I struggle to part with possessions: this is something that is immediately obvious to anyone who happens upon my abode. Old copies of Edge intermingle with video games from the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 era, with a small contingent representing the commercial woes of the Dreamcast and Xbox hanging around on the periphery of these pseudo-organised piles; stacks of vinyl records lie between the ever-faithful Beovox S30 speakers I managed to obtain a few years ago (definitely a steal at less than £30: they have a certain quality to them that I can’t quite put my finger on, but it makes them the most favoured speakers of all that have darkened my carpets) and the Pioneer amplifier (of equally cheap provenance). These are things that see little use, but that I find myself unable to depart with, just in case I want to experience them again. The likelihood of me cracking out Chu Chu Rocket any time soon is fairly low, but there it sits on my shelf: a reminder that Sega used to be quite the powerhouse, but that even the slightest of missteps can unseat former behemoths.
I am a hoarder: I hoard items that I purchase out of an irrational fear that I miss them upon their sale, or any other, less advantageous dispossession.
This, of itself, is probably nothing too uncommon: everyone makes calculations as to the worth of their possessions, using these calculations to ascertain whether the items in question are worth the hassles associated with retention. Less common, perhaps, may be the carrying over off this attitude into the playing of video games. Independent of genre, there will be some sort of item or resource that I will manage to find a way to retain for no other reason than “just in case” something bad were to happen in my game session. The chief example of this would most likely merely be the way in which I play games from the Elder Scrolls series. While I am not the biggest fan of the franchise, there is a certain appeal lying behind just having jollies around the countryside, carrying a fuck-off massive sword and commanding the elements. This commanding of the elements takes on a particularly tedious note when the main spell that is used by a player in the gameis Feather: a spell that enables the player to carry greater amounts of weight. Yes, I could use fire, frost or lightning to take on hostile beasts of all creeds; yes, I could be charming someone into giving me something at a discounted price; but no, I am making sure that I can carry x amount of a variety of bones, pelts and alchemical ingredients.
Why is this? You never know when you might have to eat that particular sort of mushroom, you know? There is so much uncertainty in tackling the myriad of quests, or even merely walking through the huge world on offer in these games. One’s survival might hinge solely on the presence of a particular weapon or piece of armour: much like our own world, the Elder Scrolls worlds have such huge levels of contingency in how the game progresses. Just as some evolutionary biologists might hold that even the smallest of changes to an organism in its history have led to its current stage, and the absence of even a singular solar ray may have led to a different outcome, I think the same in-game: I might be completely and utterly lost without an item of a certain type later on. This is completely irrational, yes, but it is testament to a particularly varied and dangerous world created by Bethesda in these games. You don’t have enough Magicka to cast Feather.
Real-time strategy games bring out this terrible side in me as well: do I continue to accrue money in order that I can sit on my wealth and use it just when I need it, or do I spend it all up front and hope for the best? Either leads to the same outcome: a paralysis of sorts. If I save my money, I can’t do anything beyond having the most basic of defences of my base: no point having money if I can’t keep it safe. If I take the other fork of the dilemma, I’m left with a set of units I don’t want to do anything with, just in case I would have wasted the investment in their construction – on the bright side of this option, at least I’d get to make a pretty arrangement of things.
This approach to game-worlds, however, does have a home: survival horror games with scant resources present have always served this overindulgence. Accruing a sensible amount of ammunition, for example, by avoiding firefights where possible in order to conserve it, speaks to this borderline neurosis: don’t use any of a resource just in case I might need (and really need) it later for some inconceivably more terrifying enemy. Though it may not be shared by all that play the game, this approach just heightens the immersion and levels of fear, as I know I shouldn’t be using weapons before the proper time to do so, of games in the genre. It’s difficult to tell whether I was more afraid of Resident Evil 2‘s Lickers or the fact that I might have to fire upon them and therefore perhaps be in a much worse position later on. Scary stuff.
Games provide and interesting and unique way to look upon certain quirks of character, and exaggerated though the accounts above are, they do speak somewhat to an engagement with neurosis that is possible only within an interactive medium: there are many ways that the management of resources can be handled and all of the games mentioned above allow the player to tailor their approach to their own risk appetite. Allowing people to engage with mechanics that limit what they can do on their own terms is something that is welcomed: I like the sorts of discussions that can be had with people of differing dispositions about how games unfolded. Let’s just say that I never had any problems with Resident Evil‘s Tyrant.