Saturday, 10 January 2009

Achievements and Save Files

With the most recent generation of consoles, Microsoft (and subsequentally Sony and some PC publishers) have introduced the Achievement system, wherein players are awarded with a congratulatory 'medal' for completing various tasks and actions within their games. Functionally and ludically useless (beyond creating additional objectives for those so inclined to chase them), the Achievements system does however produce interesting, yet rather abstract maps of a player's gaming experience (below).

While some Achievements document a player's advancement through a narrative (complete Level 1, complete Level 2,etc), others map their completion of certain unrelated objectives therein (climb the highest building, collect all the stars, publish a level online). Since not all of these will be completed by every player by just following the game's narrative, Achievement lists provide a very personal look at a player's game experience.

Save game files (especially quick-saving in PC games) produce a similar result. Each save producing a snapshot of your progress through a game in a very abstract, yet personal manner.

In the case of Fallout 3 (above), the save files themselves tell nothing about the narrative experience, except the location of the player at the time of saving. They do however, provide some other information (which is fairly abstract taken individually), which maps out the player's experiences with the game: how long they've spent playing, their experience point level and their assigned title based on their current reputation level. The actual narrative and incidental experiences which are occuring at that point in the game are lost to all, except (possibly) those who have shared that experience in their own game.

I think that it would be interesting to take each of these elements individually and view them sequentially (in order or otherwise), to see just how much of the gaming experience they actually do reflect when removed from their original context.

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