterprising gamers will strive to vanquish it. With no real tangible reward for doing so, it becomes a fundamenal issue of pride and personal skill and/or tolerance for rage-inducing, tedious time-wastes. It’s an attitude rather akin to that of George Leigh Mallory, who partook in a doomed excursion to reach the summit of Mount Everest in the Twenties. What was his prompt response to the query WHY IN THE NAME OF SATAN’S SCROTUM WOULD YOU WANT TO ATTEMPT SUCH A DAMN FOOLHARDY THING? (This may –may– not be the precise question that he was posed, mark you.)
“Because it is there!”
This, as I’m sure us gaming afficionados will all attest, says it all. Hypothetically, a Metal Gear Solid game may proffer the trophy ‘Close Shave’, for instance. To attain this, one must shave Solid Snake immediately upon gaining control of him. Whereupon, you must utilise ACTUAL ARCANE VOODOO to bring one of the stubbletastic hairs to sentient life, and complete the entire game as said beardy-bit. Obscene as this patently is, there’d be a great gaggle of online guides to achieving this feat, and gamers attempting it, had Hideo Kojima deigned to include such a concept.
Before the advent of gamerscore, trophies, and other assorted incentives, we opted to impose our own challenges. We still do. I am currently in the midst of an umpteenth run through Final Fantasy VIII, in which I successfully endeavoured to acquire the ultimate weapon, the Lion Heart blade, at the earliest eventuality possible. Doing so necessitated many hours of the infernal Triple Triad card game, and an equally strenuous slog against malevolent dragons which WOULD NOT GIVE ME THAT LAST GODDAMN ITEM (Hey, Grendels! My middle finger remains eternally raised in your direction!) These shenanigans were entirely optional, and self-imposed.

That shield is so shiny... I MUST HAVE IT!

That shield is so shiny… I MUST HAVE IT!

Further, it is telling that I steadfastly insisted upon exacerbating the effort by acquiring the finest weaponry for the rest of my party at the same time. It is not a difficult game, per se, and you could merrily stab all the monstrous abominations that you face right in their scaly genitals sans ultimate weaponry. But would you?
It is a trope frequently found in the RPG genre. Everybody’s best equipment has a proclivity for being hidden SOMEWHERE IN AN OBSCURE CORNER OF THIS BIG-ASS WORLD MAP. Such wonderment cannot be purchased from an overweight shopkeeper that smells of garlic and body odor like everything else. That would be logical and convenient! Nuts to that! In lieu of any of that sort of business, you must traverse an underground labyrinth, wrestle a gaggle of furious Tyrannosaurus Rexs, locate the seventeen rings of power, and watch a couple of hours of Lifetime TV without vomiting outraged blood from your eyeballs. Only then shall the game deign to permit you to equip Excalibur: the Legendary Sword of Stabtacular Glory, Imbibed With a +11 Charm of Death-Inducement (Point Away From Face).
Will you do so? Of course you will.
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