A cautionary tale.
In this article I am going to discuss both my experience with gaming trophies, or achievements as Xbox owners know them, along with what I think the proâ€™s and conâ€™s of these are in the gaming industry today. As I am a Playstation owner, I will be referring to them primarily throughout this piece as trophies. But in general I am talking about trophies and achievements in the world of gaming.
From the day I started gaming as a hobby, it has always been about having fun. Sure, there were times that I would get aggravated and angry at games, as any gamer out there knows, but to me this was and is part of the gaming experience. Despite this, gaming for myself and I am sure many others out there, has been about enjoying the games, having fun and relaxing. That is how it had been for many a year, even after I first became the owner of my Playstation 3.
Granted, at the time of purchasing the console, the trophy system had not yet been implemented on the machine and therefore it would be a few more months before my journey to trophy hell would begin. Up until that time, I spent many a relaxing evening marvelling at the stunning graphics of all the new games i was playing and enjoying. I had always wondered since purchasing the console why Sony had not included a similar system to the achievements on Microsoftâ€™s console that I had read about. Surely with all multiplatform games having the goals for the achievements already set to unlock, a lot of the footwork was already done and it would just have been a case of Sony making the decision and implementing it. But nevertheless, we Playstation owners had to wait for a few more months before the trophy system arrived. When it eventually did, I initially looked on it as a novelty, something that might be cool to check out, earn a few trophies and add to the fun of the games by adding an extra challenge. In a way I was right but before long something horrible happened and I began my decent into the world of hardcore Playstation trophy collecting.
At first it was not a stipulation from Sony that games had to include trophies and was up to the developers themselves to decide as to whether they wished to include them with their games or not. This was, at a later date, to change and Sony would make it a requirement that all games must include trophies. One of the first games to be released which included the trophies was a PSN download game named Super Stardust HD. Although the game turned out to be a highly enjoyable game that I still play on occasion to this day, I will openly admit the initial reason I purchased and downloaded it was to check out the Playstation trophy system. It was not long before I heard that now familiar chime and saw that little box appear in the top right corner of the screen informing me for the first time that I had earned a trophy. This was the beginning of my downfall into the hunt for those virtual shiny things which had no intrinsic value whatsoever.
From that point on most titles released on the PSN store came with trophies included and, before long, whether a game in the store had trophies or not became the deciding factor as to whether or not I would buy the game. Sure I would still buy the games that I actually wanted to play but would always ask “does it have trophies?”, and from there on in it just got worse. Sony would soon make it compulsory that a games developer must include trophies in their work, both download and retail titles alike. Because of this, when it came to PSN downloads, I found myself buying games that I would not have even looked at beforehand, just so that I could earn the trophies. When it came to retail titles, I was still a bit more of a discerning customer and would still only pick up games I wanted to play. But once I had the game, be it a full title or a game downloaded, I would proceed to play it to death in order to earn all of the trophies in the game. This is where the problem arose.
I realized something was awry when two things occurred to me at around the same time. After building up quite a number of trophies and a double digit gamer level, I realized first of all that I was sitting playing a game that I didnâ€™t really enjoy, solely to earn the trophies. That game was Noby Noby Boy. Yes, the game has a lot of fans, but I personally never understood the appeal and I was more or less bored with it before an hours worth of play. Secondly, I was beginning to look at playing games, even titles I had looked forward to playing for months, as a chore rather than a pleasure. I was playing them so much, just to get the trophies, that I started to realize I was sacrificing my enjoyment of the games. I was even, at times, teaming up with likeminded trophy collectors to boost in certain online games, in an attempt to make gaining certain trophies an easier task. With these two realizations, I came to the conclusion that this had to stop, or I would end up getting no joy whatsoever from the hobby that had kept me entertained for many a year.
Although I had built up quite a collection of trophies from various games, and I am proud of myself of earning a few of the tougher ones, I made my decision there and then that I would start playing games to enjoy them once more, instead of playing as a means to earning a trophy. From that point Noby Noby boy was deleted from my system, crazy game in my opinion. It had messed with my mind for the last time, with its crazy, stretchy body. Back to playing the games for the fun of it once more.
I know there are people out there who collect trophies more so than I did, as I have conversed with them in online communities set up solely for the purpose of chatting about in game trophies and achievements, and the best and easiest ways to earn them in the games. Some of the people in these communities would go so far as to play games which they themselves would agree were terrible, for the sole purpose of earning the trophies. Although I was never quite that bad, I did come close in a few cases, which I wont embarrass myself by mentioning here.
And so from that moment on I decided I would play the games I wanted to play, and I would play them for the enjoyment of it. I will not deny the fact that I still look at the trophy list when I get a new game and I still pause my game when I earn one to have a look and see what I did to earn it. I still get the same sense of achievement when I earn them and I do still set myself challenges to earn the trophies in a game. But it is no longer the be all and end all if I am unable to unlock each and every trophy in a game. A point in case being MAG, a game I have been playing and enjoying for the last month or so. I have checked out the list of trophies for the game, and what is required to earn them, and with some work I could earn each and every trophy. But the new me has chosen not to bother with them and spend the time I would have used working hard for the trophies actually playing and enjoying the game.
And this brings me to the question, do I think the trophies and achievements in these gaming machines actually add anything other than a shiny virtual trophy and bragging rights amongst your friends? The answer, in my opinion, is a definite yes. The inclusion of trophies adds a lot of replayability to games by adding further challenges and setting goals for players to achieve, extending the life of a game for a little longer. Of course the aforementioned bragging rights amongst your friends is always fun. So on the whole, the trophy and achievement systems on the consoles are a good thing. so long as you do not do as I did and become obsessed with earning them and losing sight of why you started playing video games, to have fun and be entertained. Use them to enhance your gameplay rather than rule your gameplay.