We Think It Started With: The Xbox 360 (2005)
The Xbox 360 is pretty much singlehandedly responsible for popularizing the concept of awarding achievements to gamers for completing specific challenges, such as defeating an enemy or completing a level or owning an Xbox 360 for four years without it breaking down.
"Achievement unlocked! You have just wasted $300 bucks."
The difference with in-game rewards like unlocking a hidden part of the game or finding a hidden item is that these so-called achievements have no real impact on the game itself. The "trophies" are posted directly to the player's online profile, meaning that the whole point is proving to people in the real world that, yes, you do play a lot of video games. Both PlayStation and Steam have been using the same system since 2008, and even Nintendo has incorporated it on a few games.
Actually Been Around Since: Pitfall and other Activision games (1982)
Add alcohol and 1982. Mix for excitement.
That's right, freakin' Pitfall had unlockable achievements, much like Halo or whatever, and most people who played it probably never even knew it.
It was hard to miss it with so much going on.
Back in the days of the Atari 2600, Activision would give out challenges requiring players to reach a certain amount of points or complete a level within a time limit -- for instance, getting 20,000 points in Pitfall or 10,000 in Chopper Command. But wait, how did you prove your achievement to Activision without an Internet connection? Easy: you had to take a photo of your television screen and mail it to them as evidence of your gaming expertise. You could also record the image on a VCR, probably, but then you'd have to go through the mental stress of having to choose between a VHS or a Betamax tape.
Our point being: This was a long time ago, guys.
If you met the requirements, you would then get a letter from Activision telling you how awesome you were. Oh, and some of them were signed by Pitfall Harry himself:
"PS: I apologize for my shoddy handwriting, but I am currently being knocked down by a barrel."
Big deal, right? All this accomplished was proving to your friends that you knew how to use a typewriter. Well, that's not all: Along with every letter, you would also receive a special patch as a token of your achievement. There were a total of 43 patches for 33 different Activision games, and some of them were kinda awesome:
Via Atari Age
... while others would inevitably get you beat up at school.
Any child who wore this must be just now waking up from the coma.
Activision was, at some point, receiving more than 2,000 letters every day, and according to Pitfall's creator, the bulk of those letters were kids demanding their badges. Pitfall alone led to 14,000 letters in a single week. It got so ridiculous that Activision had to hire employees just to open and answer the letters. So if these achievements were so popular, how come we're only hearing about them now? The obvious explanation is that these were actually the same 10 or so players, obsessively getting as many "trophies" as possible so they could show them off to their gamer friends.
The early 80s equivalent of a PSN profile.
Read more: 6 'New' Gaming Innovations That Are Way Older Than You Think | Cracked.com http://www.cracked.com/article_19193_6-new-gaming-innovations-that-are-way-older-than-you-think_p2.html#ixzz1MQqyps5H