I love achievements. Those tiny little rewards that pop up every so often when playing an Xbox 360 game really make me happy, and I've found myself playing certain games longer than I normally would because of them. Many people don't care for them, and that's understandable, but to deride them makes little sense.
I think the charm of achievements lies in that they represent something we've been doing in games for years, only now it's been given a more prominent role. No one ever complained about how unlockables like new character clothing and items seemed like a cheap way to keep you playing, and many would argue that finding these hidden treasures and getting 100% in a particular game added to its overall value. Achievements only represent the natural evolution of the "unlockable."
To me, they offer enticing challenges that allow me to play further into a game than I normally would. Now, playing a crap game just for achievements is one thing, and it's something I'm completely against, but trying to 100% a game by unlocking all its achievements is something else entirely. When the achievements are practical and well-implemented, they can become challenging additions to an already fun game. Examples of this are achievements like completing all the guild quests in Oblivion. I know people who bypassed the guild quests entirely, and by doing so, they not only missed out on the achievements, but they also left some gaping holes in a lot of the sub plots that really added life to the game.
There are also achievements designed for bragging rights, like completing a game on its highest difficulty or getting 100% of every item. These are no different really, than the high scores tables of old, and I think there's nothing wrong with a gamer receiving a permanent citation for working his ass off in a particular title. I'm quite proud of several achievements of this type, and I like the idea of other people being able to see my accomplishments.
Granted, there has been poor implementation of achievements in a lot of games, and this is completely unacceptable. Games like Avatar, Madden 2006, and Blue Dragon have horrible achievements that are either pathetically easy or tedious beyond belief. These add nothing to their games, and show that lazy developers can be lazy in every aspect of their work. This should not be tolerated or encouraged by anyone.
So what do you think? Are achievements a positive thing or a detriment to gaming?