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Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Gamer Psychology: Collecting Items And Achievements
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 3 comments

Gamasutra has published a new article on the psychological motivations behind the quest to collect items and achievements in computer and video games. The article includes commentary from doctors who have studied gamer psychology, and examines the possible correlation between hoarding in games and obsessive compulsiveness in the real world.

Item collection has been a staple of video games since Pac-Man swallowed his first cherry. Since then, we’ve collected stars, coins, rings, nuts, bolts, packages, armor, weapons, Achievements and so on. Games like Call of Duty 4 take exploration out of the collection equation, and use experience points and graphs to indicate how close we are to obtaining that next weapon or Perk.

All of this “stuff” is tied to the player, whether it’s a high score with your initials beside it, your Gamertag with its high gamerscore, your PlayStation 3 Trophy Room, your save file that says you recruited all 108 Suikoden characters, or your World of Warcraft or CoD4 account that’s filled with the best weapons and items. Such accomplishments, as frivolous and intangible as they may seem to outsiders, are meaningful to gamers.

One of the aspects of gaming today that most obviously appeals to our inner hoarder are Achievements. We joke around that video game “Achievements” are a misnomer, because what is it exactly that you’re achieving, other than sitting on your ass all day trying to kill 100,000 Locusts in Gears of War 2?

In collecting these digital gems, are we just filling ourselves with an empty sense of accomplishment when, in fact, we’ve accomplished nothing? Not necessarily, says Dr. Cheryl K. Olson, co-director at the Center for Mental Health and Media at Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry, and author of the 2007 book, Grand Theft Childhood.

“People work for intangible rewards all the time,” she says. “Money and love, for example. A paycheck may seem ‘solid,’ but it represents an abstraction. And what’s more abstract than earning an ‘A’ in philosophy?... Small things can be quite rewarding. A smile from a cute girl may be a small thing, but it can make a teenage boy’s week.”
Visit the page linked below to read the full article.

Gamasutra: The Psychology Behind Item Collecting And Achievement Hoarding

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