Obsessive Collectible Disorder

Anyone who’s ever played any variety of video games is familiar with in-game “collectibles.” You know those shiny little bobbles and wobbles, trinkets and dinkets that float tantalizingly in the air, usually in mass quantities, often just out of reach. Sometimes these obbles give you points or “currency,” sometimes they’re required to proceed and sometimes they merely unlock extra game content if you collect them all. Alone or in moderation, these collectibles can serve a valuable function in the game but in excess they become overwhelming and addictive.

Rare is especially guilty of making games that essentially revolve around collect “x” number of object “a” so you can proceed to collect “y” number of object “b.” Games like Donkey Kong Country and Banjo Kazooie all but invented the “Collectathon” game genre. Games like these usually have at least one or two collectible items that are required to proceed through the game and then a whole host of collectibles that either increase your characters abilities or unlock extra content within the game. Take for example Donkey Kong 64: in the game there are over a DOZEN, that’s right, ONE, DOZEN, collectible items and some of them are even color-coded to each of the five playable characters. Most of these collectibles are actually required to proceed in the game, which given its mostly non-linear structure serves it alright but the character-specific collectibles is a bit much.

banjo collectibles

So here’s the problem I have with Collectathons: they’re often padded for length/replayability. Most games that have an emphasis on collectibles do so either to prolong the length of the main games by forcing you to backtrack and collect more thingamabobs to progress or to make the game replayable after finishing the main “quest.” How many games have you played that have a percentage attached to your save that after you finish the main game is only at 50-60%? And how many of you were then hit with an unquenchable desire to go back and collect every nook and cranny so that number would go up to 100 or even 101%? Now if the game is really, really good or there’s a lot of hidden areas or rooms in the game where these collectibles are to be found that’s one thing but when the game is particularly short and just shoves all those “hidden” collectibles in obtuse or impossible to find places it just feels token.

Oh, so I don't even know what I'm supposed to be collecting?

If you absolutely insist on doing a Collectathon however, there are ways to do it right, observe:

  1. Don’t make me re-collect all the do-dads I already collected when I replay a level.
  2. Don’t lock off parts of the “Critical Path” behind collectible gates. Finishing a level should be all the requirements I need to play the next one.
  3. Don’t make your game 101, 102 or 103% completable. That’s just dumb.
  4. Don’t make collectibles that can only be collected by certain characters just because you say so. If a collectibles requires a certain character, make it use that character’s unique skill.
  5. If the entire pause screen or HUD is filled with “collectible trackers” then you have too many collectibles.
  6. If you think you have too many collectibles, you have too many collectibles.

I realize when most of us were kids and only had one or two games to play at any given time, Collectathons may have given us an artificial excuse to keep playing the game, but when my time is short and my skill is low, the last thing I need is a game taunting me that I haven’t collected all its arbitrary paraphernalia it found in its mom’s attic.