In this week’s Hate-Box, resident angry man Matt Reynolds looks at the gaming scene and see’s it is littered with pointless collectables. This makes him angry and here he tells us why…
In the 21st Century, gaming has changed. Our beloved medium is one that is constantly evolving, and by its very nature change happens much faster than in cinema, music or literature. Whether its hardware, how software is distributed, or how we enjoy our gaming experiences, time never stands still. Most of the time, this is A Good Thing.
However, change can be detrimental. In this day and age, mainstream gaming is expensive to develop, with an ever increasing demand for spectacle and ‘wow factor’. With so many resources thrown into blowing your socks off with graphical horsepower and enormous set-piece driven action, a lot of games have traded off on campaign length to provide gamers with these other superficial requirements. You’ll be lucky to find a single player shooter or action game that provides you with a campaign more than around six to seven hours in length. In a world where a single game costs around £40-50, developers have to come up with a justification for their product in a competitive market.
Far too often, a company’s answer to the longevity and value for money question is to include a wealth of ‘collectible’ items in their game. This annoys the SHIT out of me.
Collectibles are a crass, cheap and lazy way to get gamers to spend more time with your shallow game. Is especially frustrating for completionists – those of us with borderline OCD that cannot feel we’ve truly ‘finished’ a game until we’ve plucked every feather, scouted every piece of intel, heard every audio diary, read every journal, grabbed every orb, and shot every…single…PIGEON. The fact that these often tie in with achievements is even worse – is there any more hollow a reason to pick up every arbitrary object than in order to ‘1000g’ a title? It annoys me when FPS games include collectibles to compromise on the brevity of their campaign experience, but it feels worse when open world games do the same.
Grand Theft Auto 4 is a huge, rich game with an amazing plot, loads of side missions and fantastic atmosphere. Do we REALLY need 200 pigeons dicking about that need shooting? Not to mention adding in seagulls for the DLC. In Assassin’s Creed, the game itself was pretty fucking boring – but did Ubisoft REALLY think that by adding in hundreds of crappy flags to find the game would suddenly become more fun and value for money? Don’t get me started on AC2’s feathers. I have every achievement in that game apart from the feathers one. Why? Because fuck you. Mafia 2 had spreads of Playboy magazine to find – at least boobs were involved, but did I bother finding them all? Did I fuck.
I have limited time to play games and like to play all the new releases if I can. My heart sinks every time I look at the achievement list and see find every artifact or listen to every audio diary. Unless a game is TRULY spectacular I have long since given up on these meaningless tasks.
Some games just about get it right – Bioshock and Dead Space’s audio diaries fleshed out the plot and gave you some small incentive to find them all, and the Arkham games’ Riddler Trophies are all about solving clever puzzles and actually lead you to game secrets. But the more immersive the game, the bigger the problem gets. Collectibles are a pure videogame mechanic – if you are going for realism or immersion, they just remind you that you’re playing a game. When Ezio is undertaking his struggle against the Borgias after the murder of his family, why does he suddenly decide he’d much rather prance around like a tit finding feathers? Niko Bellic is struggling to make ends meet in a seedy criminal underworld. Naturally, the thing that occurs to him in order to rise through the ranks is to shoot winged rats. Why exactly is it that during horrific, life shattering events in these bloody games, everyone has the spare time and presence of mind to record a fucking audio diary, or worse, write in a journal? Not to mention it seems like every survival horror’s NPCs love to daub messages of woe on the walls in their own blood before choking out their death rattle. Its fucking stupid, unrealistic and takes me out of the game.
If you want to make me spend more time with your game, then make the fucking thing longer – don’t ask me to pick up your damn litter.
– Matt Reynolds (Follow on Twitter @TheLostMoment)