Beware The Hoarder
Having recently returned home after three years’ absence at university, I was greeted with the news that the family home has been sold and that everything needs to be sorted, packed, or chucked out by the end of July. Returning to my childhood room, I was reminded by the stacked shelves, concealed carpets and bursting drawers that I had not thrown anything away for the best part of eight years, as an old can of Carling, and unopened pack of Frosties and a rather chewed plastic dinosaur served to demonstrate.
My possessions were (and still are) legion. On top of all of the games, dvds and books that are regular shelving stock, my room also hosted numerous interestingly shaped pieces of rock and wood, countless bits of tourist bric-a-brac, and more stuffed toys than any self-respecting adult should possess. The thing is, despite the layers of dust and many years of being untouched, I know within my heart that all of these things, including the Spiderman egg cup, were once significant enough to earn a place on display in my room. Of course, I can’t remember why they are significant anymore, but I continue to hold on to them, for fear of throwing away something important, or, as is the case with several old screwdrivers, that they might one day come in useful.
I mention these things because, instead of spending the majority of my time packing, I ventured back into the world of Skyrim, in order to guide my all-powerful, master assassin/thief/mage/warrior/werewolf wood elf down the path of vampirism in the new Dawnguard expansion. My return to Tamriel, after a hiatus of several months, reminded me of my real life experiences in one startling way (and no, it’s not my habit of enthralling and drinking the blood of innocent townsfolk).
You see, in Skyrim as much as real life, I am a hoarder. I manically hold on to items, most of the time because I kid myself that there will be a time during my adventures when I will need forty seven cabbages, or that I might actually (for once) stop and bother to buff my stats with a whole manner of potions, instead of just running in with my weapons drawn like some sort of crazed pitbull. However, the potions, vegetables and gemstones are only the tip of my cluttered iceberg.
My houses in Skyrim reveal the full extent of my hoarding; crates burst with alchemical ingredients, boxes heave with gemstones that I am never going to remove or sell, or even remember in a week’s time, but it’s the unique items that reveal the full extent of my hoarding habit. I relentlessly collect such items; if I even suspect that a sword, shield or piece of kitchenware is a rare or one-of-a-kind item, into the vast wardrobe it goes, probably never to be seen again. My weapon racks and mannequins have long since been overloaded with items, so my new spoils have nowhere else to go but into the dark recesses of my containers.
Having recently found a rare piece of footwear during my travels, I returned to Whiterun in order to deposit my spoils. As I cycled through my inventory, looking at all the things I had collected across my mammoth playthrough, a strange little thought crept into my head: “Why have you bothered keeping all these things?” it said. “They’re not even real. They’re just little bits of software… you don’t even use them.” I found it hard to argue against such points, but nonetheless, I still kept them. However, the little voice got me thinking about why I incessantly hang on to these things – it’s not just restricted to Skyrim – if you loaded up a save file from any game where I have an inventory then you would find the same thing: weapons that have long since been eclipsed by more recent finds, armour that would be useless if equipped, piles of ingredients that will never be used. So why, if I’m never going to actually use these things, and hardly ever look at them, do I continue to hoard them?
I think part of the reason is that games such as Skyrim encourage you to project your own personality onto your character. So, just as I hoard my things in real life, the same applies in game, leading me to wonder if people who hold less attachment to their junk in life take a similar attitude when gaming. I also think that holding on to all of these unique items makes the game feel more complete for me; looking at the items gives my character more of a history and brings to mind notable moments from his journey through the world. Collecting such items also appeals to the completionist in me; despite the fact that nobody else will ever examine my character and think to themselves “wow, what a guy – I can’t believe he has all these items,” it still makes me feel like I’m getting the most out of the experience.
Ultimately, I find it somewhat difficult to explain or justify my in-game hoarding. I would certainly be interested to know if other people display similar characteristics as myself (I certainly hope so, or else this anecdote might become somewhat shameful on my part). If anything, I think that my behaviour goes some way towards showing how successful developers have been in crafting their worlds; worlds that can be believable enough to convince me that filling my Riften basement with armour is the most important thing ever. At least I won’t have to pack it all up if my character decides he wants to move house…
Last five articles by Alex
- RollerCoaster Tycoon: A Retrospective
- Beware The Hoarder
- History is our Playground
- Open World Problems
- Marginalised, Mistreated and Misunderstood: Video Games and the Fight for Recognition