Hakam Karim likes to collect PlayStation trophies. Like, a lot. Sony first introduced its achievement system with the PS3’s 2.40 firmware update 2. in 2008. Last week, Guinness World Records finally recognized Karim, who goes by Hakoom on PSN, for his prowess with a certificate certifying him as the world’s top platinum trophy holder. He currently has more than 1,700.
PlayStation trophies are broken up into four different categories: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. Bronze trophies are a dime a dozen.Players often get them just for progressing to certain points in a game. Platinum trophies are much rarer and more difficult to collect. While games can have multiple bronze and silver trophies, they can only have one platinum. Some don’t have any. A standard platinum trophy usually requires a player to unlock every other trophy in the game, usually by not only completing it on harder difficulties but also discovering most of its secrets. In large games like Horizon: Zero Dawn, or notoriously challenging ones like Dark Souls, they can be especially brutal to earn. Karim has platinums in both.
“There are many trophies I am proud of, but the one I remember was the Max Payne 3 trophy where you had to complete the game without dying,” Karim said in an email to Kotaku. It’s a silver trophy called The Shadows Rushed Me, and it requires not only staying alive the whole time, but also completing each chapter in the game within 60 seconds. Every kill a player gets adds five seconds to the timer, while every headshot adds six. “That’s the trophy I am most proud of because of the skill and dedication I had to put in to unlocking it and it took me about 20 hours to do (with retries of course).”
Karim, who says he is 34 years old and lives with his family in Bahrain, started collecting trophies back when they began in the summer of 2008. He was playing Super Stardust when he heard the iconic trophy sound for the first time after completing the game’s lava planet. His first platinum was in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, a 2007 game that had them patched in. He’s been collecting ever since. During that time he’s occasionally given up on games that he got sick of, or when his save data got corrupted.
His first platinum turned into hundreds, and then eventually into more than a thousand. In the weeks since he first submitted his collection to be verified by Guinness, he’s accrued a few dozen more, bringing his total up to 1,724. Throughout most of this time Karim has managed to stay at the top of the the trophy leaderboards. He said he first approached the record vetting organization in 2011, shortly after PSN was hacked, which he says Guinness used as an excuse not to pursue his claim (Guinness is currently putting together a new video game-centric record book). That didn’t deter him though. In fact, not much seems to, at least when it comes to his obsession with PSN trophies.
If he were to let up the grind, other players might eventually catch up and overtake him. According to the trophy tracking website PSN Profiles, there’s only one other player currently within spitting distance of Karim. They go by the handle Roughdawg4 and currently have 1,723 platinum trophies, just one behind Karim.
In an email, however, he was dismissive this possibility. “I do not have any rivals currently,” he said. “You will know why in a few weeks.” He said he does still feel pressure to be constantly playing though. As a result, he games across PS4, Vita, and PS3 even. It may be obsolete, but it still counts to players’ trophy totals. He claims to own multiple of each console as well, just in case, including six Vitas. Of all the game he completes, he says that some he buys himself while others are lent to him by friends or sent to him by fans.
Karim says he used to work at a financial services firm as an engineer until it closed a few years back, then did a two year stint with Bloomberg in Bahrain before that office also closed. Now he says he makes do feeding his platinum obsession through a combination of family support, a government marriage allowance, renting out his vast collection of visual novel games, and in some rare instances getting money from other players who pay him to platinum games for them. Those paid platinum gigs, he says, in some cases go for as little as $20 or as much as $500. According to Karim, he doesn’t platinum the games himself in these instances, however, but instead passes the information on to other friends, taking only a finder’s fee. “It’s like a guy comes to a shop and buys things—I don’t ask him “why did you purchase this or that,” I take the money and do the job for him. Or in this case, his friends do. He stresses that deals like this aren’t very common though, and mostly it’s just about fans and followers wanting to contribute to his ongoing project.
His following on YouTube has also continued to grow with videos about various trophy milestones garnering hundreds of thousands of views and brings in additional income. In total, he says it’s enough for him, his wife, and son to get by, but nothing glorious. In fact, it seems overall like a grueling hobby. One picture on Karim’s Instagram shows him looking tiredly down at his Vita with the caption “Playing some boring shit.”
“I cannot play a game I want to play for fun, for example,” he said. “If I wanted to play a multiplayer game I can’t because I have to keep unlocking trophies in other games to keep my rank. Sadly, the competition is unfair on the leaderboards and I cannot stop or else I’ll lose my rank.”
There are three different ways of scoring trophy hunters: who has the most platinums, who has the most trophies overall, and who has the most points. Karim ranks first in each of these metrics according to sites like PSN Profiles, but thinks overall points, in which each type of trophy is worth a certain amount, should be the only true measure. He’s also not without his critics.
As trophy hunting has evolved there’s been a push toward exploiting easy games for their platinums. Some developers have even admitted to putting easy platinums in their games to help them sell better. Karim, Roughdawg4, and others at the top of the trophy leaderboards have been accused at various points in YouTube comments or Reddit threads of using shared accounts and in some cases even glitches. Karim denies these allegations though. “All the people who accuse me of cheating never mention any solid proof to backup their claims,” he said. “They just write “this guy hacks” or “this guy is a team” without proof—you know they love drama in the comments and that’s what they are good at in their lives. They call me a no-life but actually they are the people with no life.”
Where Karim used to only earn a 100 or so platinum trophies in a year’s time, he can now earn well over 300. To date in 2018 he’s already collected just over 320 according to PSN Profiles. Some of these are for short games released on both PS4 and Vita, along with duplicates for switching regions and completing the game again (This is why he has six platinums for beating six different versions of Jack N’ Jill DX, for instance).
“Many people usually say hakoom just plays easy games but they forget that plating a 10 mins game is equal to plating a 500 hour game,” he said. “By the end of the day you earn 1230 points or so on each game you plat so why would I waste my time and burn my brain cells on just playing tough games when I can just play easy games and earn the same points[?]”
While this is his overriding philosophy, he’s quick to point out that he does have platinums in Ninja Gaiden 3 and Street Fighter 4. In the 10 years he’s been doing this, he feels like he’s proved himself. So much so that he’s even though occasionally about quitting.
“I was planning to stop it all together at some point,” he said. Speaking to Eurogamer in 2017, Karim said he thinks about stopping every day. At the time he was looking for some recognition from Sony, something he desperately wants. Instead he ended up getting it from Guinness, the certificate from which he has hanging in his room. With the increased recognition it’s brought he feels vindicated. “I am filled with a new spirit now and I will play even more than before,” he said. “As long as those hands work I will work.”