One of the most noticable changes in games over the last decade or so is the increase in rewarding the player.
Achievements and trophies can provide us with a goal to complete and/or a pat on the back for doing something good. Games include more and more little things that you can complete, earn and be successful at. Social media games, particularly those made by Zynga, have a massive emphasis on ensuring that you’re accomplishing something every minute or so. Games consoles have pushed more on sharing of content to let players show off.
In short, what I’m getting at is games are trying their best to make the players feel successful and good about themselves. “You walked through the door. YOU’RE AWESOME!!!”.
However there are some games that aren’t as shallow as this. Achievements and rewards aren’t just for taking part or even being awesome. Take the Star Wars Battlefront “Challenge” system. They give players fairly achievable tasks to complete for a small reward, including special daily ones. What I like about this system is the spread of areas, from earning kills with different weapons to completing objectives in different modes.
When I started paying more attention to completing these I found the game much more enjoyable and it added plenty life into the gameplay. Rather than playing the same two or three modes until I got bored, it encouraged me to try out all the different game types and I found new things to enjoy. It also improved my performance levels by trying new things and developing my skill and experience.
Several games, particularly Valve ones, use achievements in a similar manner. For example in the Left4Dead games there are achievements for skills that become almost essential to be competetive in Versus mode.
I certainly feel that games ought to focus on providing achievements, trophies or other awards for players who practice a range of skills. Some games would encourage the player to diversify through rather forced gameplay mechanisms but it is much better to say “If you try this then you’ll get a shiny shiny”.
So to sum up my little ramble, rewarding your players for expanding their gameplay is waaaay better than going “you completed a level – have a cookie” or “you completed a repetitive task – here’s a sound bite”.