Since the dawn of gaming, there has been an avid community of gamers who enjoy reaching 100% on video games. Whether they’re opening every chest, catching them all or completing every mission, completionists want to do it all. The introduction of Xbox’s achievements and PlayStation’s trophy systems on major gaming platforms cemented the goal of 100% completion, giving huge bragging rights to those with every achievement or a platinum trophy. A huge community exists online now for those seeking full completion of their favorite games, but it seems that not everybody can join in on the fun.
Accessibility is a rising issue in gaming at the moment. Game developers, publishers and platforms have all started to add a spotlight on accessibility and the needs of disabled gamers. Some games have even started to use accessibility features as marketing to draw disabled gamers to their game. Despite this, it seems that being a disabled completionist remains very difficult for some games, if not impossible – and it all comes down to the inaccessibility of some achievements. Disabilities are very broad in their potential effects on a person, and as such, the barriers to accessibility for completionists are also broad.
A giant barrier for a lot of disabled gamers to receive a platinum trophy comes in the form of difficulty modes. Completing a game for an achievement is one thing, but needing to complete the game on an ultra hard mode is another. This is surprisingly common in AAA titles, such as The Witcher 3’s ‘Walked the Path’ achievement for completing the game on Death March difficulty, or Marvel’s Spider-Man and the ‘Power and Responsibility’ trophy for completing a playthrough on Ultimate difficulty. These achievements are surely very exciting for those who can beat them, but for a lot of disabled players, they’re just impossible. High difficulty modes are built around doing more and playing perfectly. These modes tend to require greater patience, motor skills, dexterity and attention – all of which may be a barrier to some disabled people.
It isn’t a bad thing necessarily for an achievement to be inaccessible to some. Not every game must be accessible to every single individual, after all. The aim of good accessibility is not to make something that every single human can play, but to allow for the greatest involvement from the greatest number of people. If accessibility meant making sure everyone can do everything, we’d be asking for far too much than can be delivered and ignoring the potential of compromise. In pushing for the greatest possible reach for a game’s audience but not asking for the removal of what makes a game unique, we’d be keeping the artistic vision of challenge and ability the developers of the game aimed to create. For this reason, it is my opinion that some inaccessible achievements are understandable. As a disabled gamer, I anticipate not being able to be a completionist with every game.
Yet, this becomes a little more problematic when a game markets itself on its accessibility. If a game is intended specifically to attract a disabled audience to its title, it may be a reasonable expectation that all disabled people – including disabled completionists – can enjoy the game to the fullest. Horizon Forbidden West and the accessibility features it uses are touted often by Sony in conversations about accessibility. The game even features on Sony’s PS5 accessibility features page, and for good reason. There is a wonderful range of accessibility features in Horizon Forbidden West, and I certainly wouldn’t consider it anything but extremely welcoming. That being said, the ‘Completed Ultra Hard’ trophy requires you to, well, complete the game on Ultra Hard mode. The platinum trophy for this game, therefore, is practically accessibility locked, if you can’t finish the game with an Ultra Hard mode then you can’t truly complete it. Despite the game being marketed as an accessible title to appeal to disabled people, the disabled community of completionists will not be able to get everything out of the game they wanted, purely because of an inaccessible trophy.
Difficulty modes may be one barrier to completionists with disabilities, but they aren’t the only culprit. Achievements that require a high level of mobility or dexterity can be a nightmare, but they really feel unfair in games that aren’t built around these needs. Final Fantasy IX is a JRPG with turn-based combat, so it is pretty accessible, to begin with. The Final Fantasy games have never demanded a huge amount of dexterity. For some reason though, the modern re-releases of the game added the ‘Hail to the King’ achievement, which requires timing 1000 jumps in a game of jump rope. 1000! This is a hard achievement even for non-disabled people, but give this challenge to someone with dexterity issues or hand weakness and it’s downright impossible. Again, yet another instance of disabled completionists being hit with an accessibility barrier in the way of one of their hobbies.
So what’s the solution? I’m certainly not advocating for inaccessible achievements to just not exist. As much as I would enjoy being able to get every achievement in every game I like, there will also be many achievements I consider accessible that wouldn’t be for others. A rabbit hole is quickly forming with that mindset. Instead, I simply suggest that these issues be highlighted to developers who are actively seeking to make accessible experiences. Awareness of inaccessibility to completionism may be all it takes for some devs to start changing how they view their achievements. Accessible achievements don’t have to be boring checkpoints for just completing story beats, although these types of achievements work totally great in ‘walking sim’ type games. They could reward exploration and curiosity, to encourage the gamer to delve deep into the worlds the devs put hard work into creating. Alternatively, they could reward strategic plays and tactics, collecting items and collectable sets and more. A balance can exist between just throwing achievements out for no reason and having an unnecessarily high and inaccessible bar set for 100% completion.
I would love more discussion about this, from both disabled and non-disabled people alike. Do you struggle with completing achievements, and have they ever stopped you from getting a platinum on a beloved game? Or perhaps you disagree and believe that inaccessible achievements should be accepted and left as a challenge for those without disabilities? Whatever your thoughts, this is an open and accepting discussion, so leave them below!
You made one mistake – there is difference between getting the platinum and getting 100% trophies list. There is no need to complete Ultra Hard mode etc. in Spider-Man and Horizon: FW to get the platinum trophies (same goes for The Last of Us Part 2). These are “DLC” trophies added after release of the game, and they are count for “100% trophies list” but not for the platinum.