The world of the PS4 trophy hunter

By John Robertson, Monday, 14 April 2014 07:55 GMT


PS3-Trophies

“After playing a few terrible games just for the trophies and having a terrible time, I consciously choose not to do that.”

I don’t have a single Platinum trophy – those awarded for unlocking all other trophies in a PlayStation game. It would be easy for me to pull out the tried, tested, traditional excuse used by any and all game journalists when interrogated about this supposed lack of achievement, namely: I play so many games, often under restrictions of time, that finding the required hours to earn even just one Platinum is a case of fantasy most whimsical. Finding the hours to earn two is about as realistic as me scoring the winner in this summer’s World Cup… an act that would certainly deserve a Platinum.

To some extent, said clichéd excuse rings true. I don’t often have the time to dedicate to such a hunt. Greater truth resides in the fact that I lack the motivation, though. Perhaps it’s an age thing, trophies (alongside the Xbox’s comparative Achievements) still feel new to someone who grew up on an early videogame diet of Paperboy, Alex Kidd and Kevin Keegan’s Player Manager. I didn’t need trophies to enjoy those games, so why do we need them now?
Things change, however. Old ways of thinking get left behind, new ideas are established, embraced and eventually become the status quo. Ramblings of those stuck in bygone eras are dismissed quicker than a Happy Meal at a Weight Watchers convention.

Not only are trophies here to stay, but they’re held in such regard by some that an entire subculture of Trophy Hunters have made it their business to acquire them. Success is determined by not only how many trophies you’ve achieved, but also by their rarity – with one being more important than the other depending on who you speak to.

“I think a good Trophy List makes a game better. I think a bad Trophy List makes a game worse – and I think developers should pay more attention to this,” PSN user DrBloodMoney tells me. “I do tend to go for the trophies in all games I play, but I try to avoid buying games based on the ease or speed of getting trophies.

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“That trap is easy to fall into, believe me. After playing a few terrible games just for the trophies and having a terrible time, I consciously choose not to do that [anymore].”

DrBloodMoney’s Trophy List currently boasts 130 Platinums, alongside an 88 percent completion rate – i.e. 88 percent of all trophies, across the games he has played, have been acquired. He has earned over 8,000 trophies.

“Platinum trophies, as trophies go, are important. However, I am far more interesting 100 percent [completing] a game than simply getting the Platinum for it. That’s for a couple of reasons,” DrBloodMoney explains.

“I am unemployed because the job market is pretty weak for recent graduates, but I’m actively looking. Trophy hunting is about four to six hours per day right now.”

“Firstly, there are a lot of download-only games that don’t feature Platinums, but they’re quite prestigious and difficult games. Some of the games I’m most proud of completing are not Platinum games – Limbo, Braid, Shatter and Big Sky Infinity, for example.

“Then there are many games where the Platinum is relatively easy but DLC has made the 100 percent goal far more difficult. I’m pretty proud of my 100 percent in Dishonoured – getting the Platinum is not difficult, but getting all the Dunwall City Trials DLC trophies most certainly is.”

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BeautifulTorment (132 Platinums, 97.50 percent completion rate) echoes that sentiment: it’s the goal of 100 percent completion that’s important.

“To me, Platinums indicate that a person has finished a game. So often you see people with hundreds of games on their list but haven’t even played most of them for over an hour… I find that to be somewhat of a gross habit,” BeautifulTorment complains.

“Beyond just the Platinum, I strive for 100 percent completion in games as I find that much more satisfying that seeing some random percentage on my profile.”

BeautifulTorment’s most recently earned Platinum is that for Final Fantasy X HD, a trophy which has been acquired by just 0.6 percent of the game’s owners. Additionally, he also owns the Platinum for Grand Theft Auto V (owned by 0.1 percent of players) and FEAR 2 (0.1 percent).

“As of right now I am unemployed because the job market is pretty weak [in Canada] for recent graduates, but I’m actively looking,” BeautifulTorment continues. “Trophy hunting is about four to six hours per day right now.

“There are very few games I still play after I finish them… when I do replay them I’m usually playing on an alternate account earning trophies (although not actively looking to earn them). Sometimes I’ll go back to a game if a friend requires some help or something boosted.”

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Dark_Tooth69 is newer to the Trophy Hunter fraternity (24 Platinums, 90.74 percent completion), although he is not “aiming to have the most Platinums”. Instead, he views his trophy list as a celebration of the games he enjoys playing.

“Every game I’ve finished was a game I wanted to play. Developers put so much effort and content into their games that I just can’t help but go out of my way to see it all,” Dark_Tooth69 explains. “I never liked the idea of buying a game just to get an easy Platinum. I’d rather have a trophy list that represents my taste as a gamer and not a Trophy List filled with the likes of Hannah Montana and Terminator Salvation.

“Many trophy hunters like to play games one after another, with trophies as their main fuel. I’d like to believe they care about the games they’re playing… but some don’t. It all ties into the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction you get from being rewarded and trophies are just the latest incarnation of that. Part of what makes them appealing is that they’re tied to your online ID and out in the open for the world to see.”

“Getting the trophies in Knytt really makes you look in every nook and cranny of the massive map and. I ended up really liking a game that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have pursued”

Where Dark_Tooth69 sets out to specifically create a trophy list that demonstrates his appreciation of games he “wanted to play”, Merciful84 is part of an even more niche trophy hunter subculture whose goal is to use trophies as a means of appreciating games that have been rejected by most.

“It’s all part of how trophies and achievements have changed gaming,” says Merciful84. “Some games that in the past may have been passed up by people now attract an audience who ends up experiencing what may actually be a good game.

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“I want to know why people aren’t playing these games. Are they really that bad? Did they not get a fair chance from mainstream reviewers? I’m proud of my Knytt Underground trophy set, the trophies did an awesome job of pushing the whole exploration theme. Getting the trophies in Knytt really makes you look in every nook and cranny of the massive map and, by accepting the challenge, I ended up really liking a game that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have pursued.

“Two Worlds II is another trophy set that I’m fond of. I found the game to be very underrated and much bigger than I originally thought based on the lack of fanfare. While I do tend to find some terrible games, there are plenty of others I find that simply get lost behind the lime light of the big ‘AAA’ titles.”

Using trophies as a means to uncover new games is an interesting evolution for the system as a whole. Where trophies were originally designed to promote one’s success in a game, some people, like Merciful84, are using them as incentive to try games outside of the dominant mainstream radar – success coming from appreciating these kinds of games.

For most people, however, earning trophies remains a symbol of ‘beating’ a game. Proof that they have the skills to achieve feats designers have deemed taxing. As such, trophy hunters can sometimes take a negative view of certain trophies.

“Trophies are meant to challenge and add replay value. When I see a game rewarding me for regular story progression it gets annoying – I was going to do this anyway, so why did I get a trophy for it? I think these ‘free trophies’ undermine the value of other trophies that actually take skill and effort,” Dark_Tooth69 complains.

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Additionally, Dark_Tooth69 is all too happy to point out that certain fellow trophy hunters have become corrupted by the quest for trophies:

“A lot of people have lost the point. I see people playing through games they absolutely despise just to have more trophies. I can understand many games take dedication and are a grind to finish, but if it’s a game you never liked in the first place… what’s the point? There are also players who won’t buy a game just because it doesn’t have trophies… that makes no sense to me.”

Perhaps the most interesting thing about trophies is their clear ability to have people think about games in many different ways. Some use them trophies as a badge of honour that promotes their prowess, others as a show of thanks to a game’s creators, others still as a means to unlocking potentially enjoyable games that most of us have pushed aside and rejected. Some might just be addicted.

Understanding the quest of the Trophy Hunter is, for me, more interesting than the trophies themselves. To use another cliché, it’s examining the journey, as opposed to the end result, that’s yields the greatest insight. Hence why I wrote this article as opposed to earning that first Platinum.

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