September 6, 2013 by thedavidryan
Every video game we play today features a set of achievements or trophies that are earned in different ways while playing through the game. Some are earned simply by making progress in the campaign while others push players to try a little harder and do things they may not have done previously. It all sounds great, in theory, but it seems like there are negative aspects to the achievement/trophy system. These awards may or may not be changing the gaming experience right under our noses, in some ways it is a good change in other ways it’s not so good.
First of all, what is the “gaming experience”? I feel that it is different for everyone and therefore cannot be generalized with one simple definition. For me, the gaming experience is to play video games and immerse myself into the storyline, connect with the characters, and get lost in a world that is not my own. For others it may be just playing a game for fun on occasion or to pass the time with friends, and for others it is to collect those achievements/trophies I’ve been talking so much about. If all you are playing a game for is a ‘ding’ and a number, then are you really playing for the right reasons?
There are gamers who only play certain games to get 100% of the achievements or a platinum trophy and then move on to the next game without truly appreciating the game they just played. They argue that they are getting the most out of a game, but I feel that if the developers wanted us gamers to simply get these achievements/trophies then they would make less original or less in-depth games with bland characters and overused plots. What would be the point of spending all that money and time on making an original game if they goal was to simply get achievements/trophies? Making a bland game would be simpler and much cheaper, anyway.
I’d like to highlight a handful of pros and cons to the achievement/trophy system. There are many more than just the ones I have listed, but these are what I believe to be the most straightforward pros and cons.
- Achievements/trophies push players to delve further into the game they are playing. This allows them to experience and search for things about the environment or characters that they may have previously missed.
- They allow for multiple playthroughs of a game. Some games offer two sets of achievements/trophies based on separate choices that players can make which may urge a player to go through the game two or three times, thus getting their “money’s worth”.
- Achievements/trophies allow for different playstyles and encourage trying new things. Maybe trying to beat a boss in less than five minutes or scaling a wall without falling. These things push players to experience different ways of playing a game.
- Being able to share experiences with friends and showing off your accomplishments can be a positive experience for both players and their friends. Being proud of getting a platinum trophy can be good thing and may even push your friends to try and best you, creating friendly competition.
- Some achievements/trophies offer rewards such as avatar costumes on the Xbox 360 or badges on Steam. It’s positive reinforcement for striving to do something a little different while playing a video game.
- People use the amount of achievements or trophies another person has as a way to judge how much of a gamer they are. Someone with a level 30 on the PSN may see someone that is a level 11 as “not a true gamer” without even getting to know the person. This is negative representations of individuals for poor reasons.
- Forcing gamers to play through games they may not even like just for the added score brings negative ideals into gaming. No one should play a bad game or game they don’t care for more than they have to and certainly not for a simple number next to their tag or ID.
- Gamers judge games based on how easy it is to earn achievements/trophies in them. An example would be the slight negative kickback from the lack of a massive amount of trophies in The Last of Us. Completing a playthrough and earning only 2-3 trophies turned some folks off.
- Instead of using the achievement/trophy system to learn more about a game through time spent playing it, certain people “boost” or “hack” games. This allows the player to gain an achievement or trophy without really working to get it and it is most commonly done to earn multiplayer awards.
- Older games from past generations or even certain console release titles from this generation are overlooked and forgotten in time because they lack achievements/trophies. An example would be Heavenly Sword on the PlayStation 3 which was one of the first games released for the console and does not include trophies.
I would like to get back to the question I asked in the title of this post, now that I have gone over some pros and cons, do these achievements/trophies ruin the gaming experience for some gamers? I do not think I can really come up with a proper answer to this question, even with all that I have written. It is just not that simple. While some of these are legitimate points to have made, it’s obvious that other really only pertain to a certain crowd and therefore seem illegitimate to the group they do not apply to. It is safe to say that this is a very subjective topic and a question that has many answers.
In some ways I think that achievements and trophies spoil players, leading to an obsession with earning them. In other ways it encourages players to explore the game and attempt feats they may have never thought about attempting before. It ends up as a double edged sword, for some achievements/trophies are a “must have” award, for others they are a great way to get the most out of a game, and some people just do not mind either way. I would like to ask a couple of more questions here at the end of my thoughts: Where do you weight in? Are achievements and trophies beneficial to all gamers or are they a detriment to gaming?