Written by Rick Warren / Gfn2112
I've played video games since I was 4 years old, on everything from the Atari to Gameboy to PlayStation. Nothing made me happier as a kid than getting a new game and jumping into a whole new experience. When the PlayStation 3 rolled around, I was beyond excited. I came in a few years late (finally getting the console myself in 2009), but I couldn't wait to check out all the games I had been hearing about. I started off playing random sports games with my dad just for fun, but was confused when a notification came up in the left-hand corner of the screen. It came with a simple but pleasant sound, and a sentence that's all-too-familiar to me today: "you have earned a trophy".
The Glory of Trophy Hunting.
At the time of writing this article, I'm ranked somewhere in the top 100-300 trophy hunters in the United States and I’m in the top 750-1500 worldwide (rank depends on the website used). With over 14,000 trophies and 141 platinums, I think it's safe to consider myself a trophy hunter. I never planned to be one, though... it just happened naturally. When I got my first handful of trophies I was still indifferent to them. I liked seeing them pop up, but I didn't particularly care enough to go after any. Over time though, I started to gather a lot of them by just doing what I always did: playing lots of games. Coming into the generation a few years late gave me plenty to play, and I wasted no time catching up. As the trophies continued to pour in, I jokingly became "the trophy guy" amongst my friends. A few would challenge me to do things like reach a certain trophy total. I didn't have to try, I could just do what I always did... but at some point, something clicked. I wasn't just playing games to play games anymore. I realized I was playing games to earn trophies and, honestly, I enjoyed it.
I began by looking at trophy lists. I still wasn't hunting platinums, but if I saw an easy optional trophy I'd grab it along the way. It felt good to always have other goals when playing a game aside from just finishing it. I also liked having the trophies attached to my profile. It was an odd sort of proof that I had played so many games and I felt comfortable having it. I didn't need my friends to challenge me anymore either, because I began challenging myself. Starting small with wanting to reach 1000 trophies or 10 platinums, I kept on going until I reached where I am today. Collecting trophies became a game of its own for me, and I loved playing it. Eventually I found out about all the websites that have leaderboards and trophy guides, and that only pushed me further. I still love the rewarding feeling of earning a trophy. For me, it’s a combination of competition and a sense of accomplishment that drives me to hunt after them.
Better than Achievements.
As I mentioned earlier, I don't only play games on PlayStation. It’s my platform of choice thanks to how many unique exclusive games it offers, but I feel like I'd be missing out if that's all I played on. So, when the next batch of consoles rolled around, I grabbed both the PS4 and Xbox One. I had played some games here and there on the 360 but never once cared about achievements. With a newfound love for trophy hunting, though, I assumed that I would find the same joy in achievement hunting. I didn't.
After playing through the games and finding some Easter-eggs in the Master Chief Collection, I had earned around 100 achievements and decided to check my Gamerscore. I was a bit surprised to see how low it was. When I compared it to a friend who also had a new Xbox Live account, I was shocked to find that he had way less achievements than I did but almost double my Gamerscore. This was because achievements were worth so little in the Master Chief Collection. This was an immediate red flag for me. On PlayStation, there were 4 tiers of trophies and they were usually weighted properly. It was a clear system. It was easy to keep track of exactly how many trophies you earned and easier to determine what they were worth. With Xbox, that didn't exist. Someone could have 100,000 Gamerscore and have far less achievements than someone with 70,000 depending on what they had played. It’s just not a fair system, nor is it easy to tell how many achievements a person has earned.
Soon enough, though, an even bigger red flag came up (so big that it would take Mario ten minutes to get down the flagpole). I got an achievement from an app. At first, I was confused, thinking that maybe an achievement from a game I played took extra-long to unlock. Sure enough, though, I was wrong. In the achievements section, I found lists for Twitch, Netflix, and other apps. I couldn't help but laugh at the requirements. "Watch an hour of streams" or "rate a movie". They weren't worth any Gamerscore, but that wasn't the point. It was sad enough that they existed. No effort had to be put in and you didn't even have to play games anymore to get an achievement. This issue, along with the unclear Gamerscore system, was enough to decide that the system wasn't for me. Yet there were more things achievements lacked in comparison to trophies. You couldn't see the rarity of the achievement you earned. You couldn't see the image of the achievement upon unlocking it and had to stop playing if you wanted to look. The presentation itself was simply sloppy, and I wasn't having even a little bit of the fun that I had with trophy hunting. Soon enough I was done bothering with achievements, and I haven't gone after any in a year. As ridiculous as it sounds, trophies are one of the main reasons why I prefer PlayStation.
The dangerous problem with Trophies.
As much as I love them, though, trophies aren't perfect. There are certainly minor issues. PlayStation is too restrictive on what games can have what trophies. Multiplayer trophies make Platinums unachievable for those who can't play online or just don't like to. A separate list for them would be nice, as would a consistent reward system for earning trophies. These are all things that could be done to make the trophy system even better. Honestly though, the biggest problem with trophies doesn't involve them directly; it’s what they can do to the person going after them.
The first thing trophy obsession does is that it makes you play terrible games for some easy trophies and/or a free platinum. I'm as guilty as you can possibly be when it comes to this. Roughly 1/3 of my platinum trophies are from awful 3-hour games with easy lists. Hell, I even have the shining badge of shame that is the Hannah Montana platinum. It’s a total waste of money and time, but I can't help it. I care enough about my trophy count to play games I don't like so I can build it up. Though, compared to the following problem with trophy obsession this one is harmless.
The other problem builds off the first: people can become so addicted to trophies that they stop playing good games because the trophy lists are too time consuming or hard. They only spend their time on the bad titles with free trophies, essentially valuing their trophy scores over enjoying the games they play. Even I don't do this, but sadly I know a few people that do. It’s a shame to see and I honestly feel bad that they've grown to be that way. Its taking a fun hobby so far that it isn't fun anymore. Like any form of addiction, it’s a more common than you'd think and it can completely ruin something we all love doing: playing games.
If someone were to ask me if I loved trophy hunting, obviously I would say yes. I've gotten so much joy out of it over the years. Yet, if they were to ask me if they should start, I think I'd have to tell them not to. As much as I enjoy going for trophies, part of me misses when I didn't have to think about them constantly and could just dive into a game. There's also the risk that the person becomes addicted, and I'd never want to get somebody involved in a thing that hurts them. Video games are a wonderful thing that everyone can enjoy, and I will always be a gamer before a trophy hunter. Nothing good could come from being the opposite.