Collectibles in Video Games

Collectibles in video games seem to be the main attraction to guides we create, but what do I really think about them?

For those of you who don’t know what collectibles are, they are items hidden throughout a video game. The main purpose usually is to be collected to earn an achievement or trophy. That’s the general idea, but there are a few exceptions. Those of you who know me know the hatred I have for collectibles in video games, but I will concede to a select few. I decided to write this to have a conversation on the subject. If anyone wishes to contribute to the discussion, feel free in the comments section below, but please read the entire blog first!

Why do we have Collectibles?

It seems like collectibles have become a huge part of video games in this current generation, mainly with Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 games.  I know there were collectibles in games before this generation, but it has become much more common place. I would say it’s because of the achievement and trophy system, or maybe developers are taking a note from others. If I were to put myself in the position of a developer, I’d say they usually make collectibles for two reasons. The first reason may be to show off the environment that took them years to create. You made a huge in-game world, now you want people to explore every inch. The second reason may be a bit more cynical, but it’s what everyone is thinking: to extend the life of a game.

What kind of Collectibles are there?

There are many types of collectibles in various video games. Some have no other function other than being collected, and others may tell a bit of a story all by themselves. Then there are collectibles that will unlock something in the game after collecting them.

The first set of collectibles that really pissed me off was in a game called Assassin’s Creed — I’m sure you all have heard of it. Well, there were over 1000 flags set throughout the entire land they created. Why? No reason other than collecting. I didn’t have a job or any money back then, which meant I couldn’t go and buy another game to play, so I decided to collect every single flag to earn that 1000/1000 gamerscore. Playstation gamers at that time didn’t have a trophy system, so they probably had no reason to collect all those damn flags. Of course, not all games had that many collectibles. Some games like Call of Duty only have 30-50 collectibles hidden throughout their single player campaign. What’s their purpose? No reason other than collecting.

Simple collection isn’t the case in every single game. There are certain other games like the Bioshock series that give you a sort of backstory with audio logs. The recent Bioshock Infinite had another collectible of sorts called infusions that increase your health, shield or salts (magic-type powers). Yes, it is good to have collectibles there for some reason, but it’s still not good enough for me.

What’s an Alternative to Collectibles?

I feel collectibles can be done an entirely different way. Some collectibles can unlock art work in the extras menu, increase your player’s stats, or unlock any other extras. How else do you unlock these? I feel the newest DmC: Devil May Cry did it best, even though they had some stupid collectibles too! To upgrade your powers, just kill people or accomplish goals in the game to purchase power upgrades. Killing a set amount of people or completing certain difficulty levels will unlock other extras. It is really that simple! You want the coolest unlock, you should beat the game on the hardest difficulty, or maybe complete some sort of side challenge in the game.

Why you should hate collectibles, too!

What is the number one reason I have for hating collectibles? It completely ruins the story-telling of the game. I am a huge lover of stories and story-telling in video games. When I’m listening to a beautifully laid out story, and something crazy happens where I have to chase or run away from someone, it pains me to stop and search for stupid collectibles. Trust me, this happens in every game. Even if you’re not a lover of stories, this happens in action packed games like Call of Duty. There are many great examples in several Call of Duty games, or any game with collectibles. Let me list some:

  1. In Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, there is a piece of intel (laptop collectible) hidden in between some trees that can only be picked up while riding a snowmobile down a huge mountain, all while an enemy helicopter is firing at you. It seems like luck that someone was able to find that sucker!
  2. In Call of Duty Black Ops, you must escape from a room that’s filling up with poison gas before you die! You only have several seconds to find and pick up a piece of intel in the room and escape!
  3. In the recent Call of Duty Black Ops 2, you must find a really small piece of intel near a wrecked car while escorting the president of the United States! If you’re not fast enough, she will die, and you will have to restart from the last check point. Try to spot the intl in the first picture below. The second picture shows what it looks like.

cod-bo2-intel1 cod-bo2-intel2

This is ridiculous and completely unacceptable. If you are a video game developer, you should hate yourself for this very reason! If you think you need collectibles to extend the life of a game, you are just a bad developer. There are many games out there that I will spend literally hundreds of hours playing because I love them so much. Sure, they’re usually RPGs like The Elder Scrolls, Pokemon and Persona, but it’s because there’s a great story or stuff to do. People even spend hundreds of hours on the Multiplayer part of shooters, which shows there’s no need for collectibles for life extension. You may say, “Well Hector, you have to collect all 649 Pokemon!” I’d respond with a simple, No you don’t. All those Pokemon and Persona are options, not requirements to complete the game. Heck, I’ll grant you one: There are trophies tied to fusing all Persona in Persona 4 Golden; however, those can be done in your free time, and it does not stop you from enjoying the story elements.


Why I give collectibles a pass at times

The only reason I may give collectibles a pass — other than extra story-telling in select games — is because of work. I’m a strategy guide writer at, and some single player campaigns are so boring and completely linear. You could simply write: “go down this hall to the marker until you reach the end of the level” to get people to complete the game. However, with collectibles, you can actually write a walkthrough that people want to read because they’re trying to find the collectibles too! In fact, one of my very first games I worked on was Alice: Madness Returns. It took me so long to get some of these collectibles, some of which did nothing! I almost gave up on the game when I had one collectible left, but I found it by going left down a one way slide instead of right! I can’t believe I went right all those times after playing the level again and again. My very first game was SOCOM 4, which also had collectibles.


My Final Say

In the end, I feel collectibles are incredibly stupid and should be removed from video games all together. If you want to add some sort of collectibles that may add some back story, don’t create 100 of them, and make sure you put them in plain sight. Maybe you can highlight them, make them flash, or add a marker on the HUD to find them  You don’t want people disregarding the story for some stupid collectibles. The main reason people play the game is to either get immersed into it, or for a good challenge, and not a scavenger hunt challenge! If you’re a developer, always look at an alternative, just like the ones I listed above.