Insight: Trophy/Achievement addiction revisited—a moment of clarity

7 08 2010

Trophy/Achievement addiction is something I have visited in this blog before. The incessant need to accomplish multiple (and sometimes impossible) tasks in order to get digital awards that only serve to boost up your ranking in the respective gaming realm of whatever system you happen to be on.

I myself caved into trophy addiction as I mindlessly blew through games on the hardest difficulties, hardly paying any attention to the story or characters. It didn’t matter how many times I died or got stuck, the frustration wasn’t there, I would simply press on because at the end I would get a trophy.

However, I recently had a “moment of clarity” that allowed me to break through my addiction.

I rented Resident Evil 5, a game I had played through previously, enjoyed, but didn’t care to purchase, and the addiction took grip of me again. I wanted to get the largest amount of achievements I possibly could within a 5-day rental period.

I wanted to get the trophy for the hardest difficulty.

For finding all of the emblems.

For unlocking all of the weapons.

For purchasing all of the costumes.

For finding all of the treasure pieces.

Needless to say, I played and played and played until finally I found myself mindlessly tapping away at my controller until 3 a.m. one night. Again I watched numbly as Sheva was killed or Chris was blown up for the 10th time in a row, and just as I was about to hit the start button to try again, I asked myself something.

Why was I doing this?

Why was I playing a game that I didn’t find interesting anymore, on the hardest possible difficulty, when I simply wasn’t enjoying myself? Isn’t that what games are for?

I had realized that my addiction to trophies had spiraled into a horrible process where getting these rewards was work, and not just fun little add-ons to the game, as they truly are. I had turned my gaming experience from fun, to monotonous, boring, and trivial.

Needless to say, I put down the controller, pulled RE5 from my console, and called it a night.

Trophies and Achievements are fun parts of gaming, definitely, but they are purely there to enrich the experience, not take away from it. These things don’t necessarily make us better gamers, they are actually just bonuses we get for completing certain objectives in a game; nothing more, nothing less.

So if you like completing every achievement possible in a game, good on you, just make sure that you’re truly having fun in doing so. If you are not, it might just be the right time to put the controller down.



One response

8 08 2010

I completely agree with your break through!

I’m sure we can all point at a real life or close online friend who is obsessed with finding these trophies/achievements, but it all boils down to if the game is fun before we flame one side or the other. The developers usually make these achievements reachable for those just coasting through the game, and a few for the truly hardcore to go out of their way to obtain, and in those aspects I believe it is healthy to go after them. The games in which over 70% of trophies are “Hidden” or “Secret” are counter-productive because as the surprise of unlocking said trophy rarely overcomes our sense to care about something we couldn’t look up and have no interest in discovering.

Allow me to turn the clock back. It’s the 90’s. I have a Super Nintendo Entertainment System and the critically acclaimed Super Mario RPG “Legend of the Seven Stars”. Where were the achievements for that game? Did the game ping or have something pop-up when you bought the Frying Pan? Did something or someone in the game track your progress when you were collecting and trading the hidden items that seemed useless to your progress but ended up giving you a secret boss battle that gave you one of the best items in the game?

What I’m getting at is that back then, we received things for their own reward and had fun doing it. Speed ran Super Mario Bros. 3 better than your sister? YAY! Did your sister get a higher score than you in Sonic 2? YAY! As long as we set the bar, it felt great to jump over it. Past, present and future games may have handed us special items to help our quest or warp zones to speed up our journeys, but we cared about the fun in obtaining our personal goals more than little milestones and footnotes of our exploits.

I may have confused my overall point, but I’ll try to wrap it up: Gamers need to remember the fun we have while playing, regardless of the frills and shinny objects in our possession when we get the game. Gamestop isn’t helping this need to remember by giving out so many “Gamestop Exclusives” when you pre-order games from them. It sounds great on paper and overall feels good to get a little bit extra after getting a sought after new release, but at the same time it disregards and discredits the normal releases as inferior. When we play games to have fun, we achieve the best moment of clarity that no gamer score or PSN icon can emulate. I still crack up laughing when I see the joke endings in BB:CS, and I still cry when I read one of the many heartbreaking tales in the Phoenix Wright series.

Once we are ready, we will dive deep into a game we only skimmed the surface of and find the hidden goodies. We will not, however, do so out of need or addiction, but out of love to discover what our entertainment medium that has already given us such amazing experiences and stories!

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