Enjoying games has a lot to do with how they look and how they play. If a game really tries to be visually interesting or provide me with practical gameplay, I am easily pleased by it; I will give it a chance and wholeheartedly attempt to enjoy it. It doesn’t really have to work; watching models skew and clip into outer space is great. Always. However, game makers often fail to exploit that side of broken and silly game elements and instead create useless, broken things that are not fun. These are mistakes and rather than treating them as such and not repeating them, they make games filled to the brim with them. I don’t appreciate any of these mistakes as a consumer but I despise one above all. There is a recurring element that has been plaguing games for years… but is seemingly here to stay.
Before I go too deeply, I should confess that some of my habits are obsessive-compulsive. It calms me to put things in order and “complete” things. When I cannot, it makes me anxious. This is why, when presented with a shiny object that brings up a prompt explaining that there are 99 other shiny objects littered throughout a game to be collected, I am made very upset. I’m forced to convince myself that collectibles don’t go towards my completion of the game nearly every time I encounter a new set of collectable items. I play games to have fun, not to clean things up.
I‘m not incredibly difficult to motivate. Present any objective with a worthwhile interesting reward and I will spend hours of my life attempting to earn it and in doing so ignore how pointless and stupid the task I’m performing is. Even with this simple exploit of my personality, I still have to suffer through game-after-game of built-in quests that linger on a page aggressively demanding I find all of the fragments of a key or relic or whatever. I barely have time to play all of the games I want to play, I certainly won’t take time to locate passive-aggressively placed twinkling trash.
Much like a briefcase filled with copies of the Thief remake, it’s just pointless filler content. There isn’t anything particularly fun or rewarding about coming across or searching for a useless thing. The enjoyment comes from the satisfaction of no longer having to do it when you’re done. It feels like a chore because it is one. I find it disturbing that something I do for fun is so often made into work that I don’t get anything back from.
It’s not as though it’s appealing to those who are big into collecting. I’d consider myself pretty “nerdy” but I’m not a “collector” kind of guy. That being said, I do understand why someone would want to collect something cool like a bunch of tangible figurines or merchandise to fill their actual living space. What I don’t get is how that hobby could ever translate to collecting intangible objects in a game you may never play again after completing.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always done poorly. I’m not talking about games that do it right. Saints Row IV had a basic understanding that collecting objects in your game should do a thing. A cool thing. In Saints, your collecting of orbs is directly linked to how many abilities you had, making it addictive and enjoyable to jump from one cluster orb to the next. Other games just set things out for you to do motivating you with “well, they’re there.”
Perhaps it’s just the level designers going, “Hey — created a space to move your character around in. Look at all of it,” and the best way to do so is putting a pointless thing to pick up in the area. I would personally prefer game design to direct me to areas for a purpose.
At the end of the day, you can almost always skip collecting content, but I don’t think I should have to skip parts of a thing I paid money for. I don’t argue that game should get rid of these kind of objectives, I just want them to have a reason for doing them. When I put time into a game I want the game to reward me and I don’t think that’s asking a lot.
People hate fetch quests and escort missions but collecting objectives truly are the worst of all. Let us know in the comments what kind of filler content you personally hate the most.