Handicap Achievements

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Achievements given for completing some goal while under some type of optional handicap.

Players who have mastered a specific game, or are so familiar with a game genre that they wish to have an increased challenge from the start of a game, typically need higher levels of difficulty in the gameplay to be able to enjoy the game. Game designers may feel a need to reward these players differently, so that they can feel that the extra skills and efforts they put into such gameplay is acknowledged. While achievements in general are persistent ways of recognizing what players have done in games, Handicap Achievements provides a means to reward players for completing a game, or a part of a game, in a more complex or difficult way than is normally required.


Games with achievement systems and different difficulty settings typically provide different achievements for each of these settings. Fallout: New Vegas of the Fallout series provides the Hardcore achievement for completing the entire game in the mode with the same name where players need to replenish food, water, and sleep regularly[1].

In a similar vein, Left 4 Dead 2 provides the Still Something to Prove for completing all campaigns on expert difficulty, and The Real Deal for completing any campaign on expert with the added difficulty of the Realism mode (which makes it more difficult to see where items and other players are).

The action RPG Torchlight provide Beast Slayer II and Beast Slayer III for those players that complete the game on hard or very hard levels instead of the easy or normal levels (which gives Beast Slayer I). Further, Torchlight has a hardcore mode that does not allow respawning (so one cannot die without ending the game) and gives the achievements Hardcore Victor, Hardcore Hero, Hardcore Champion, or Hardcore God depending on whether one played on easy, normal, hard, or very hard level[2].

Putting time limits can also provide a means of creating Handicap Achievements. Torchlight does this through the two achievements Swift Execution and Speed King with requires that the main enemy, Ordrak, is defeated in less than 5 and 8 hours respectively[2]. Working on a smaller time scale, Left 4 Dead 2 has the achievement Bridge over Trebled Slaughter for completing the finale of a specific campaign in less than 3 minutes[3].

Some games provide Handicap Achievements to players that complete levels, quests, or the entire game without using certain features of the game since these make the game easier. For example, the Akimbo Assassin achievement in Left 4 Dead of the Left 4 Dead series is awarded for surviving a complete campaign using only pistols and Left 4 Dead 2 provides a similar achievement, Confederacy of Crunches for doing so using only melee weapons[4][3]. Also in L4D2, the Guardin' Gnome achievement is a Handicap Achievements since it requires the players to carry Gnome Chompski for most of a campaign and thereby limits their combat efficiency. Team Fortress 2 has several achievements involving using less effective weapons, including A Cut Above for using a knife to kill a Spy equipped with a gun, and two achievements for killing enemies with taunts: OMGWTFBBQ and Show Trial [5].

Using the pattern

Many of the design choices available for Achievements are also available to Handicap Achievements since they are a subcategory of the former. More specifically though, Handicap Achievements can be created through considering Optional or Enforced Goals in a game and then adding some required limitation on how the player can behave. The Left 4 Dead series does this in Akimbo Assassin and Confederacy of Crunches through restricting which weapons can be used in Combat. Another way is to make use of Time Limits, which can be seen as a form of Speedruns in this context, which are exemplified by Swift Execution and Speed King in Torchlight, and Bridge over Trebled Slaughter in Left 4 Dead 2.

It should be noted that some Goal Achievements are quite similar to Handicap Achievements. This is the case for those Goal Achievements which are given for reach with a goal with a clear marginal of success. Although both types make it more difficult to achieve a goal, the goal-based ones do so by requiring better performance rather than increasing the difficulty. Example of these types of Goal Achievements include Perfect Victory in Torchlight (one's character cannot have died one time when the game is completed) and Wing and a Prayer in L4D2 (which is given for making it through a specific part of the game without taking any damage). Even so, since Handicap Achievements make use of goals as a basis for their design, the design options available for Goal Achievements are nearly always also worth considering.

Looking at ways of providing optional ways of making goals more difficult for oneself, an easy way presents itself to games with Difficulty Levels: simply provide separate Goal Achievements for each setting.


As a type of Achievement, Handicap Achievements can form a kind of Reward and be used to create Meta Games. Given that Handicap Achievements are based on goals they are a type of Goal Achievements but they are arguable more of an Optional Goal than other types of Achievements since it is always possible to complete the underlying goal without requirements of the Handicap Achievements. An alternative view is that Handicap Achievements are Optional Rules adopted by the players but rules that they need to ensure are followed (i.e. that the Meta Games provided are also a Self-Facilitated Games). Like Goal Achievements in general, Handicap Achievements can support Game-Based Social Statuses by letting players show of Gameplay Mastery. They can arguably do so even better than Goal Achievements since they are based upon more Challenging Gameplay and can further be said to provide opportunities for such gameplay that might not be considered otherwise. By doing so they can also provide a Value of Effort, which is somewhat paradoxical since the extra effort required is completely voluntary.

Although similar in names, Handicap Achievements are not directly related to Handicap Systems since the latter relates to providing Player Balance rather than providing additional challenges for individual players (the more specific pattern of Difficulty Levels is however related).

By making goals more difficult than they need to be, Handicap Achievements may not be compatible with Casual Gameplay.


Can Instantiate

Achievements, Challenging Gameplay, Game-Based Social Statuses, Goal Achievements, Meta Games, Optional Goals, Optional Rules, Rewards, Self-Facilitated Games, Value of Effort

Can Modulate

Gameplay Mastery

Can Be Instantiated By

Enforced Goals, Optional Goals, Speedruns, Time Limits

Difficulty Levels together with Goal Achievements

Can Be Modulated By


Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Casual Gameplay


New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. List of Fallout:New Vegas achievements in the Steam Achievements system and percentages of gamers receiving them.
  2. 2.0 2.1 List of Torchlight achievements in the Steam Achievements system and percentages of gamers receiving them.
  3. 3.0 3.1 List of Left 4 Dead 2 achievements in the Steam Achievements system and percentages of gamers receiving them.
  4. List of Left 4 Dead achievements in the Steam Achievements system and percentages of gamers receiving them.
  5. List of Team Fortress 2 achievements in the Steam Achievements system and percentages of gamers receiving them.