Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Dichotomy of Trophies and Achievements

I know a lot of people that put a lot of stake in their achievement score or trophy count on their respective consoles. While I've never been that kind of person, I do sometimes find myself going out of my way or spending more time with a game than I normally would just to get that one trophy that's just a little out of my reach.

I'm of two minds on this topic. On one hand, I don't believe that getting a few extra points on your fake scorecard is worth spending several more hours with a game. If you really love the game, that's a different story, spend all the time in that world that you want.

On the other hand, trophies and achievements have led me to discover more depth to a game that I loved that I never would have discovered had I not made the decision to chase after these notches on my gaming belt.

Case in point (and the reason I decided to write this in the first place), let's take the new God of War as an example. I loved the game so much and had gotten so close to the coveted platinum trophy that I almost felt an obligation to go for it. Begrudgingly, I swallowed my pride, opened up an online guide, and chased down all of Odin's Ravens that I had missed (don't act like you've never used a guide). At first, this process was extremely tedious. I revisited most areas, having missed at least one raven, but as I progressed and ultimately tracked them all down, I discovered no less than three new areas that I had previously passed over somehow.

The process of finding all of these ravens caused me to discover new parts of the game that I otherwise would have missed had I given up early. Granted, there wasn't anything spectacular in any of those spots, it was mostly just more chests to open and enemies to fight, but I was happy to discover more game.

Another example I'll give is Stardew Valley, which I went back to again following my acquisition of God of War's platinum trophy. At this point, I've put 105 hours into Stardew Valley, and I'm still discovering new things to do, and it's all because of the achievements. Going through the achievements list, I saw that there is an achievement for getting married and having children, one for shipping 15 of each crop, one for getting friendship levels to certain heights, etc. Currently, I'm working through the achievements for catching every fish, cooking every meal, and crafting every item, all of which are things I never would have done had it not been for achievements. I spent 90 hours in Stardew Valley without cooking a single meal, and now, after returning, I'm discovering that there is so much more to this game that I already loved.

Here's the part where it gets tricky for me: I love the Nintendo Switch. A lot of people do, and like them, and I want to support it as much as I can. If a third-party game is released on the Switch and doesn't come attached with the dreaded "Switch tax," that's where I want to play it. Every game I have pre-ordered right now is of the Switch version. Having portability isn't a big deal to me, as I play most games at home and rarely use this feature, and since that's the case, why wouldn't I get my next pre-ordered game (Owlboy) on the PS4 instead? Not only will it have trophy support, but it'll probably look better running on my PS4 Pro. Owlboy looks like a game that's right up my alley, and it would be a shame for me to miss something cool simply because I didn't have a trophy/achievement system to show me there's more to it than I would have discovered otherwise.

I've long been one to stand on my soapbox and shout from the mountaintops that achievements and trophies don't matter, yet here I am, thinking about getting a game on a different platform simply so I can acquire some trophies. Hypocritical? Yes, it absolutely is, though I still don't get much out of having trophies or achievements. If I cared about my achievement score on Xbox, I would play multi-console releases on the Xbox One instead of my preferred PS4, and if I cared that much about trophies, I would have played more games on PS3, but I loved the Xbox 360 so much more.

As a self-admitted Nintendo fanboy that grew up playing systems without any type of scoring system, I can't help but feel like Nintendo is dropping the ball by not having one. Why couldn't they have tied them in to their Nintendo Rewards system? For instance, if an achievement on Xbox One nets you 5 gamerscore, why couldn't Nintendo have that same action score you 5 gold coins, which could then be used on Nintendo's rewards program for use on discounts of other games? Even if they didn't do it that way and just had a scoring system of some kind, I would feel more incentivized to buy things on my Nintendo Switch. In fact, having a Nintendo scoring system where everything is fresh and everyone starts at zero sounds very appealing to me.

At the end of the day, the experience of the game is what should matter. I recognize and support that. As I've stated, trophies and achievements have the ability to make you play a game longer than you want to (like it did with Grand Theft Auto IV for me) or to make you dig deeper and discover more than what you thought a game has to offer. I'm in this weird place where I don't want to care about trophies, but I guess I do. We all get that little dopamine drip whenever a new trophy or achievement pops with its accompanying ding. It just feels good.

I think I wrote this as a way to hammer out my thoughts on the subject, but I don't think I've actually accomplished that goal, so I would be interested to hear your thoughts. Feel free to comment, and don't forget to check out the other things I do, which you can find links to below.

Thanks for reading.


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