'Achievements'. 'Trophies'. 'Look-at-me coupons'. Call them what you will, optional in-game accolades are here to stay. And my my, are they big business, not just adding new challenges to games, but changing the whole culture of how some of us play them. When dealing with the uninitiated, describing the giddy thrill of unlocking these largely meaningless honours is a lot like trying to tell a blind man which part of the modern art exhibit sucks the least. You really need to experience it for yourself. But there's much more nuance to this stuff than just collecting a bunch of McGuffins or killing a hard thing in Hard mode.
There has now appeared a wide array of Achievement-hunting habits--distinct modes and methods favoured by certain gamers in order to maximise and streamline their nabbing antics. Some go big, others go home, and some just sit at the back of the class chewing gum with their feet up. What follows are seven key examples of these Achievement and Trophy-loving archetypes. Onwards!
The 'Say No to Multiplayer' guy
Maxing out a game's entire suite of accolades has always been a tall order, but making multiplayer mode compulsory? Now that's just downright sadistic--a bit like filling in a big sticker book, only to be told that the final shiny exists on the moon. Bugger...It goes without saying that some folks simply don't enjoy the juvenile detention centre-theatrics of the online hub, so why force them on there at all? Why, to get more people playing of course--to cajole, kick and prod these smelly, sheltered hermits into enjoying a wide, open world of possibi...and there's absolutely no one else here, is there?
Great. Even more unattainable achievements. The phantom zone Zod's of the video game landscape, sealed up, shipped off and busily cursing our names from space.. Of course, even those rare titles that do somehow remain in the limelight will often find other ways to burden an MP-hating 'hunter', typically by doling out uber-grindy or otherwise time-intensive challenges. To this sorry state of affairs, the no mo multiplayer gamer stands up and says "Nay!", forsaking many a sexy Platinum Trophy in the name of truth, justice and the avoidance of screaming adolescents.
The Easy Hoarder
Despite their immense popularity, top trophy brokers--i.e MS, Sony and Steam--can actually be surprisingly lax at policing their own tasks. While most titles are content to offer a fair spread of challenge, from the 'breathe in easy' to the 'mental breakdown hard', some cheap and cheerless titles will opt instead to offer a whole host of pointless, tacked-on missions. Games like Avatar: The Burning Earth are well known for allowing gamers to accrue an easy 1000G in just over two minutes. Others, including Peter Jackson's King Kong, require only that the player complete the game, effectively giving up the goods faster than a junkie at a police-dog convention.
Where the 'Easy Hoarder' is concerned, however, these kinds of abominations are nothing short of a godsend; a real treasure trove of trophies delivered directly into their smug little accounts. Of course, the real irony here is that most hoarders then tend to trade in their 'soft touch' titles to one another, i.e. to the only other people who actually care about quantity over quality, and their only real competition D'oh!
The Intrepid Collector
"What does it profit a man if he gains many an Achievement, but loses his soul?" Yknow, aside from all of those neat 'paaallop'/ 'schwiiing' sound effects? Shouldn't one tough Trophy outweigh a thousand 'thanks for playing' accolades, or the very mention of a 'Mile High Club' be enough to eat out on? Ahem That's the thinking behind the 'Intrepid Collector', a rare breed of trophy hunter more interested in his or her own glorious, battle-hardened reputation than with a stockpile of points.
Where other folks chase easy targets, or choose to pursue the path of the completionist, the discerning collector sets their sights on an altogether stranger game. Fancy beating Halo: Reach alone and on Legendary? Or nabbing every last medal in Portal? How about landing a chuckle-worthy 69 stars in COD Special Ops? That's a lot of blood, sweat and inevitable adult counselling for a measly 280 Gamerpoints. Still, at least these gamers have their dignity. Kinda. Unlike...
The Nearly Man
Have you ever come within spitting distance of success, only to suffer spontaneous dry mouth? Or squished yourself up against gaming's glass ceiling for a good, sad-eyed gander? How about a road race--have you ever, I don't know, come second in one of those? Oh, you have? Then you'll know exactly how this next entrant feels. Contrary to what the title may imply, 'the Nearly Man' is not so much the result of a failed gender experiment as he is a born silver medalist. That is to say, pretty slick by most folks' standards, though not quite Cheerios' box material.
Swearing lifelong allegiance to every game they meet, the Nearly Man--or woman--puts everything they have into topping that one particular title, until they realise what a fools errand they've been on, decide to quit, and then start it all over again a week later. These are the love-struck teens of the Achievement scene, professing unerring devotion one minute and the exact opposite of enthusiasm the next. Either that, or they simply aren't good enough to topple the truly sadistic Trophies awaiting in otherwise pleasant games. Here's looking at you, Vanquish's 'Tactical Challenger'. Grrr.
The selfish multiplayer gamer
Don't you just love it when a game's designers choose to include a silly trophy or two? Something asinine or childish. A completely throwaway act, like shooting the moon or hurling yourself off of a 60-story building. Good times. Shame about all the pedestrians though Sadly, this spirit of suicidal amusement doesn't translate all that well online. At least not where the virtual squaddies of the 'single-minded MP player' are concerned.
With his or her comrades off fighting the good fight, this type of junkie opts instead to pursue more selfish ends. Is Bobby bleeding out? Sorry dude, gotta build an aid kit igloo (5G). Is Pete pinned down? I wonder if I can hit him with this extra-garish clown car? (Silver Trophy) The worst part of all is not knowing who among you truly intends to go rogue. It's all a bit like watching The Thing, except with way less gore-monsters and much, much more douche.
Everyone has that one smug, ultra-punchable buddy who just lucks his way to tricky achievements. You dominated the race, crushed the competition and laid the smacketh down, but Billy? Billy blew himself up with a stack of semtex and caught Ed Boon and Cliffy B in the blast--so guess who's going home with that uber-rare dev-besting achievement?
As for the rest of us sad saps, grabbing these kinds of fickle accolades presents a real problem. You could try blowing up all 8 enemies at once, or lining up the perfect 4-man headshot, but I'm afraid the odds just arent in your favour. Sometimes the only way to win is not to play, and at other times you just need to cheat more creatively. Enter 'the organiser', a dirty-dealing digital diplomat who attempts to corral enemy players into joining his evil schemes. It isn't easy, but if you can stop everyone from teabagging each other just long enough to get them salivating over a shared goal, then the world is indeed your oyster. Unless of course someone decides to screw you over after taking their cut. Eat your heart out, organized crime.
The Dead-Inside Grinder
Who'd have thought that a system of optional accolades would prove so darn popular, let alone lead to a crazed competition between players? For some, the thrill of collection can take on a rather obsessive edge, turning fun-filled challenges into obligatory clock-punching chores. It's ironic, really, when you consider just how similar it is to a workplace targets system. Both can be bland, boring and provide little-to-no real benefit to your work. You leave the RL office only to spend the entire evening running errands for a new and virtual boss, named Galgor, or 'Villager 3'. George Orwell would be proud. Or terrified, I forget which.
If any of this is beginning to sound a shade familiar, then it may just be the case that you too are a 'Dead-Inside Grinder'. Of course, no one ever means for it to get like this, but since the Xbox told you to leave your wife, clean out the bank account and bar every exit, you really haven't had all that much else to do. It all stopped being fun a long time ago, but you've come much too far to stop now. Just 10,000 more headshots to go
So, which Achievement-loving archetype are you, if any? Do you see any point in any of this stuff at all? Check out the comments section below to have your say, spill your guts and maybe, just maybe belittle my manhood. Adios!
And if you want to check out a bit more related content on this here website (and why wouldn't you?) have a look at Giggle Unlocked! The 25 funniest Achievements and Trophies. Or if you fancy something a little more general on the wild world of gamer psychology, maybe take our 100% scientific* What type of gamer are you? personality test.
*Not guaranteed scientific.