Back in the day, gamers didn’t have the luxury of Trophies or Achievements to track their gaming “status”. Their “rank” or l33tness was all measured based on hearsay alone. To be able to brag about something you did on any particular game on the original NES, you either had to have friends over to show off your high score, or someone would have to be in the room with you while you beat the game or accomplished some other feat. Most games didn’t have a save file. Most games didn’t have checkpoints. Most games were played for as long as you possibly could, and were usually cut short when you had to eat dinner/go to bed/go home/etc. Save files were only present on games like Final Fantasy or other RPGs, because developers realized people would never beat these sorts of games without them. The only checkpoints to speak of came in the form of “continues”, and if you ran out of those, it was really game over.
With the advent of memory cards gamers would have a save file, and the ability to save before the last boss/particular event and load that game at their convenience to show off the end of the game or a special feat. Internet gaming made way for online leaderboards so your friends could see your awesomeness at their leisure. Gamers could also get a sort of reputation for being bad-ass by simply kicking ass at pvp online. But nothing is quite as concrete as a gaming profile that is complete with all of your accomplishments, and this is what the PS3’s Trophy system, and the Xbox 360’s Achievement system gives us.
Without a shadow of a doubt, you can say your Rank is level 8, or your GamerScore is 37,000. In an effort to be unbiased, PC users also have Steam’s Achievement system, which also has a player profile, and is set up much like the console counterparts’ communities. But, because I am somewhat biased, I will say that the PS3 system is my favorite, and has become the most addictive. With these systems, other users can browse your games (as you will undoubtedly earn trophies fairly easily on any game you own, fairly quickly) and see what trophies you have earned, whenever they want (I must note though that the PS3 only allows you to browse friends’ and recently met players’), and even compare your own, so you can see just how much “better” you are than them. Or not.
I find myself more and more intrigued, and more interested in playing games through a second (and sometimes third) time, just to get those last couple trophies in order to earn the platinum (the trophy earned for earning all other trophies in a game, at least DLC). I find myself checking my rank on my PSN profile, and seeing that I’m nearing the next level, then pushing myself to earn more trophies. I just wish we could import past achievements into this current system… I’d like to see how I have done over the years with the hundreds of games played.
In the end, bragging rights won’t earn you a wage, won’t bring the ladies calling, and won’t give you a head change. But to me, these systems have encouraged replay-ability, and that is something valuable. Because when I drop $60 for a game, and that’s not even counting the money that might be spent on DLC, I hope that I won’t be trading it in at GameStop within a month.