Are PlayStation Trophies Hurting Our Ability to Enjoy Games?
It was 1999, I was 13 years old and I had just gotten my first PlayStation console, the timeless PSOne. My mother had decided to surprise me for reasons that I can no longer remember, and she brought home the console, Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy VII. Before this, I had not played a Final Fantasy game (not a surprise considering that FFVII was the first Final Fantasy to be released in Europe) so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But three hours in, I was completely hooked.
The next couple of weeks were spent scouring every inch of the world, finding every item, defeating every enemy and unlocking all the limit breaks. What was my reward for doing this? Was I receiving any kind of input for completing every aspect of this immense game. I spent all of my spare time playing this game, and collected everything it had to offer for one reason and one reason only: FUN!
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. The previous generation of consoles gave us Trophies on PlayStation 3, and Achievements on Xbox 360, ushering in a generation of what has become affectionately (and sometimes un-affectionately) known as “Hunters”. Some of us are casual hunters, but there are certain groups of people out there whose mission and purpose is to get as many trophies as possible.
For those of you who are not aware, most games on the PS3 come with a built in Trophy set. The objective is to unlock all the trophies to achieve the “platinum.” The platinum trophy means you have done most everything in the game that can be done. The road to any platinum is paved with a number of bronze, silver and gold trophies and unlocking them all quickly becomes addictive. They can be simple, from completing story missions, to unlocking your first collectible, to increasingly difficult, like beating the game on the hardest difficulty setting.
The allure is obvious, you complete more and more things in the games, and you unlock more and more trophies. It serves as a record of your achievements, something to show your friends, even boast about, if you are so inclined. While this sounds reasonably harmless, it can have a negative effect. We have become so conditioned to unlocking these “rewards” that when presented with a game that does not have them, we have started to put them aside and potentially miss out on something great, just because there are no trophies to unlock.
In my case, this is very true. I find it hard to go back to PS2 and PSOne games because of this. But, in preparation for this article, I spoke to a number of friends, and people on Twitter to get their thoughts and a large percentage of them feel the same way. Without the incentive, they don’t feel like spending large amounts of time on certain games. There are, as always, certain exceptions, such as story driven games, established franchises. These are the games that we will spend time on regardless of any perceived reward for doing so. Another problem is that games you would probably never ever play have platinum trophies and the urge to get them becomes too great because they are so easy. Here are a few examples:
However, what happens when you have finished the story? Will you continue on and do all the other things that the game has to offer? Will you collect everything? Complete every optional side quest? Go back and finish it on the hardest difficulty for fun? For me, generally speaking, the answer is no. And I feel bad about this. There are so many games that I say to myself, “I really want to go back and play that again,” but I never do.
Is this a healthy way to game? I’ve been mulling this over since before the holidays, and I really don’t think it is. If a game’s trophy set is fun, and in keeping with the logical progression of how you would usually play the game, then it doesn’t feel like your doing anything you wouldn’t already do. A good example of this, would be the Walking Dead Season 1 by Telltale Games. All you need to do in order to obtain a platinum in this game is complete all five episodes. Nothing extra or special, just complete the game. Certain trophy purists will argue that this is too easy and is basically giving the platinum trophy away (an argument that has intensified now that there are there separate versions of the game across all PlayStation platforms!) but does it really matter? Obtaining all the trophies in this case means you have done everything in the game, and enjoyed everything it has to offer.
But even then, you haven’t, because in the Walking Dead, the sheer amount of combinations and permutations of choices in the game is so immense, that no one person could get through them all without spending weeks replaying the game over and over. And while it is a fantastic game, I think it might lose some of its charm after the 23rd playthrough.
My current trophy level on PlayStation is 25, with over 5000 trophies and 53 platinums. While to some people, that might seem like a lot, when compared to some other people out there who have hundreds, even thousands. In fact according to PS3Trophies, the most platinums obtained by one person currently, is 1,507. I’d also like to point out that this person is Irish like myself, which makes me simultaneously proud, and sad for that person.
In the end, this all comes down to personal preference. If you want to dedicate yourself to having the most Trophies, power to you. If you are competing with your friends, and engaging in some healthy competition, even better. While this could potentially ruin some friendships, it can also be a hell of a lot of fun. Some friends and I, along with my wife are currently engaged in a trophy war to see who can platinum Resident Evil HD first. And I’m winning, even though I already work 60 hours a week in my normal life.
What do you think about Trophies? Are they a critical thing for you? A passing fancy? Are they just something that you get without even caring while you play your favorite PlayStation games? Do share your own Trophy tale in the comments below.