There's been some hullabaloo recently about the poor certification process in PlayStation Network games. While it's simultaneously a great place for small games to release on consoles, it's also a system that's easy to abuse. There's one title in particular recently that proved that more than anyone ever thought possible. ★★★★★ 1000 Top Rated was a “game” that touted how easy it was to get a platinum trophy through it. The game itself was a tile puzzler with 4K wallpapers. From the trailer it would appear that every single puzzle would reward you with a trophy. And because of this, for the meager price of 98 cents, you too can own possibly the easiest to achieve platinum trophy in PSN history.
I know Cash4Plats has been around for a while. This won't have been the first time people spend money on a game to get an easy platinum trophy. Even still, a few questions remain for me. Do games like this and the Cash4Plats way of thinking in general cheapen the platinum trophies that require actual work to achieve? And even further, should we even put stock in trophies or achievements anymore?
I know there are many self-proclaimed achievement hunters out there. They scream it to the world with pride. It's not necessarily a negative thing, since it means they value taking the time to understand a game to its fullest. Most of the platinum trophies that have any level of difficulty to achieve first require you to have an intense understanding of the game and its mechanics. This is admirable, especially since many/most of these so-called achievement whores undoubtedly have jobs, and home/work balances to handle. It's great that trophies allow people that might otherwise just play a game casually the purpose to really dig deep into it.
On the flip side, this by-product of trophies and achievements benefits developers as well. In-game quest rewards are the way to get players to complete tasks that you want them to. But how do you get them to learn everything about a certain character's skill tree? How do you lead them to fully understand a weapon? There can be in-game prompts for these as well, but it takes the player out of the immersive experience. Achievements and trophies are that little pop-up during the game that the user can either ignore, or take a closer look at. Players can decide before, after, or during to investigate a game's achievements and then go after whichever they would like to attain first. This can be done completely outside the actual gameplay, so that the in-game world is undisturbed by such things.
Here is my question: does any of this matter? In the grand scheme of life, I think we can all agree that getting a platinum trophy in a video game or completing all the achievements in a title on Xbox or Steam doesn't get you much. There is always going to be the personal satisfaction of making a goal for yourself and then achieving it. There's no greater feeling. But generally speaking, being a competitionist is not going to land you that awesome job, it's not necessarily going to help you find the love of your life, and it's not going to make paying the bills any easier.
Are we putting far too much stock in virtual rewards for virtual tasks in a virtual environment? What if Steam or Xbox achievements went bye-bye? What if Sony decided suddenly to no longer offer trophies in their published games? That's obviously not going to happen, because these companies understand that people would riot and boycott. But I find it interesting to consider what-ifs from time to time. If Microsoft suddenly said that my achievements would disappear as they're going to phase out the system, I'd be decidedly sad. Those achievements are more about memories to me than anything else. Others might not care at all.
No matter how you feel about it, achievements and trophies in video games don't appear to be going anywhere. There are probably some changes that could be made to the systems to make the rewards feel even more worth it than they currently do. But right now I think most would abide by the “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” rule. What are your opinions?