Note: For the sake of clarity, and because I’m a Playstation gamer, I’m going to be using trophies in place of repeatedly saying both trophies and achievements for the bulk of this piece.
It’s kind of crazy to think just how much trophies and achievements have grown since their inception. What started as a simple, but innovative extension of normal gameplay has evolved to feature entire communities regarding the system, with some of the more notable ones being Achievement Hunter and PSN Profiles.
As the trophy and achievement ecosystem has grown, so too has the line that divides those that love them, and those that could care less. Because this is the internet, I think I deserve to give my two cents on the subject.
So what exactly are trophies? In short, they are virtual rewards for completing some sort of game specific objective. Examples can range from something as mundane as completing the tutorial, all the way to defeating a game’s final boss. A fairly simple concept, one would think, so how could something so seemingly harmless possibly be divisive?
Various trophy and achievement driven communities have cultivated over the years, leading to the creation of people that are known as trophy hunters. These are people that love collecting trophies, and have a small sense of pride when it comes to the task.
On the other side, there are people who actively hate the entire system, and I’ve personally never really understood the vitriol. My stance has always been this: trophies are there for the people that want them, and you can just ignore them if you don’t care. In fact, the consoles even allow you to completely disable trophy notifications.
The primary reasoning I’ve seen these people give is the fact that they’ve seen others behave rather obnoxiously when it comes to comparing trophies, something I jokingly do with my friends. I’ll give them a good ribbing when I find that I’ve earned more trophies than them in a game, all while casually ignoring the ones they’ve beaten me in.
There are hunters out there that do take the hobby a bit too seriously, and genuinely mock those with low trophy levels and gamerscores, but I’ve seen less and less of these people in recent years. Just because you love collecting platinum trophies, doesn’t mean you can insult someone for not having any, nor should trophy hunters be disparaged for loving them.
Because trophies and achievements are entirely optional, I don’t think they should really detract from a game’s overall experience. However, I’ve found that a really good trophy list can actually add to a game’s enjoyment.
A great personal example is Infamous: First Light (best Infamous game by the way). I adore that game’s challenge rooms, and going after the related trophies made me really appreciate just how finely crafted that game is. Most of the Ratchet & Clank games also have really great lists, with many of them asking for 100 percent completion, with a few jokes sprinkled in for good measure.
A good trophy list can also ask you to play the game in interesting ways. Earlier this year, I obtained the platinum trophy for Shantae: Half Genie Hero, and two of the trophies involved speed running the game. If it weren’t for those trophies, I’m certain that I would never have attempted a speed run, but doing so gave me quite a bit of knowledge on some of the game’s finer tricks and nuances.
Sadly, most trophy lists are bad. Many of them are generic afterthoughts (complete chapter 1, get your first kill etc.), or just really uninspired (most of the Uncharted games, sadly). Even worse is when a game has hidden trophies with cryptic or unintuitive requirements. Trophies, even hidden ones, should be possible to unlock by playing organically, not going through oddly specific situations.
I know I said that trophies should never negatively influence your perspective on a game, but it is rather disappointing when developers clearly don’t put in the effort to make an interesting list, especially with how big the communities around these collectibles have gotten.
A good list doesn’t even have to be one that is challenging or engaging. There have been a handful of games that have opted for humorous and meta trophies, as opposed to serious ones. Portal 2 is probably the best example, with many of the trophies being pretty oblivious to the fourth wall. Undertale is a great recent example, as it turns the simple task of picking up items into a sort of running gag.
Almost as much as I love collecting trophies, I love looking at my friends’ collections. I often compare my list to those of my PSN friends, and I use them to gauge what they are playing, how much they enjoy a particular game, or how much progress they’ve made in the story.
Trophies and achievements are there for the people that want them, and can easily be ignored by people that don’t. There are a few developers out there that genuinely do try to create interesting trophy lists, something I wish many more would attempt. Much like any community of like minded individuals, the trophy community is often a really fun and inviting place to be.
I love trophies, short and simple. They’ve challenged me to play games in ways that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and have given me added enjoyment with numerous titles. I consider myself a proud trophy hunter (though my platinum collection is paltry compared to many others), and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.