Achievement unlocked?

Just lately, I’ve found myself playing the games on PS3 which have trophies more than the ones which don’t. “Okay Ripper, what does that mean?” you might ask. Well, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the proud feeling when one pops up in the right hand corner of the screen. Perhaps it’s the fact that it means I get a lot of replay value out of those games and as such, the Scrooge in me feels compelled to play them more. It could be my competitive streak – I’m a member of several gaming communities where you can compare your current trophy level with other players. I just don’t know, but lately, I’ve become a damn trophy whore.

For the uninitiated, let me briefly explain the PS3 trophy system. For achieving certain feats or beating different points within the game, you can get trophies. A bronze is usually an easy trophy to get, silver is a bit more difficult and gold can be damn near impossible on some games (here’s looking at you, Bioshock). When you’ve got every trophy in the game, you get a platinum, which are pretty coveted on online communities. I only have one platinum, I’m not that hardcore. The Xbox 360 has a similar system with achievements – you get so many points for each one you unlock, eventually culminating in 1000 points per game. It’s an excellent tool for fuelling your online ego – boasting about how big your Gamerscore is, or how many platinums you’ve got. Trophy hunting takes discipline and hard work if you want to be the best. Some people dedicate every ounce of their free time to this endeavour. I like to think I’m a casual trophy whore, but then I downloaded Linger In Shadows because it had easy trophies to get and was cheap. So maybe this is growing into a kind of obsession.

The disturbing part of this is that it could overlap into real life. It already is in various respects – I scrobble everything I listen to on Last.FM in an effort to boost my play count to 15,000; I post on various forums and feel a little bit of joy when my post count hits another hundred or thousand; I collect tons of stuff and will spend relative amounts of money and time on rare action figures and so on. I could apply the trophy system directly to certain aspects of my life that I’m trying to do better in. Maybe that’s a good thing! It could be useful when it comes to my exams – get a bronze for finishing them all, get a gold for getting all A’s, get the platinum for getting into university. Who knows, if I think about it like that, I might spend less time writing articles like this and more time studying. I’m trying to get in shape this summer, so if I apply my new trophy system, that could help! Bronze for not touching chocolate until Fridays, silver for losing a few pounds, gold for going down a dress size. On the downside, there’s slightly creepier and lame ones which I won’t mention, but you get the picture.

Although, this could be applied on a wider scale, if you think about it. How about measuring your whole life in trophies? Bronze for every birthday you reach. Silver for doing every stupid thing you might want to try out. Gold for reaching something important – like getting the degree, getting married, having your first child. Those are achievements, even though the reward is the event itself. However, this is something worth thinking about. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve noticed a lack of ambition in my town as of late. It seems like a lot of people I know have just given up on trying to achieve anything, and when they do, it’s only because they’re pushed by somebody else, not because they really want it. Would a real life ‘trophy system’ help? The truth is, we all need goals before we get anywhere, otherwise we lack focus and give up. So, those dreams are my goals, and those are my trophies. I just hope I achieve enough of them to get the platinum before my time is up.

The Sims Have Got It Made by ninthandash

I’ve been on a big The Sims kick lately. I’ve been playing everything, apart from the original: The Sims 3, The Sims 2 complete with most of the expansion packs, and had a quick go on the PS2 game although I never really got the hang of it. This is mostly because, with deadlines and exams coming up, I felt the need to procrastinate. I never find quite so many ways to waste my time as I do when there are important things that affect my future that I’m not doing. The Sims, in all incarnations, is a big time waster.

But then I wandered onto The Sims 2 University, and it started to piss me off a bit. The thing is, it’s easy for the sims. Tiny little simulated people that they are, it’s obviously easier for them because they have some big person up above telling them what to do (although this can also lead to disasters in the form of fire, drowning and just general death and unhappiness). I even started comparing my own life to the sims’, and sadly my own life came off worse.

#1: Love.
The biggest hurdle in life, I find. The Beatles (because it seems I can no longer write anything without slipping them in there) famously sang, love is all you need. Or, alternatively, love is all you need. Which makes me think, we should start a matchmaking service for homeless people, but that isn’t the point. The point is that the sims have it easier. Not because they have a matchmaking service which costs five thousands simoleons or so, because we have online dating. Both probably have the same success rate and online dating is, most of the time, much cheaper (although I’ll admit I don’t know the exchange rate between pounds and simoleons).

The sims have love potions, for a start. Drink a nice, pink coloured potion from a crystal decanter and you get flowers springing up beneath your feet and the option to make someone fall in love with you. But even without that, it’s pretty easy. They can be made to find each other attractive, for one thing. They can be literally made for each other. If I’m attracted to black-haired boys with piercings, can I make someone exactly like that and move them in next door to me? No. No, I can not.

And even overlooking that, all the sims have to do is wander up to someone, chat for a bit then throw in an ‘admire’. Follow that up with a flirt option, and they’re in love. From there, it’s easy to take it as fast or as slowly as you want. The sims only seem to hate each other if they cheat on each other, and that’s easy enough to avoid. So I feel that in this case, the sims win.

#2: Friends.
Some people find it difficult to make friends, right? Not on the Sims! For starters, people come around to welcome them into the neighbourhood. Greet these people and they wander into your house, you can call them for a chat without asking for their number, and it’s not like before you’re friends. There’s no such thing as just not getting along with someone. Not to mention, your sims can bring friends home from work. The parents and children usually get on. Obviously there are ways to change this, but if you play the game without purposely trying to make their lives hard, it’s fairly easy to make friends.

Not so in real life. Sometimes people don’t get on. You can’t just wander up to someone in a shop and start a conversation. And if someone I barely knew called me up at 7am to chat, I wouldn’t be impressed. I definitely think this is another win for the sims.

#3: Job/School.
I’m putting these as one, because the idea is generally the same. At work, it’s easy to get a promotion. The sims don’t have to have been to uni. They can start a job with no skills whatsoever and completely work their way up. In real life, could I get a job as a medical test subject and become a scientist simply by playing lots of chess? Or could I get a job as a golf caddy and become a professional freelance photographer? I believe the answer is ‘no’.

Not to mention school. All the sims do is their homework and their grades go shooting up. They never struggle to understand it. They never get upset if they can’t do it. And university? While I accept there is some value to doing term papers and studying books to pass, it still has the whether or not they understand it value. I could read book after book but if I don’t understand the material, I’m not going to get on the Dean’s list. It just seems so much easier on the sims and so much less hard work than it is in real life. Again, I feel this is a point to the sims.

While I could go on — there’s no hairdye, they can just change their hair and if they don’t like it, change it back, it can go from long to short, piercings aren’t permanent and tattoos come off with a change of clothes — I won’t, because I feel that I’ve made my point. Final score: 3-0 to the sims. So between being a real person and being a simulated one, I’d take the Sims every time.