Hello, my name is DanimalCart, and I am a completionist. It has been one week since my latest relapse but sadly will not be the last and so I look to the support of my peers to help me overcome this horrid disease.

Last week I played through Far Cry 3 and had a great deal of fun. Flying on hang gliders, swimming in oceans, hunting animals, shooting dudes, enjoying most of the story and the occasional alligator attack all made my time very enjoyable. I had a done most of the story/side missions spending a good 20+ hours in the game and things seemed to be wrapping up. Then it happened, I opened up my Handbook to look at the progress screen and it hit me like a ton of bricks, 58% complete. Fifty Eight…. ? Fifty EIGHT! How was this possible? I had almost beaten this game and I had barely anything to show for it. I was missing half of the achievements and now this game was trying to tell me I barely squeezed out half its content in over 20 hours.

I am a big believer of wanting to get the most of the videogames I play. Just the same way I wouldn’t watch half a movie or read only the first 100 pages of a story, if it’s in the game I want to experience it. From a value proposition it makes even more sense, the more time you put into the game, the cheaper cost per hour of entertainment you come to. Or this is at least how I rationalize it to myself because I know this is not the truth of it. This Saturday I had a decision to make, I could complete Far Cry 3 at around 62% complete, finishing the final missions and ending my experience and move onto something else, or…. or I could try to 100% this game.

I still don’t understand what it is about myself that falls into this trap, but sometimes I become overzealous at the appeal of seeing that 100% completion mark on the games I play. I like the feel of beating a game completely, doing everything there is to do in a game so that when I’m finished I know I’ve left nothing behind. This also is the reason why I find games like World of Warcraft ultimately unsatisfying as I know there is no way to beat that game, no way to end it and see all of its content. Here I was in Far Cry 3, at 58% from 20+ hours of gameplay on a Saturday morning and I decided to go for it, I was going to beat this game, I was going to get 100%.

A monument to all my sins

25 hours later, I crossed the finish line; I had completed my goal and instead of joy, only irritation remained. I had a great first 20 hours of gaming with Far Cry 3 and could have beat the game and been happy. The last 25 hours were spent completing combat Rakyat trails, finding 20 lost letters, killing wanted men, hunting more animals and finding those damn relics. Most of the items in that game had some redeeming elements of fun, but not the Relics. You earn an achievement after finding 60 but there were a total of a 120 and all of them were needed to earn 100%. I must have easily spent 8 hours tracking down those last 60 relics, fast traveling all over the island, going to a specific spot on the map and clicking the ‘X’ button. I was a hound dog, sniffing out meaningless relics that didn’t earn me and guns, achievements, or any other in-game item; only a number on a progress screen.

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No Jeff you are right, you can't beat 100%, but 100% can beat you.

25 hours later, 48 hours in total I liked Far Cry 3 a whole lot less. Near the end of the game I had become sick of everything I was doing, yet I couldn’t stop. In chasing that 100% completion I had wasted time, valuable time I could put to far better use. In the time it took me to get those 120 damn relics, I could have played Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons a game I have been hearing so much about. Or I could finally started playing Zero’s Last Escape on my vita, a game I have been meaning to beat ever since I played 999. But no, because of my psychosis, I was a digital fetch and retrieve lackey for most of my Saturday.

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Why do we do this? I have heard and seen enough podcasts, forum post and articles to know that this is not an uncommon problem. What’s even more unusual is that after collecting everything in a game, people never really feel good about it afterward. It’s a compulsion that we can help ourselves from. Knowing this then, why do so many video games decide to put these collectables in the game? Developers throw collectables in almost every game that ships these days.

Skulltalla’s and bugs to capture in The Legend of Zelda, intel to gather in Call of Duty, feathers to grab in Assassin’s Creed games, pigeons to shoot in GTA IV, Dog Tags to pocket in Gears of War, Playboys to ogle in Mafia 2, Joker trophies to solve in Batman Arkham Asylum, red bricks to stack in the Lego Game series, hidden orbs to discover in Crackdown, treasures to loot in Uncharted, audio logs to hear in Dead Space, shrines to pray at in Sleeping Dogs, shards to gather in Infamous, bubbles to pop in Little Big Planet and collectables, collectables, collectables!

Sure, why not fight a monster thousands of times in hopes of achieving a drop that only has a 0.4% of occurring!

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I once spent 200 hours in Final Fantasy IV for the DS earning four complete sets of Onion Armor. Who in their right mind would do this? To think of all the other choices I could have spent my time on, it makes me depressed. I am not sure if I am to blame because I choose to go through with this or if the developers are because they put it in the game. To me, this is like leaving chocolate on the floor where the dog can get at it. If the developers didn’t want me to eat it until I got sick, they should have left the collectables off the floor and out of the game.

Let’s talk about the main issue here though; this is not good game design. I understand that developers are under a lot of pressure from sales goals and publishers to be able to put as much value into the game as possible, but this is not the way to do it. Instead of 120 relics to find in Far Cry 3 with 8 hours to find them all, I would have much preferred 4 cool missions at an hour or two in length total. Missions where after playing them I got the same feeling of excitement and appreciation I felt from the rest of the game.

Far Cry 3 could have benefited from things like Hang Gliding missions ala Pilot Wings. Maybe there could have been some Wave Race style point systems for the Jet Ski’s in another mini game. Anything to break up the monotony would have helped and they could have even just limited the number of relics. Anytime you ask any gamer to perform the same action 120 times, it’s going to suck by the end, so why put it in the game? Developers should think of different ways to show off all your hard work in a way that doesn’t leave your fans resenting the game you made due to random collectables.

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Hopefully one day we can get to a point where developers can lengthy the experience of their game but not at the cost of quality from a user experience. I would like to end this piece by asking you guys to list off some of the worse collectable experiences that you have had. Write below some of the craziest things you have gone through in a game in order to 100% or obtain some ridiculous item. Or if you want to be positive, maybe some of the best experiences you have had. But hey, this is the Soapbox, who wants to be positive?

DanimalCart’s Soapbox: 08/21/13