The Joy and Misery of Hunting for Video Game Trophies

Easter eggs like this can be a lot of fun, but many are so dark that you will never find them in a normal game. I played it Hitman 2 to death and never realized that you could call a Kraken on the Wisdom card.

Gamification and Rivalry

Rankings and the search for high scores have always been a part of the game, but trophies and achievements as we know them today began with Microsoft’s Gamerscore system for the Xbox 360 in 2005. This was extended to Games for Windows in 2007, the same year Valve added successes on Steam. The following year, Sony came on board with PlayStation Trophies, and a few years later Apple and Google added success to their respective mobile gaming services. Nintendo is the only major gaming platform that does not have a successful system.

Trophies often extend the life of a game, encouraging players to look beyond the main story, but they are ultimately arbitrary challenges for bragging rights. And trophy hunters can get lost in the search. Best known by his PlayStation Network boss, Hakoom, Hakam Karim has been the world leader in the collection of PlayStation trophies in and off for a few years. He has the latest 105,828 trophies, according to him PSN profiles, the most popular unofficial ranking.

“I spend about 10 to 15 hours a day playing and unlocking trophies,” says Karim. “Say about 90 hours a week at low pressure.”

While there are players with the most numerous trophies overall, Karim’s head has been largely based on Platinum trophies (he has 3,188 at the time of writing). To score a Platinum trophy, you must unlock all other trophies in the game. The trophies are awarded different points depending on their level of difficulty: It’s 15 points for a Bronze, 30 for Silver, 90 for Gold, and 300 for Platinum (updated by 180 from Sony last year).

Sony doesn’t maintain an official ranking, and there is some debate in the trophy hunting community about who should be first. Head of the PSN Trophy, for example, lists Roughdawg4 (who prefers not to share his real name) as the current leader with 110,631 trophies, and 3,360 Platinum trophies. Hunt for trophies for about 20 to 40 hours a week.

“I added it very soon in the PS3 days,” Roughdawg4 says. “I’ve always been a complete player so winning trophies and doing everything you can in a game came naturally to me.” He was fired from the PSN Profiles after a disagreement with the owner. “I personally think he made some unethical decisions about how the site is managed,” he says, before making any claims about Karim hacking certain trophies.

By reading the forums on trophy hunting sites, these types of complaints are common. People are accused of hacking trophies or working as part of a team under a single account, but these statements are hard to prove.

In Endless Grind

As there are so many highly sought after trophies, a large majority don’t have much thought put into them.

“These are unrealistic goals, at both ends of the scale,” Webb says. “Every achievement or trophy that appears just when you start a game is a waste of oxygen. Then there are the achievements that you get to die a certain number of times – how is it even fun or a success?”

There are also near-impossible achievements, such as completing a game multiple times, hitting number one in the world rankings, or reaching some level in inaccessible game.

“We want players to feel accomplished when they complete tough trophies, so we try to avoid repetitive or annoying tasks, as the only thing players feel after completing those is a sense of relief,” says Timmins. “Creating a difficult but challenging trophy is not easy.”

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