Achievements, 100 Percent, and Games: Fun or Compulsive Behavior?

Illustration for article titled Achievements, 100 Percent, and Games: Fun or Compulsive Behavior?

Finishing a bad or uninteresting book might feel like a chore, or at least unsatisfying, but it's nothing like playing to the end of a game you don't care for. Why do so many still choose to do this?


True/Slant's Modus Pwned doesn't understand it either. Breaking a game down to its utilitarian purpose, the thing is meant to be fun. If it's not, what is the point in continuing to play it?

Dave (no last name), one of Modus Pwned's two writers, can't really answer that question. a Ph.D student in moral philosophy, however, he does point out some of what he considers the compulsions to continue to play - notably, 100 percenting a game or racking up its achievements.

Maybe it's also a feeling of being a part of a cultural conversation? I've seen plenty of films I wouldn't otherwise seek out, simply because they helped me relate better to friends talking about them, or just to be more culturally relevant and attuned. I didn't enjoy all of them. There are some games dominating the talk right now, and ordinarily I wouldn't pick them up, either, but to stay current I feel like they should at least get a rental.

Anyway, all of this is to say that games may not be the only pursuit that produces such compulsive non-fun. But they definitely are one of the more prolific. Not to mention expensive.

Forced ‘Fun': Video Games and Compulsive Behavior [True/Slant, Oct. 9, 2009.]

A rational person sees games as a source of entertainment and little else. Of course, playing games can make one feel refreshed and energized, and so may aid one's non-gaming pursuits indirectly. But, still, in these cases the usefulness of gaming derives solely from the fun and enjoyment one experiences by playing.

Now, part of rationally committing to playing games for the sake of having fun is forming an accompanying commitment to abandon instances of gaming that are not fun. This isn't a controversial idea; a parallel point holds true for all structurally similar engagements. Suppose that you decide to use an oven solely for the purpose of making a tasty cake. If you commit to using an oven only for this purpose, then-insofar as you are rational-you commit to stop using the oven if it is not serving its purpose. If the oven isn't working properly, then you should stop using the oven. It would be irrational not to change your behavior in such a case. And, of course, the same is true for gaming. Games are meant to be fun. If you're playing a game and you're not having fun, then you really ought to stop playing the game.

[...] I often speak to people who have forced themselves to finish the main quest in games that they stopped enjoying partway through. A friend of mine spent over fifty hours playing Baten Kaitos, even though I heard nothing but complaining beyond the fifteen-hour mark.

[...] Another related example of the phenomenon I'm addressing is the tendency that some people have to try to explore 100% of a game's content regardless of whether they enjoy the process of doing so.

[...] Further, consider the bizarre and growing contingent of people who play games primarily to collect ‘Achievements' and ‘Trophies', with utter disregard for whether they enjoy the process of playing the involved games.

In each of the cases I have just mentioned, we see compulsive behavior infecting people's leisure activities. And given that the sole rational purpose of gaming is to have fun, it is a shame to see this happen. In most other domains a tendency toward obsessive or compulsive behavior has some potential benefit. In the work place or in school, such inclinations may result in more meticulously crafted reports. In one's personal life, compulsive behavior may result in a cleaner living space, more attentiveness to one's partner, and so forth. Of course, even in these domains the upside is limited by the obvious downsides of suffering from compulsions. But at least there is an upside. When it comes to games, there really is no upside. Since the sole purpose of gaming is to have fun, when one fails to achieve that end one is left with absolutely nothing.

- Modus Pwned

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I don't have a single 100% in any console game this gen.