Letters to the Editor

Genre Defining


In response to “All That’s Shiny is Gold” from The Escapist Forum: Cheers to WiNG and the rest of the Wrench Donors! I’ve remember following the charity drive during the early part when it was just Wing and 3 others. It was an amazing show of support at first, but started to dwindle early sadly until what seemed as a grass-roots effort finally got tons more steam added back to it.

And that was BEFORE the official TF2 blog updated with what I consider one of the most heartfelt posts ever. ( http://www.teamfortress.com/post.php?id=4151&p=2 ) If the event succeeded in something at least, it was in getting the TF2 Team to acknowledge, promote, and show a level of humility to all their players.

It honestly felt like the first Desert Bus, just a wave of donations and support starting coming in right after that post! From 7 to 13 Wrenches gone, up for donation with all kinds of support. I’ve always loved the TF2 Community in general, but this explained why the most. 🙂


Huh, look, a celebrity! At least on this particular thread on this particular site at this particular time.

Anyway… yeah, that’s pretty amazing. Collectibles are collectibles, after all, and people do go nuts over them. In my opinion, the story isn’t about deleting the wrench. That is just a side issue that happened to be the catalyst for something greater, the charity event.

Personally, that system doesn’t seem THAT bad – it’s at least better than the first xxxx people to do this, but it could have been improved easily by simply making it a percent chance after a certain time. There, now they won’t be found all at once and the people making stuff all the time will still have better chances to get it.



In response to “Toy Story” from The Escapist Forum: Goodness, I didn’t realize that these items actually sell. I can certainly see the appeal of them, however.

I imagine that the impulse that drives people to build model cars, ships and airplanes is the same one behind the purchase of video game toys. I’ll never fly a fighter or sail on a battleship, but by building a model, or buying a gun from Gears of War, and holding it in your hands, a person can connect with the substance of the object in a way that video can’t provide.



In response to “Ghost-Type Story” from The Escapist Forum: The story of Ghost Black reads like a fable to me. In a setting where you normally have to struggle and grind your way through a game to eventually become the ultimate trainer, you are given an awesome, yet clearly evil power. Fights that once got your heart pounding as you traded attacks with opposing trainers, desperately hoping you would be the victor, are now pathetic wastes of time as your Curse ability lays waste to even the strongest Pokemon. Then, once you have demonstrated your power, you get to decide the fate of your crushed opponent, who were previously untouchable. Perhaps they were that one particular trainer that you had to fight to proceed down a certain route, or maybe it was a Gym Leader who thwarted your every attempt on your first playthrough as a child. Regardless of your motives, the choice is clear and simple. Live or die. They are completely at your mercy.

It quickly becomes clear that you have the final word in this world. But the game is always watching you, remembering every time you sealed the fate of an opposing Pokemon or a fellow trainer with the Curse. Finally, just as you think you are the new ultimate power, the game walks you back through your footsteps, showing you the spots where you pointlessly ended the life of another human being. Drunk with power, you didn’t realize the devastation you left in your wake. As a sickening realization dawns on you, it abandons all subtlety and lists every single life you snuffed out.

When the list of your misdeeds finally comes to an end, the game casts judgement on you. In its darkest moment yet, the game forces you to sap your own life force until the Ghost takes you, too, with the Curse. Your save file is erased. You cannot go back on your lifelong history of destruction. Your punishment is bleak and final.

When I watched the Youtube video of this story, it sent a chill up my spine. I realized that I would have been the final recipient of the Ghost’s curse as well. I think a real version of this game should include an alternate ending – if you don’t use Curse during the whole course of the game, Ghost does not Curse you. Rather, he either lets you live just as you think he is going to curse you, or he takes you to the afterlife. I think the second option is more in tune with the Pokemon series’ emphasis on collection. You, too, are collected, but not in the morbid way that the ‘original’ ending had it. And that way, when you think about your games in ten or twenty years, you can rest content knowing that your character lives on.

The Long Road

I was reminded of the Missingno glitch in the same game. Through a certain sequence of events, you could encounter a pokemon with a “missing number” and various garbage for data (its moves were Water Gun, Water Gun, and Sky Attack, and its type was Bird/Normal, where Bird wasn’t actually a real type). Most people knew about it because of the duplicate item glitch associated with it.

So I of course abused the hell out of the Missingno glitch to level up a whole party of level 100s. Then I got an idea. I took one of my 127 Master Balls and caught it. Who said there were only 151 Pokemon?

It turns out catching Missingno also corrupts your Hall of Fame, the list of parties you’d used to defeat the Elite Four. So while you can catch Missingno (which actually gives you more copies of the item than just killing it, according to some websites I just looked up), it comes at the cost of devaluing all of your achievements, in a sense.



In response to “I Want It All” from The Escapist Forum:

The Random One:
Personally, I think that the worst thing achievements and trophies have done is turning collectibles in an either-or situation. Before it happened, I wouldn’t try to pick up all the collectibles, just as much as I could. This way I wouldn’t skip tricky collectables, but wouldn’t need to go back to pick them up if I missed it. I got 53/100? Cool, I got over half of them. 87/100? Great, I found a lot. 96/100? Wow, that’s excellent, I got almost all of them!

Achievements don’t care about that. Got 99/100? Yeah well tough look kid. Better comb this drab overworld for a few more hours to see if you get that last collectible. Yeah no thanks. I have better things to do with my time.

I agree. I think, for some people, gamerscores and trophies have altered collecting from a self-satisfying activity (“I found all this game has to offer!”) to a competitive goal (“If I collect all these items, it’ll show I’m better at this game than Larry!”).

Let’s take a game from the past that was significantly panned for being a collectathon: Donkey Kong Country 64. If a version of the game was released today, but had achievements for collecting everything with every character, how many more gamers would be willing to do it?

On the other hand, I appreciate when a game awards you as you progress through finding collectibles. Arkham Asylum was good at this, encouraging you to find stuff but not demanding the absolute highest effort for any recognition. Guess that makes me happier to receive regimented rewards than those that are random.

Tim Latshaw

Chris Davies:
I Want It All

Don’t be too concerned if you find yourself constantly hunting for collectibles and achievements while you’re gaming – that’s just the way you’re wired.

Read Full Article

I think Madigan is confusing the components of this process: the habitual nature of gaming, and the desire to collect. When he talks about the importance of “random reward schedules,” he’s getting into the behaviorist idea that, by randomizing the reward schedule rather than making it predictable, you increase the frequency of the behavior.

Compare vending machines and slot machines–you put in money, pull a lever, and then…. Well, with the vending machine, you dependably receive a “reward” while the slot machine only rewards you some of the time. Who will pull the lever more frequently? Obviously, it’s the person at the vending machine. The reasons for this can be seen touched upon in the “Skinner Box” episode of Extra Credits, but it boils down to several behavioral mechanisms in we, the human.

This is, I believe, separate from a person’s desire to collect. While the random reward schedule is perhaps poised to most effectively capitalize on our innate desire to collect, neither explains the other, and both can exist independently. (I imagine, in context, this was the point Madigan was making, but I think perhaps the article just cropped the idea at an awkward place.)

The urge to collect speaks to our old hunter-gatherer roots. You didn’t know when your next meal was, so you grabbed anything food-like you could carry. This later developed into making sure you had a worthy collection of weapons and tools, so that you’d be better prepared to handle any given problem that crops up. And then we, as mankind, became collectors of knowledge, so that we’d be equipped for any problem or puzzle that might stand in our way. (This is to say that our innate curiosity or desire to learn may be directly linked to this collection instinct.)

Then you take a brief detour over the Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” to see what the hell any of this has to do with gaming, stamps, or what-have-you. According to Maslow, once our basic animal needs are met–food, clothing, shelter, and safety–we move up to other, less concrete needs. The need to belong, for instance. People who have basic needs unmet tend not to preoccupy themselves with needs higher on the hierarchy.

Our instincts are need-fulfilling machines–they are specifically designed and tailored to identify a deficiency and fill it, sometimes preemptively. That is their business. These machines are running non-stop, and that doesn’t change just because our basic needs have been met. Once we’re fed, clothed, housed, and safe… well… our instincts want to continue doing what they do. To meet this, our brain creates other, less urgent needs.

This could be the “need” to finish that collection of stamps. Or the “need” to have all of the Mario games. Or the “need” to find every little widget in your current game of choice. Satisfying these lesser needs gives us a strange satisfaction that is unexplainable, yet strangely familiar. Getting that last widget somehow wakes that ancient pride of bringing in that prize mastodon that would feed your tribe for a month. It gives us a feeling of power.

Of course, sometimes this process gets interrupted. A person might be unable to fill a more basic need, and in frustration their mind turns to another lesser need as a “substitute.” A person who is unable to keep a roof of his head is suddenly taken with collecting bottle caps, as a way of attaining a piece of that primal satisfaction. A way of feeling in control of something. (You can even see this in animals–smaller dogs, frustrated by a lack of any sense of dominance, often harass small children as a way of being the boss of someone.)

The chicken-egg cycle surrounding this (Does a healthy mind lead to collecting, or does collecting lead to a healthy mind?) is probably best answered by the worst kind of non-answer. Both and neither. A healthy person, one whose material and emotional needs are mostly met, will probably tend to collect something as a way of continuing to satisfy the instinctive urge to acquire and prepare. This keeps a steady stream of satisfaction coming, which may tend to make them feel more healthy as a person… which may lead them to collect even more. An unhealthy person may find himself stuck in a shame spiral, feeling downtrodden and powerless, and one of these collections may provide just enough satisfaction to help him turn his outlook around… thus leading him to take charge of a few other things, until such time as he’s back on track.

Whichever half starts the process, the two will feed each other in an ongoing cycle, often leading to a feeling of satisfaction and overall mental health. And then the creeping shadows of obsession and addiction creep in… but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.


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