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Why open world collectibles have me questioning my mental status.
I realised something about myself last week that I had never previously considered. I'm an obsessive compulsive hoarder.
I don't mean that in the sense that I have stacks of empty cereal boxes or ten-year old newspapers left lying about the house (although I do, admittedly, still have a loft-load of classic 90s games mags floating around). But when it comes to in-game collectibles, I just can't stop myself from scooping up each and every one of them.
The realisation dawned on me last week as I collected the final, seven hundredth comic book page in The Amazing Spider-Man - a task which has taken far more time than I've actually put into the main quest, and which has kept me swinging across the New York skyline long into the early hours of the morning. Oddly enough, I wasn't actually interested in the reward (a selection of fully-readable Spider-Man comics), forcing me to question why I'd invested - or rather, wasted - so much time into picking them all up.
I went back over my achievements and trophies lists to see quite how long this obsession has been going on for, looking back at the open world games with achievements for collectibles. And sure enough, in the vast majority of them, I've got them all.
inFamous. Crackdown. Assassin's Creed. GTA. Just Cause. Saints Row. Burnout Paradise... Take your pick; if it's an open world game, I've probably got at least one full set of in-game collectibles.
I can't explain why this is, nor why it tends to take priority over completing the main game. I have no interest in looting, for example, and I find the constant switch-up of weapons in something like Borderlands far more frustrating than I do compelling. I detest the idea of grinding in MMOs, too, nor do I obsess over collecting every Pokemon. But give me an open world, a random collectible and a set amount to collect, and I won't let up until they've all been found.
I guess it has something to do with the relative non-linearity of the environment, and the ability to quickly dash back and forth across the world to find any missing collectibles, rather than having to reload specific levels to find specific items. That barrier is arguably the main reason why I don't care for finding collectibles in games like Uncharted. Having to deviate from the main path in a game so heavily driven by a narrative is usually something I'm unprepared to do, at least on the initial playthrough. In an open world game, of course, there is no main path.
Or, perhaps it's the idea of having a common, finite amount of items stationed across particular hidden areas, and the satisfaction of seeing that number gradually climb toward the target. Once I know there's only a handful of pigeons, comic book pages, orbs or billboards left, I can't concentrate on anything other than finding the final few.
And when it feeds into the gameplay, it manages to sink its hooks in even further. The idea of having to find new cars around Fairhaven City, for example, is one of the main reasons why I'm most looking forward to playing Need For Speed: Most Wanted later in the year.
But it got me wondering: I can't be the only one like this, can I? Do you obsess over snapping up every in-game collectible, or prioritise collectibles over story progression? Or do you see collectibles as throwaway extras with very little value?
And where does it stop? Are you someone who, like me, needs to collect all of the pigeons in GTA IV, but cares less for the hidden jumps? And if you are a psychiatrist who can diagnose this (clearly erratic) behaviour, please feel free to send me a PM...