What happens when you start playing a PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or PC game? Do you start enjoying yourself? Sure. But even more likely is you begin earning worthless commendations for the most banal tasks. Did you watch an opening movie? Have a trophy! Did you earn your first dollar of in-game currency? There’s your achievement! These accolades, items once prized by PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 owners, have seemed to have lost all value. Do they have a place in gaming anymore?
It may seem more like achievements and trophies are more of a distraction than anything. If you do not adjust your notifications in settings, you will get a banner telling you whenever one is unlocked. This can break immersion. It can also get frustrating if you enjoy taking screenshots or sharing footage. You can be streaming, showing people great images from an incredible game, when a pop up appears. This obscures gameplay, takes away from the moment, and lowers the quality of your video. I mean, it is not like you could even go back and recapture that moment. It is gone, ruined by a meaningless trophy announcement.
After all, it is not like these really earn you anything. Yes, Sony does have a Sony Rewards program that includes PlayStation Trophies as a means of earning points. The problem is, the amount you earn from each one is laughable. One of the cheapest prizes is a 1,000 point $10 PlayStation Store voucher. You get one point for each silver trophy, 10 for each gold trophy, and 100 for each platinum trophy. It could mean hundreds of hours of work to even get 500 points. At which point, you forget the whole program exists and buy your own credit.
I mean, one of the newest consoles does not even support them. Nintendo did not include an achievements/trophy system in the Switch. Granted, the company has chosen to opt out of such things on all of its systems so far. Even when these intangible rewards were “hot,” the Wii and Wii U ignored them. But the Switch is a system that is adopting things most consoles offer, like screenshot functionality, sharing features, a subscription service, and a convoluted way to enjoy voice chat. For it to avoid any sort of commendation system could be seen as sticking to the status quo, but could also be considered a vote showing a lack of confidence in the concept.
Really, it seems like the only purpose achievements and trophies have now is to act as a spoiler for things to come. Whenever a new game is about to drop, some people may froth at the mouth when anticipating what sorts of details and secrets any early information could reveal. Since achievement and trophy lists offer a name for the commendation and a brief description, people look to these as a way to discover things about an unreleased title. They may have an idea of how many chapters there are in an RPG, as well as learn about potential plot points. With Grand Theft Auto V, we learned there would be 20 stores in GTA Online via the “Stick Up Kid” achievement.
Achievements and trophies are a nice idea, in theory. They were exciting enough when they were founded, but things have changed. There is no longer as pressing a need to keep track of what we are doing and could be doing, as well as what others are up to. There is not enough incentive to keep up with things. People who forget to turn off notifications end up getting abrupt distractions when they play, perhaps turning them into a nuisance if you are streaming or filming. They were a pleasant enough novelty in the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 era, but perhaps it is time to retire them.