Hi. My name is Phil, and I’m addicted to trophy hunting.
But who cares, right? It would be wrong to compare trophies or achievements to Marmite because I’ve not yet found anyone that is outright against them. For some, it’s just an annoying pop-up which is a minor annoyance and easily turned off. So why aren’t we all interested in these small moments of gratification? Isn’t this the purpose of videos games in the first place, to challenge the brain and reward success? The answer is ‘no’ as there’s so much depth to gaming today than ever before, but I’d like to share a specific purpose that trophies have served for me.
Xbox 360 owners had achievements from day one, and Sony finally caught up in July 2008 with the first set of trophies for Super Stardust HD. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them as it felt I’d have something to show for all my hours spent playing. I was still living at home with my parents and had the disposable income that I could spend on buying any video game I wanted. This turned into a problem with frequently purchasing new titles and only playing them for a short period before buying another. It was rare that I would finish a game and my collection grew into a pile of mostly unplayed ones, some even remained unwrapped. It was about getting a taste of every new game I could get my hands on rather than savouring the flavour of a title such as Final Fantasy X for hours on end.
Trophies became the answer to this problem: the sought-after Platinum trophy signified 100% completion and was visible to all my friends on the PlayStation Network. The introduction of trophy forums and leaderboards added a competitive edge, and I found myself engrossed with earning them for the sake of increasing my trophy level. However, as more games were released with trophies included, it started a new habit: looking for exciting games that weren’t difficult to complete, which included trophies. Trophy hunters began sharing advice in the form of guides and videos to help other gamers find the right titles with generous amounts of trophies and short completion times.
As YouTube became popular, us trophy hunters starting creating their own video guides including my own set of collectable guides for the Uncharted series. With a bit of attention to detail when creating these videos, making them easier to navigate, it was easy to get the views in. My most popular video was for the location of the Strange Relic collectable in Uncharted 2 with over a quarter of a million views. Today you’ll find high-quality video guides from major publications and some full-time YouTubers which have become big business with the introduction of advertising revenue. I’m proud to have been part of these early days of video guides when simple features as time codes in the video description made it easier to track down that one collectable you needed.
Playing games exclusively via guides to obtain everything in one play-through became a side-effect of trophy hunting, and this remains the go-to method today. How about collecting all Lorestones in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice in one go, for example? Still, there are those games which demand multiple play-thoughts to collect every trophy which will test even the most dedicated hunters such as Beyond: Two Souls and Detroit: Become Human. For a trophy hunter, these two games are easy but could feel like a chore to complete everything versus those who want to see every ending only out of enjoyment. It’s at this point that a trophy hunter really sets themselves apart from everyone else with the relentless need to obtain everything in a game even if they aren’t enjoying it.
Early on in the days of trophy hunting, some games became the butt of the joke: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Hannah Montana the Movie. Both were extremely easy to complete and weren’t exactly held high in regard when looking at each other’s trophy lists. On the opposite end of the scale are the hardest games which either require playing on the highest difficulty setting or sinking hours into repetitive tasks such as finding and killing all 200 pigeons in Grand Theft Auto IV, a task I sat down and completed with a printed copy of the map. Not my proudest gaming moment but there was a feeling of progression and achievement as I crossed off each pigeon as I went.
More recently I’ve managed to get my sister involved as she helped me complete Saints Row: Gat out of Hell over Christmas in co-op when she also caught the trophy hunting bug. She has spent the last five months working through Persona 5 using a spreadsheet designed to guide you through each day within the game, telling you when story events happen and what side activities you should do to get 100% in the most efficient time.
One measure popular on trophy tracking sites such as PSN Profiles is the completion percentage based across all games played on the account. This means playing a game with difficult or unobtainable trophies is avoided by using a separate account on the console. It allows me to enjoy a game like Red Dead Redemption 2 without worrying about the impact on these statistics. Some trophies are now impossible to obtain for older multiplayer games such as Warhawk, MAG and Ace Combat: Infinity because the online servers have been shut down. Other games have permanent issues such as with the ‘Run Like The Wind’ trophy in Grand Theft Auto V. It’s impossible to achieve because the player bounty system was removed by Rockstar Games and hasn’t been restored since.
Alternatively The Elder Scrolls Online has its own achievement system with challenges covering all the vast activities in the game, but with completion tracking per character. I’d prefer they were account-wide which would allow for separate sets of achievements per character class. This would give more reason to create more than one character and encourage exploring other play styles. Regardless, this game is my current obsession and I’m playing it on PC, which is far away from my PlayStation trophy collection.
Currently, I’m not as interested in earning trophies so I hope this enables a logical approach to this subject rather than sounding like I’m trying to convince you they are an important way to enjoy games. It’s clearly not for everyone, but it still attracts those looking for a challenge and is a way to show off to others. I’ll end with pointing out that there’s an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most platinum trophies earned – impressive or a just a crazy waste of time?
What do trophies or achievements mean to you and do they add to the gaming experience? Or would prefer they just stop popping up in the corner of the screen and distracting you from the game?
Often found in front of YouTube watching videos of cats if not playing video games. Loves sprawling open-world games with a soft spot for the Fallout series.