A couple days ago, I got around to finally getting the platinum trophy in Bloodborne. As the notification for my 19th platinum popped up, I wondered, what was the point in all of this? Why do I still care about trophies when none of my friends do? It’s a question I find myself often asking after unlocking one. Yet still, I continue to mindlessly slave away, carrying out the most asinine of tasks for a virtual souvenir. What is it about trophies that have continued to mesmerize me for so long?
In the early years of the Xbox 360, I didn’t care much for achievements. Now the idea of a multi-game achievement system was definitely appealing and understandably exploded in popularity. I would even argue that alongside Xbox Live, it was one of the key factors for the 360’s sustained success. Entire communities were formed all for the sole purpose of achievement hunting and continue to be a valuable resource till this day. It didn’t help that my first attempt at getting all the achievements in a game was Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved. Yes, I was young and soft-bodied; yet prepared for the difficulties of surviving for 1 million points. If I couldn’t even get a measly 200 points for this milestone downloadable title, how in the hell was I going to 1000 in a full retail release?
Without friends who actively hunted for achievements, the system was lost on me. Why should I grind away long after I’ve stopped enjoying a game for the sole purpose of raising my Gamerscore? It felt counterproductive to my mindset while playing games; It is about having fun first and foremost. Blowing up 10 red barrels in a game for the sole purpose of raising some score no one cares about felt lame and not something I could ever see myself doing.
Right around 2009, I bought a Playstation 3. I was confronted with Sony’s take on achievement: Trophies. Fantastic! Another way to gauge how much money I’ve wasted on games I’ll never play more than an hour of. At least that’s what I expected to happen. Having just bought the system and looking for people to play with, I was able to reconnect with an old friend and find out they were one of the few people I knew with a PS3. We began to frequently play online together, duking it out in Street Fighter 4 and Marvel vs. Capcom 2. However, what started as friendly online multiplayer, quickly escalated into an intense competition. We started buying every major PlayStation network release. If it had online, you better believe we were on it. But as we started trying to one-up each other, it was inevitable that trophies would get involved.
My initial goal was to surpass the total number of trophies my friend had. I quickly approached, reached, and surpassed my friend’s trophy count. I’d eventually gain a 100 trophy lead on him. But, it still wasn’t enough. Now trophies are broken into four tiers: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. The first three tiers are earned through normal play of a game. However, to earn the platinum trophy you have to complete the trophy list. Each tier ties into a percentage bar that raises your overall Playstation Network level. Platinum trophies, in particular, give a massive boost and are almost required after a certain profile level. I worried that he might shift focus toward raising his PSN level through platinum trophies rather than collecting as many as possible. And so, came the conundrum: Spend more time trying to platinum a game, or try and maintain my trophy lead?
It was never my intention to hunt for platinum trophies, but damn it, I wasn’t going to let me friend win. Seeing as how I was playing a ton of Tekken 6 at the time, I thought, what the hell, why not just go for the Platinum. And before I knew it, I had hit 80 percent trophy completion and the trophy was in reach. Despite having to work my way through the hilariously awkward but surprisingly deep 3D beat-em-up campaign, it never felt like a chore. It blew my mind; trophies can be fun to obtain and don’t have to bog down the experience? Wow, what a revelation. It was so satisfying when that notification popped up, telling me I earned my first platinum.
Though the days of competing for trophies with my buddy are long gone, they are still some of the most fun I’ve had in online multiplayer. Memories that I cherish to this very day. But it was never really about the trophies. The time spent with my old pal, talking endlessly on skype, watching Kamen Rider together, and playing just one more round of Street Fighter was a special moment in my life I’ll never get back. But in honor of those times, I shall continue my hunt for trophies… as long as they are easy to get and don’t require me to replay the game.