Hello. My Name Is Joe DeLia, And I’m A Hoarder Of Virtual Goods…
Posted by Joe DeLia on April 9, 2010
I’ve been playing a lot of Mega Man 10 recently, as the magicians at Capcom have whipped up yet another delightful piece of downloadable 8-bit paradise. As I mega-busted my way through the final Wily levels, I took a quick peek at my inventory screen to make sure that I was prepared for the battles ahead. In looking through my weapons and items menus, I began to notice a bizarre gaming habit that I’m overly guilty of. One that’s beginning to scare me a bit.
There are eight unlockable weapons in Mega Man 10, as well as several helpful items that can be bought from Dr. Light’s lab using bolts. Bolts are plentiful in the robot master’s realm, and the Blue Bomber is constantly picking up weapon tanks to recharge any depleted supply. Yet when engaging in battle with screen-filling tanks, fire-shooting birds, and environment destroying cubes, I often wait until the very last second to use a health tank, which has repeatedly lead me to an unexpected death and occasionally forced me to start over from the beginning of the level. Overall, I’ll rarely use special weapons or grenades against normal enemies in any game, as I almost feel like I’m wasting that ammo and need to save them for an eventual boss fight. Of course, since most boss fights are pushovers these days, that’s really never the case. The only real explanation I have for this behavior is one that I don’t particularly want to admit. After all, the word has some pretty negative connotations associated with it, and while I risk being judged by my peers, I think that this needs to be said: I’m a hoarder. I hoard virtual goods. Oh gosh…I think that I feel sick.
Video game looting has moved beyond the old-school RPG sense, as everything from BioShock to Borderlands celebrates the concept of searching every nook and cranny of an environment to find all of the cool stuff lying around. While most of these items aren’t essential to the experience, the flippant joy that is associated with these collection aspects can help keep a game interesting as its other glossy features begin to fade. So why do some people—myself included—feel the need to collect all of these goods, saving them for the perfect moment that never tends to come? Is it a precautionary thing, where my mind worries about being stuck later on in the game because I didn’t save enough stuff? Or is it the gaming grind, where the monotony of repeating tasks and objectives has lulled me into a trance and I forget about the items that I have on-hand? No, I think that it’s something else entirely.
I’ve been playing video games for about 25 years, and in that time, my brain has been conditioned to act in very specific ways. In the Mega Man example, I don’t use items now because I couldn’t back in the NES days, as there was no store to buy power-ups from and energy tanks were much harder to come by. I don’t use special weapons in shooters that often because ammo was much harder to come by in older titles, as they forced you to rely on quick reflexes and careful planning more than how long you can hold the trigger finger down. Despite not being a hoarder in my out-of-game life, I’ve come to accept the fact that I’ll never truly use everything that I’m given in games, as doing so goes against everything that I’ve been taught over the past quarter-century. And I’m cool with that. I do wonder how many gamers in my age group do the same thing though, and what—if any—effect this type of play has had on game development in general. Outside of gaming, however, is something else entirely. If you happen to notice a stack of newspapers in my apartment, feel free to slap me in brain case.
Do any of you hoard virtual goods? If so, why?