Achievements: Scourge of Humanity or Wonderful Time Sinks?

With my last post detailing my current endeavor to unlock some Xbox 360 achievements it might be said that I do take my gamerscore seriously. The truth is I don't even pay attention to it. For me achievements are not my driving force to play a game. Video games are my cinema. I don't watch and analyze Citizen Kane; I play Bioshock.

However, I do enjoy achievements. I especially enjoy humorous achievements like Fable II's. Achievements have been the reason I've replayed games like Mass Effect, but they've also ruined games for me. You will never see me trying to unlock ridiculous achievements like Gears of War's "Seriously!?" (kill 10,000 people in multiplayer), but I will shoot for difficulty achievements and others unlocked through side stories and the like.

With that said, are achievements a plague ruining video games or do they really help increase replay value and enjoyment? These days the first thing you'll see on a forum are demands for achievement guides. No one seems to want to explore games or figure out puzzles. They just want a linear path to walk that nets them their 1000/1000 score. They want game save tricks and tips that let them get all the alternate endings (Fable II) or character level achievements (Fallout 3) in a single play.

It's sad to hear how people run through Fallout 3 just to "explore" 100 locations all while never actually seeing or investigating them. The flip-side is the increased value. I would have been much less compelled to replay Mass Effect if not for the achievement challenging me to do 2 plays and reach level 60.

But what about the people who replayed Mass Effect, Fable II or Halo 3 (or played them at all to begin with) and hated them? Some folks buy/rent games just to get the Gamerscore bump even if the game is terrible, too easy or not to their liking. If that's how they want to spend their time, that's fine, but why?

Sales of terrible/easy/bad games go up simply because people want an easy 1000 points. Isn't this just promoting the development of more sub-par games? Doesn't this all ultimately hurt the communities surrounding games and genres?

Multiplayer matches all feel the effects. Players wanting achievements ignore the team and/or objectives just to try to get their achievements. This leads to a less than fun time for the other members of their team. Should multiplayer achievements be scaled back to help avoid this?

Personally, achievements are fun goals I can use to enjoy some free time and extend replay value of my games (sometimes). Others use them as some sort of status symbol or simply spend far too much time and money playing games they don't like because of them. Is this bad?

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