Achievements, Distilled

Oh hell yes. Greg Barker has written an absolutely terrific article summarizing his insights on achievement design. He’s got some great insights into player behavior (“players do what’s efficient, not what’s fun”) and game design (see his thoughts on BioShock in lesson 11).  The best part of the article, though, is that it helps new achievement designers avoid some of the obvious achievement design mistakes. A new achievement designer might come up with some of these rules based on previous game design experience, instinct, or just good luck, but there’s no way she’d avoid all these pitfalls her first time through. A lot of Barker’s lessons are quite clearly derived from experience!!

This is particularly useful right now, as I’m seeing a lot of interest in achievements from the game research world. (I blame Jane McGonigal.) That risks quite a bit of DFS* – researchers putting together sets of achievements that represent what they think should happen, whether that’s improving health or gamifying education or engaging in pro-social behavior. I’d love to see academics use this list, along with appropriate psychological theories**, to critique and refine their projects. I certainly plan to!

For the record, I came across this via the Think Play project out of RIT. I’m guessing they’ll do achievements right.

* Designing From Should. See my previous post for more.

** Hmm. I kind of want to go through Barker’s list and annotate it with the theories and references that show why his principles are good ones. He may be speaking from experience, but in many cases the research backs up what he’s got to say – and the places where the research doesn’t say anything could suggest some neat studies. I’m putting this on the post-dissertation project list.

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