For the first few decades of the videogame industry, every game was sold as a completely separate piece of software to be played on its respective system. That all changed in 2005 when Microsoft announced the concept of achievements, goals implemented into games that contributed to a common “Gamerscore” across Microsoft platforms. It was a very small idea with very sweeping effects. Achievements were so popular that PlayStation actually took the idea and implemented its own “trophy” system in 2008, and improved upon the achievement system in many ways. Achievements and trophies have been somewhat divisive since they’re ultimately just imaginary awards and you still play the game just as you would pre-achievements, but I actually really love these systems. Here’s why:
1.) It Unifies Games Under a Common System
Prior to 2005, all games were released as separate products onto all the various gaming systems, with nothing to really tie them together besides being videogames. It was very much how books and movies work today. They’re all artistic works, but there’s nothing to tie them all together. With the achievement system however, everything’s tied to one account and creates an easy way to have all the games you’ve played in one place, all contributing to the same goal.
2.) Prolongs Your Play-Time
Another cool thing about trophies is that they’re a good way to prolong your play-time with a game. Prior to 2005, there was no real reason to spend any more time with a game than just playing through it and moving on. There was no point in spending extra time trying to find all the collectibles or do random little challenges. This is particularly useful for saving money on games. Instead of buying a game, finishing it and then spending money on a new one, now you can work towards getting that platinum trophy and get to see everything that’s hidden within the game.
3.) Objective Way of “Beating” a Game
The idea of “beating” a game has always persisted across the videogame community, but until achievements/trophies came along there was no objective way to say what constituted “beating” any individual game. Was it just playing through the main campaign? Was it playing through the campaign and finding all the collectibles and easter eggs? Trophies solved this problem by giving players a chance to leave a definitive platinum trophy or 100% next to games they’ve played. I even find myself saying “I platinum’d that” for games I’ve completed 100% of the trophies for, and simply “I played that” for all the games I haven’t.
4.) Stamp of Approval
Personally, I only try and go for platinum trophies in games that I really loved (if they’re not completely unreasonable). There’s just a great sense of satisfaction when you go to the trophy list and all my favorite games are up there at the top with little platinum trophies next to them; to me it feels like I’m giving that game my personal stamp of approval, that I loved it enough to put in the extra time finding all the extra secrets and collectibles and doing all the extra little challenges.
5.) Play the Game in Different Ways
One of the other popular forms of trophies, other than story-based and collectible-based ones, force players to play the game in very different ways than it might normally be played. This is cool because it lets developers encourage players to try different play-styles within their games. Some notable examples are the “Minimalist” trophy for Unfinished Swan, which forced players to rely on sound in otherwise completely visual game, and the “Scavenger Hunt” trophy in Bioshock: Infinite, which forced players to be extremely conservative in their shooting and smarter with their resources in an otherwise traditional shooter.
6.) Encourages Friendly Competition
Since achievements and trophies attach a definitive number to your account, it naturally encourages friendly competition between friends, even more so if they’re pretty closely leveled. Striving to beat a friend in trophy level or creates a pretty fun environment and creates another reason to try and achieve certain trophies. I like to look at it as basically a modern day form of trying to get a high score in a certain game at the local arcade. In the end, it’s ultimately a meaningless achievement but it creates a fun environment and still feels pretty good.
The final reason trophies are pretty cool is that simple “ping” that pops up whenever you get a trophy, or that “pop” sound when you get an achievement. It’s a really simple thing that creates a classic feedback loop for players. After a while, people come to associate that sound with the positive feeling of getting an achievement or trophy, and then come to associate that sound with a positive feeling as well. That “ping” essentially creates a very small yet pretty rewarding immediate gratification when getting a new trophy, and makes trophy hunting as a hobby a little more fun.
Trophies, by the way, I would argue are much better than achievements because they’re a lot simpler and easier to compare between friends. It’s a lot easier to remember (and thus easier to compare) a small level number or number of platinum trophies that it is to remember the exact Gamerscore someone has once it starts getting up into the thousands. The same can be said for how all trophies can only be bronze, silver, or gold, rather than every achievement having its own unique Gamerscore attached. The final reason trophies are better is because of the platinum trophy, which only sizable games get to have, can only be earned by getting every other trophy in a game, and are the only type of meta-achievement across both systems. It’s nice to see a little platinum trophy next to games in my list rather than just a 1000/1000.
Achievements and trophies are pretty hit or miss with videogame players, but I for one really appreciate them. I’m not one to play a game specifically for trophies, but for games I do play and enjoy they’re a pretty enjoyable goal to chase after. In my opinion, trophies have made a very positive impact in videogames as a medium.
Check out all my platinums and other trophies here.