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Are we better off without Trophies and Achievements in games?

EARNING Xbox Achievements and PlayStation Trophies has become a staple of the way many people play games.

Many people will opt for these versions of the game, instead of Nintendo Switch, simply so they can experience the rush that comes from completing a game’s arbitrary checklist.


Xbox achievements are similar to PlayStation’s trophies.Credit: Mika Baumeister via Unsplash

You then store all of these medals in your online profile, signalling to others how much of a gamer you really are.

Like it or not achievements are going to stick around, and they do have their benefits in giving people more things to do in games they’ve already completed.

However, the implementation of some achievements ruin the goals the game was originally trying to achieve.

Let’s compare BioShock to Undertale. Both have moral choices to make. You decide whether to commit a genocide on the people of the world, or you know, not do that.

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Committing genocide in these games comes with benefits. You can use their deaths to power yourself up, but ultimately there is a better reward for forgoing this power.

In Undertale you may end up a powerful destroyer of life, but you will then have to take on Sans, one of the hardest boss fights in all of video games. It also locks you out of the “good” ending.

BioShock’s best ending is also locked behind abstaining from child murder, but there is an achievement that points right to that being what you should do.

Undertale’s trophies are asinine. They all relate to things you can do at the dog shrine, and have no bearing on moral choices you make. 

It even suggests that you only play the game once, and accept your decisions.

However, the fact that BioShock gives an achievement for saving the children, and not one for murdering them all, takes the choice out of your hands, lessening the impact.

If there had been an achievement for both, it would be equally moot. You wouldn’t feel the weight of your decision-making, if you know you’re going to do it all again and choose the other path.

Games often have added content for those who complete it more than once.

In JRPGs, this is often a hidden dungeon or area, in Dark Souls there are hidden rings in New Game+, and in Resident Evil minigames, items and shops are hidden behind multiple playthroughs.

But these are rewards for time spent with the game. They aren’t a checklist that tells you the way the game should be played ‘properly’.

Some people even purchase and play games with the sole aim of collecting achievements and trophies.

If you look at the Xbox or PlayStation store, you will find a whole host of cheap games with Platinum trophies that can be earned before you even complete them.

This makes the whole system feel redundant and a simple easy cash grab for developers and publishers.

While trophy hunters are not the majority of gamers, there is a passionate player base that puts a lot of stock into them.

Microsoft and Sony have tapped into a part of these players’ brains that feels rewards from achieving these arbitrary numbers.

There is certainly a place for trophies in gaming. They can tempt players to explore paths they usually wouldn’t, or improve on their gameplay by practising certain skills.

It’s nice to feel coerced out of your comfort zone, and that’s when achievements work.

But when they dictate routes you should play, or moral decisions you make, then it makes certain games feel pointless as your autonomy is stripped away in the pursuit of something shiny.

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Written by Dave Aubrey and Georgina Young on behalf of GLHF.

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