Thoughts on Collectibles


We start our week with a confession—I’m not really a fan of collectibles.  You know what they are—they’re items/kills/snapshots/whatever else strewn hither and thither over the game world, and the idea is to hunt down every last one.  I like the idea, but the execution—eh.

I realize I’m in the minority on this, but I just don’t find spending hours and hours to find that last shoe/apricot/poster/et cetera fun.  For example, I still say that Spider-Man for the PlayStation/Dreamcast/Nintendo 64 was the best Spider-Man game, ever.  I’ve played it—I honestly don’t know how many times, but if it’s not the most-played title in my library, I would literally be surprised.  That said—there are comic covers strewn all over the game, but I don’t think I’ve ever collected them all.  If I did, it was once, and done only with a guide from GameFAQs.

Almost as pretty as this. Almost.

Most of the time, in my experience, the collection doesn’t really “fit” the game, and/or it asks the player to put aside just playing the game.  Worse is when collecting everything gives you bupkes.  Take Ultimate Spider-Man.  Collecting all of the bazillion tokens and completing every “combat tour” and everything else gets you the black suit.  Now, it looks very neat—seriously, it’s not that much below the version in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions.  Yet—it doesn’t do anything.  No powers, no nuthin’.

Even with a map on GameFAQs or a written guide, sometimes it’s not easy to find the things.  Sometimes the images are inaccurate, sometimes the guides are wrong (or the only guide available is for the version of the game on X platform, and the developers changed things a little when it got ported over to Y platform), so on and so on.  This means that I’ve spent way too much time in the general area I think I’m supposed to be in, and spending twenty or thirty minutes—or more—without finding the thing.

As I’ve said numerous times, we gamers play our games for different reasons, though most of our reasons involve relaxation somewhere in the equation.  Me, I find my fun and relaxation in swinging dozens of stories above the ground, or leaping insane distances and bringing buildings down with nothing but fists—doing things the character is known for, is “meant” to do.  Running around, peeking under rocks for some glowing thingie just doesn’t really feel like something most video game protagonists would really do.

Now, as I said way up near the start of this, I still like the idea as a concept, and like that it’s there.  It gives players more things to do in the video game, and that’s never a bad thing.  Further, something like hunting down collectibles isn’t something that’s really easy to integrate into the normal game play as it is, so I certainly don’t begrudge developers for not making the idea “fit” by my standards.

A very small idea of the bazillion things to grab in "Spider-Man 2".

By the very nature of having to put everything on hold to turn over every trash can lid and poke through every bush, it’s difficult to make the concept “fit” most video games.  Plus, most of the time, considering that video game plots tend to revolve around adrenaline-pumping drama and action, there’s usually not much of a good in-story reason why the protagonist would stop what they’re doing and go hunting for shinies.

Still, watching the historical course that video games have taken, one can’t help but wonder how such a thing will work in the future.  As consoles get more powerful, as our games become more “full” and diverse, offering worlds “deeper” and more complex than what has come before, it’s entirely likely, if not a few shades away from a certainty, that there will soon come a time when hunting collectibles will be integrated seamlessly.

Like so much else in gaming, when faced with something—a concept, an element, what-have-you—the key is patience.  Things change.  Games grow and evolve, becoming richer with each passing year.  That’s really the only key—patience.  Sooner or later, an element gets the kinks worked out, a concept gets smoothed over, and so on.  As far as collectibles go, I admit to hoping that the day when the idea is meshed with the protagonist and story will come soon.

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2 Responses to “Thoughts on Collectibles”

  1. WhiteWolf Says:

    Couldn’t agree more. It’s one thing to have a side quest, but really GTA 4, something like 200 pigeons.

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