Over the past couple of months, I have been playing a lot of hidden object adventure games on Steam. These games can be quite fun except for the occasional annoying puzzles and they are usually characterized by cheesy voice acting, outlandish but often heartfelt story line, and colorful, exotic sceneries. I feel great that I am finally indulging myself into this sub-genre but I didn't realize that it comes with a price.
Surprising twists abound but the real shocker is how these games affect me indirectly.
Steam achievements popped up hard and fast while playing these games, which made me curious enough to check out their details and that lead to me noticing that by the end of playing them, I would normally be close to accumulating 100% completion rate. As I have mentioned many times before, I am not a fan of achievements, especially when they really don't have anything to do with rewarding natural gameplay decisions a gamer would make while playing a game. There are a good number of achievements for these hidden object games that are counter-productive, like being able to complete a hidden object scene quickly, something that is an impossibility during the first playthrough whenever the objects are very well hidden, or completing a separate set of alternative puzzles that can be solved instead of working on the hidden object scenes themselves. For some reason, I felt compelled to unlock these achievements and you know what? It wasn't fun. It felt like a chore. Yet, I was addicted to the process, like a mindless robot. I found myself replaying these games just for the purpose of unlocking achievements and it felt like a dirty deed and when I was done, the walk of shame was real. Going back to these games also took away the feeling of joy and admiration I had for them in the first place that would have stayed with me if I didn't besmirch the experience by forcing myself to replay them. Achievement hunting is even hurting my first playthrough because these games, especially from the same developer/publisher, have similar achievement setups so there is that added pressure of accomplishing something in a certain way even though doing so conflict with the natural pace of the game.
Looking for the last item on the list may result in permanent damage to your eyesight.
This whole situation has really reinforced my view on "task unlockers" in video games and it serves as a reminder to me that I should remain true to my gaming instinct and steer clear of participating in these things. I still have plenty of hidden object games in my collection and I want to fall in love with them again like I did in the beginning instead of viewing them as achievement boosters for my Steam profile - they are much more meaningful than that.