No Shame November: Why trophies make you do bad things

Trophies are horrible. Before this generation, simply finishing a game was achievement enough. Today however, gamers seem to be placing more and more of an emphasis on post-game completionism and that much-vaunted “100%” stat. The thing is, trophies and achievements aren’t real. Your gamerscore/trophy count doesn’t exist- it’s simply a number that accumulates on a nondescript server. So  if these virtual trinkets present no actual physical rewards- nothing to polish and place on your mantelpiece- then why on earth are they so addictive to collect?

In all honesty, I think ‘compulsion’ might be the main culprit here. On the one-hand, compulsion can provide drive, determination and conviction. On the other, it can burden you with an irrational ‘achieve at all costs’ mentality that changes you from friendly gamer to bastard trophy whore.

Before Battlefield: Bad Company 2, I had limits. I loved trophies but I never earned them at the expense of my fellow player. That meant no hacking, no glitches, no shared game files- and most importantly, no public boosting. People who use public lobbies to abnormally boost their stats are arseholes. Selfish, hateful, game-ruining arseholes. Prime example: nuke boosters in Modern Warfare 2. The little shits who hide in a secluded corner of the map and use tactical respawn to repeatedly kill each other in order to earn a game ending nuke. And for what? A packet of xp and a little emblem. A stupid, non-existent, totally virtual emblem. Oh…

So it turns out that I had more in common with MW2 nuke boosters than I had first imagined. You see, after 40 or so hours of Bad Company 2 I had but one trophy left: “Demolition Man”. This required me to collapse 20 buildings onto an opposing player to earn a kill. “Easy,” I thought. I’ll just jump into a tank and blow these fragile buildings to dust. However, the buildings were’nt as fragile as I’d first thought, and not all of them could be toppled. Bad Company 2 can be quite temperamental about how things are destroyed, so going ape-shit with a tank cannon wasn’t going to work.

I tried method after method, rocket after C4, but nothing was working. I was having to go out of my way to blow up buildings, which did nothing to help my team. Any patterns of play I’d learnt over 40 hours had gone out of the window as I single-mindedly rushed straight towards the most popular building and tried fruitlessly to demolish it with people inside.

I could’ve just carried on playing and earned the trophy naturally. I could’ve just given up and said, “Oh well, I can’t complete everything.” But no, instead I went to the dark place that exists in every trophy hunter’s soul, the twisted corner you never acknowledge for fear of unleashing it onto the gaming masses. I looked at my stats: “Two demolition kills in 43 hours of play”. That was the tipping point- those statistics drove me to the edge. I hopped online and sent out a message. Hours later, I’m sitting at the Bad Company 2 main menu organising a strategy. A plan. How are we going to boost this trophy in a public lobby?

Bastard. I know, I’d broke my own rule. I had become the epitome of everything I’d come to hate about obsessive online gaming, and yet I carried on regardless. I had crossed into the dark-side and there was no going back.

I didn’t care if other people’s experience was going to suffer. I didn’t care if my boosting partners and I were on opposing teams, and yet still colluding. I had no remorse about ruining the balance, objectives and score of any game we participated in. All I cared about was that elusive bronze trophy, and the shiny platinum that was going to come with it. Completionism was my driving force now. Morals and ethics had been locked in a cupboard and told to keep quiet until I was done.

Eventually, both trophies pinged after I brought down a building onto four unsuspecting opponents. Well, three unsuspecting opponents and one very-suspecting boosting partner.  It was my third platinum and I was naturally delighted to see it finally appear on my trophy list.

I didn’t feel any sort of regret or shame, just relief. The niggling unfinished annoyance that was Bad Company 2 could finally be put to rest. However, I sometimes look back that trophy (there’s not a lot else I can do with it) and think, “Was it worth it?” Was it worth committing a cardinal sin of gaming and essentially ruining the experience for a ton of perfectly innocent people? Should I have stuck it out and played the “legit” way instead?

Questionable methods may have tainted my platinum, but it’s not something I lose sleep over. After all, trophies were never real to begin with.

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