On April 9th 2017, Hakam Karim - moderately better known to the world as Hakoom - heard a 'ping' that shook his world to its core.
Hakoom had spent the last few hours unlocking the 'Master of Quality' trophy in Nioh. It's a tough one, a real endgame number, the kind of trophy that requires hours of farming, the kind of trophy people write guides about. But it was worth it, and that ping proved it. It was the ping that announced he had unlocked the Platinum trophy for Nioh.
And the Platinum trophy for Nioh was Hakoom's 1200th Platinum.
Trophies, as with Xbox's own achievements, have become an intrinsic part of gaming's fabric. Each PlayStation 4 release has a trophy list, a set of tasks outlined by the developer. The best of these tasks offers a new viewpoint on the game and its world. The worst of them are sheer padding. When every trophy on a game's list has been unlocked, the final prize is yours - the Platinum trophy.
Because of their elusive nature, demanding excessive skill and time, PlayStation owners with Platinum counts in the double-digit figure are still a minority eight years after Sony made trophies mandatory for every PlayStation game. But this has encouraged a hardcore and passionate subculture dedicated solely to unlocking Platinums to emerge.
Unsurprisingly, that staggering figure of Hakoom's puts him in rare company. Only a handful of people have crossed the 1,000 Platinum threshold and only one other, roughdawg4, has broken the 1200 mark. Hakoom has led the Platinum race since late 2009, only briefly giving up his number one spot around the 200-Platinum mark before doubling down on his efforts and quickly regaining it.
Hakoom always wanted to be the best. "As soon as I read about the PlayStation trophy patch, I was excited," he explains to me. "I wanted to compete and be in the top 10 in the world. Once I broke into the top 10, I knew I could take the top spot because I was unlocking trophies at a very fast pace. It reminded me of the days I used to play MMOs."
And if you're a trophy-hunter with an urge for glory, there's only one place to look. "Platinums stand out on your profile," explains Hakoom. "Most people look at the Platinum count before they look at anything else. So for me, Platinums are the most important part of your profile. It makes a big difference when, for example, you have 10,000 trophies and 200 of those are Platinums rather than 50 of those being Platinums. It shows how much of a pro gamer you are."
Life at the top is not easy. To stay ahead of the chasing pack, Hakoom has to play everything. His PSN profile is essentially a complete guide to PlayStation's gaming library. Not only does it cover niche Japanese releases that never make their way to the west, it's littered with curios that are released here but nonetheless fly under the radar. Recent releases like Eekeemoo: Splinters of the Dark Shard, Mr. Massagy and Albedo: Eyes From Outer Space might not mean much to you but they're the bread and butter of every Platinum trophy-hunter.
Hakoom has already unlocked the trophies for all three games.
"I have no limits when it comes to playing and earning trophies," he tells me. "I grind the hell out of the game until I am able to beat and Platinum it. Other users might feel ashamed to play many games because they are weak and have no spirit. They are afraid of what people will say about them. I do not pay attention to such things and that's what makes top trophy hunters shine."
One example he's particularly proud of is Gun Smoke, one of the real throwbacks in the Capcom Arcade Cabinet collection. Despite Gun Smoke only having two trophies and taking roughly 30 minutes to complete, the second trophy is incredibly hard to unlock, requiring a perfect run against the game's 10 bosses. Even so, Hakoom threw himself into the task with a determination and obsession that will seem foreign to all but the most hardcore of players, taking two and a half days of sustained play just to grab that single trophy. It begs an obvious question. Where does he find the time for all this?
Asking him for a breakdown of his routine, Hakoom makes Platinum-hunting seem very routine, for lack of a better word.
"I go to work then get back home, eat lunch and play for a few hours, spend some time with my family, go out a bit and then get back to gaming again and sleep," he says. "Thursdays, I have friends come over and we play multiplayer games." A pause. "It's the day I unlock the least trophies."
If that sounds like it doesn't sync up with the obsessive gaming schedule you'd imagine for the world's Platinum leader, Hakoom explained how his job at a large financial company gives him the flexibility he needs. He takes his Vita to work for moments when he gets bored, and at times, he's even taken his PS4 with him.
And it extends even further than that.
"Even when I am asleep, sometimes I play by leaving some games open with a turbo controller auto-firing a button, to score points or repeat an action over and over. So maybe 70 to 120 hours a week go into gaming."
Hakoom's gaming is limited to PlayStation only - "not interested in other consoles" is his answer when I ask him about Switch. But besides Platinum trophies, there's another key difference between how Sony and Microsoft rewards their dedicated players, and this is a difference that causes much frustration for Hakoom.
The current global Gamerscore leader on Xbox is Stallion83, who reached over 1,500,000 gamerpoints this March.
As their Gamerscore champion, Xbox has been smart in using him as an unofficial brand ambassador. Larry Hryb, best known to the world as Microsoft's Major Nelson, has congratulated Stallion83 on reaching various milestones during his Gamerscore chase and he has been interviewed on the official Xbox Wire channel shortly after Xbox One's launch.
Microsoft has amplified Stallion83's status as a pseudo-celebrity in the gaming world, heralding him as a hardcore gamer, an aspirational figure of sorts. The story is somewhat different for Hakoom.The best accessories for PS4 From Jelly Deals: the best extras you can buy today
"Sadly, there is no recognition," Hakoom says when asked if Sony has acknowledged his feat. "Not even a 'thank you' for playing all of those games on PSN.
"In other words, Sony treated me like a wall."
At least the Platinum hunters have each other. Hakoom talks about the friendly competition between himself and roughdawg4; he says most of the top hunters will play co-op games together and even help each other out unlocking multiplayer trophies.
But the lack of official recognition still stings, a frustration that's evident when I ask if the Platinum-trophy chase will ever end.
"If I had some recognition from Sony, maybe I would have enjoyed Trophy hunting more because I would have gotten support from the company I love. But the company doesn't show love towards its most loyal customer." Hakoom's own trophy hunt, meanwhile, doesn't look like it's stopping any time soon.
"I would like to end it every day, but I am just too addicted to trophies, so I can't."