I think we can all agree that the vast majority of people that call themselves “gamers” would doubtless own a PS3, Xbox 360, or both. With the introduction of these consoles came a brand new feature that has undoubtedly become something of a viral sensation: trophies and achievements.
Whether it’s pumping hundreds of hours into your 360 in order to reach that coveted 100,000 GamerScore, or searching for the last hidden item that will grant you yet another Platinum trophy, games are now giving players the opportunity to showcase their (forgive me) prowess in the gaming arena.
So when did we decide that it was okay for gaming to become a job?
I don’t mean to exaggerate things here, but it seems to me that an incredible number of my 360 and PS3 friends waste countless hours in the hope that their GS or trophy collection will increase. Hours that could be spent blazing through that hefty backlog of titles, or experiencing an underrated indie game.
And for what? To boast in front of your fellow 12-hour-a-day game junkies? To show off an imaginary number or list of trophies that mean absolutely nothing in the outside world?
Do these achievements earn you money? No. Is there any reward for attaining a certain number of points or trophies? No.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy that little sound that acknowledges a new unlocked achievement as much as the next guy. I’m not ashamed of my meagre 10,000 GamerScore or few dozen trophies, either. On the contrary, I was more than a little pleased with my most recent 360 achievement; last week, FIFA 10 informed me that I had spent 50 hours on the game and that I would be rewarded with 70 virgins 50 GS.
My point isn’t that these achievements are somehow evil. Rather, it’s the fact that they play on the obsessive nature of some gamers. Rock Band 2, for example, has trophies that range from the simple to the downright torturous. One such ridiculous achievement is The Bladder of Steel Award; this bastard of a trophy requires you to complete the Endless Setlist 2 without stopping or failing. While you can attempt it on any difficulty, it certainly isn’t easy; just think about what no pausing means for an 84-song marathon. And you’ll only receive a Gold trophy for all your bladder-bursting exploits. Gold. Are you fucking kidding me?
Handheld consoles perform just fine without such “features” to appease their customers. Granted, the PSP initially had plans for a trophy system, but its ultimate axing due to piracy concerns hasn’t harmed it from a sales point of view. Calls for DS achievements have fallen on deaf ears, and I for one am glad of it. When I’m working my way through Phantom Hourglass or getting frustrated in Professor Layton, I’m never thinking to myself, “Oh golly gosh, I hope I get an achievement after I finish this puzzle.” I’m not a dog that needs to be rewarded every time I perform a trick.
The Nintendo Wii succeeds just fine without any sort of achievements; their fanboys seem to be satisfied with the size of their e-penis already. When I played through A Boy and His Blob, I was simply content with defeating the bosses; there was no disappointment in the knowledge that my online buddies wouldn’t be able to see the compensation for my victories. I never felt a pang of regret that the game hadn’t been released on an achievement-friendly console.
You don’t have to look too far back to remember a time without trophies or rewards; the PS2 and Xbox played out just fine without them. Are we really just sycophants eager to get a hard-on every time Microsoft or Sony wave a treat in front of our noses?
We gain nothing from these pointless numbers and pixelated prizes. Gamers spend countless hours every day attempting to build up their online statuses, grinding away the day in a fit of fruitless dedication. Who’s to say that these achievements and trophies won’t become completely redundant when the next wave of consoles arrives? What purpose will they serve then? Will the eBay guy you sell your 360 to have an urge to call you up and congratulate you on your incredible GamerScore? Probably not; and if he does, you should probably hang up the phone.
It sounds pretty rich coming from anyone – especially from some bloke that enjoys writing about video games in his spare time – but I believe that games are made to entertain. If you get your kicks from unlocking hilarious (or sick, depending on your care factor) rewards, then more power to you. But when we start forcing ourselves to earn every single achievement just because a developer tells us to, isn’t the game really playing us?