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Collecting things is everywhere in video games. And I’m not only talking about the virtual flotsam littering the landscape of some games, like coins in a Mario Brothers game or letters in Grand Theft Auto 5 or audio recordings in Horizon: Zero Dawn. Besides those kinds of collectibles, video games let you gather cosmetic items like skins for your character, different weapons, different vehicles, armor, equipment, and even HUD treatments. Games let you find or unlock different classes, different characters, different abilities. And of course one of the most famous examples of “collecting them all” comes from Pokemon, where capturing and dominating adorable little creatures is central to the entire game concept.
How can games be made and how can collections be presented to not only encourage players to build collections, but also enjoy them more and relish the time they spent amassing them? Does the history or nature of a digital thing matter the same way that it often does with physical things? What kinds of things do people like to collect, and what do they like to do with their collections? Do people complete collections of things in video games for the same reason that some people collect coins, stamps, or commemorative plates outside of games? Are there things that psychology suggests that platform holders like Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, or Steam do to let players get more out of their collections? Things that they’ve never even thought of?
These are the kinds of questions that I’ll discuss with this episode’s guest, Dr. Zachary Toups, an Assistant Professor, Computer Science, Games & Interaction at New Mexico State University.