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Achievement Unlocked: Open Achievements Article

Achievements are ubiquitous – to the point of being obnoxious. One of the problems with achievements is that almost any activity could be termed an ‘achievement’, even though intuitively we know some are not worthy of celebration.

Lets explore what intuitively makes something covet-worthy.



An achievement isn’t necessarily the objective of an activity – collecting a badge after climbing Everest is obviously not the prime motivator for a mountaineer. A Victoria Cross celebrates personal bravery, but it isn’t the motivator for a soldier saving his comrades. In all cases the trinket, reward or badge, is far outweighed by the gravity of the accomplishment, so we need to think about how we make the Achievement the objective for participants. A good example of this are Scout Badges, where arguably the badge, as status symbol, is more important than the actual activity.



Walk into any children’s school across the globe and you’ll probably see posters with stickers next to the name of each child. Some will do anything to get their next sticker, with the poster serving as leaderboard and progress indicator at the same time. As time goes on, the stickers become more difficult to achieve simply giving one for a regular activity is intuitively not an achievement.

While we intuitively know that an adult shouldn’t need a celebration for a successful visit to the toilet, in the case of a toddler it makes a huge difference. Again, it is worthy to note that the objective isn’t the achievement, the achievement celebrates overcoming the obstacle.


Take a football supporter to the trophy cabinet of their team and they’ll tell you a story about each and every piece of silverware, no matter how small. The connection between the silverware and how they felt is intrinsic to the value of that piece of metal.

When designing achievements we should take this into account – its part of the story, it prompts memories, it lets people remember and celebrate again.



Part of the social value of achievements is the ability to identify others who either have had the same experience or providing something to aspire to. Be that a chest full of medals, a cupboard full of trophies or a badge next to a name, achievements let us identify those who have succeeded. It also lets others identify their peers or who to strive to emulate.

When designing achievements we need to recognise they are not only for an individual but for everyone in a community.



Achievements are literally priceless – they can’t be gained through simple application of money. But they have intrinsic value to the individual and the community and are a source of pride.

When designing achievements we should keep in mind the famous Oscar Wilde quote, which can often creep in to gamification design:


A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”



Achievements need to endure – they are something that becomes part of an individuals identity (like the Victoria Cross etc) at the same time as there needing to be something new to strive for.

Having a platform like CompetitionLabs makes evolving achievements with experience (both the operators and individuals) easy – add some rules and voila. This lets you focus on the hard bet – designing really great achievements is an achievement in itself – it should be celebrated.

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