The widespread figure of the “Collector” in gaming and in life: progress, productivity, validation, fun?

I’ve recently downloaded Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp for my phone. I downloaded it for soothing reasons, for curiosity reasons and for nostalgic reasons. I used to play the first instalment of Animal Crossing when I was a teen, on my Nintendo DS you see, and I was fond of it then.

If you don’t know what it is, it’s a game where you create a character, and then you’re plopped into a beautiful little world where you build your own campsite with furniture you craft and invite over animal guests to enjoy it.

You befriend various sweet and characterful, but repetitive, creatures and decide who you want to give the honour of hosting.

You do favours for these animals, which include collecting fish, bugs and fruit and in return, they give you more crafting materials and money to buy more furniture. It’s sweet, but when I write it like this, I realise, it’s circular.

You also get the option to create and express through the medium of clothes and hairstyles sported by your character, and through the choice of objects and the layout of these objects in your campsite. You also get to enjoy being engulfed in a soothing cartoony environment with pleasing music and art which turns your phone screen into the form of adorableness.

You know how the Victorians liked to collect and catalogue things, they liked encyclopedias and gathering stuff that actually belonged to other people, and storing knowledge and artefacts from the empire in museums.

That’s kinda what Animal Crossing is like, except there’s a lot of pastel colours and cutesy characters instead of the macabre, dusty, blacks, greys, browns and maroons of the Victorians of the common imagination. (In the first conception of the game on the DS, you actually do collect things for the town museum.)

My little character (she’s called Lavender) could easily be a Dickensian urchin picking countless gentleman’s pockets for silk handkerchiefs instead of the fishing, bug-hunting, fruit picking spritely round-faced favour-doer that she is. That is, she could be if she swapped her mint green hair and perpetual smile for a ragged cap and TB, and if we swapped the animals for Fagin.

It’s funny isn’t it – how a lot of games seem limited in the way their narratives and goals and quests function. In games, I do often find myself becoming a collector figure. It’s almost like it’s hard to portray progress without gathering different objects and earning improved relationships and items.

The quest to collect seems to make games enduring because there always seems to be more to collect, to the point where your character becomes a compulsive hoarder of things that they keep in their vast inventory that somehow is able to be carried anywhere despite containing things that would probably exceed the character’s body weight.

I’m also a fan of the Elder Scrolls and Fallout games, and although on a totally different console/ device and seemingly of a completely different genre, the collecting still exists.

So much of gameplay consists of trading with, buying and selling from and to non playable characters and harvesting from the post-apocalyptic wastelands, archaic dungeons, mountains, forests, caves and beaches of the game maps.

The player takes on the role of the hero in both types of game, but the word hero could be interchanged with “helper”. How often in a game is one approached by a character only to be asked to do them a favour, whether that be to bring them three horse mackerels or apples or to defeat the trolls in Greyskull dungeon or whatever? The answer is – very often.

My little person is driven by caps, or bells, or gold coins, or weapon mods or more stimpaks if you sneak in here or kill this, or more missions or free mercenary work, but it still feels the same.

It just got me thinking about a number of things:

  • the limited ways of measuring progress I see in the games I play
  • the deep reach of materialism and consumerism in notions of success and purpose
  • the notion that games often have to be popular in order to be profitable in the mainstream so perhaps they rely on tried and tested ways of being such for business reasons
  • the need for progress/ success in video gamescould you have a game without rules or more widely without a real purpose? How playable would it be? How quickly would I get bored? Do I make my own rules in sandbox games? How free is my thinking?
  • Could people play a game just for the sake of it? Would they?
  • If people played just for the art or the narrative, is that also about collecting? Collecting views, visions, experiences?
  • Can we divorce productivity and list-checking from gaming- something that is supposedly a leisure activity predominantly?
  • Do I do this with other media? Do people collect TV shows, stories, films in their minds?

It also made me think about gamification and how that’s often used in workplaces to make “productivity more fun” with league tables in call centres and the like. It’s all interlocking and overlapping and I’m getting tired.

The objectification of living things in this game also struck me – I mean I know it’s what usually happens in our current world but, I couldn’t help but see how it both conforms to and feeds the cultural norm of viewing animals as things which can be bought, sold or traded with little moral consideration.

That was a 3am ramble and more messy and tangential than I would usually produce, but take this away- the figure of the collector in games – why is it so widespread? What is the alternative?

Byeee – may your posts collect lots of likes and you feel the strange buzz of recognition from numbers going up and from being thoroughly productive.

P.S. that was a joke 😉

P.S.S. I didn’t mug that frog for her shirt she gave it me once we reached a friendship of level 7 😎🐸 

Unfortunately, you don’t get a reward for reading to the end of this, although if you are here, you deserve one. X

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To unfriend or argue?

My news feed is not an echo chamber. Not only do I see things I wouldn’t share (which is fine of course), I see things that I find wildly disrespectful and problematic. I see things which make ire rise inside me, these things are so often bland parroting of oppressive notions that are still cemented in certain people’s minds.

For the most part, I feel that the people sharing these sorts of things are not very discerning, they haven’t really looked into the thing in the depth that I would before making a public post about it. They reactively respond to articles or videos with what they deem as a simple, rational argument but comes across to me as the most banal, un-thought-out conclusion.

I can see a lack of experience and research gilded with the bullshit of angry prejudice and misplaced arrogance. They have this seemingly unwavering belief in the trueness or correctness of their argument. They think they’re being wholly rational and original and I’ve heard their words a hundred times and it’s tiring.

It’s tiring because, sometimes, these words feel like they’re a direct attack on the worth or existence of other human beings and they’re tiring because I often feel a violent urge to respond and defend.

The thing is, a lot of the time, these people don’t think these issues really affect them, or that they don’t really affect anyone, they are framed as a thought exercise or a detached discussion topic.

However, in reality, the issues discussed affect people’s actual lives, and to flippantly post drivel such as this is misguided and irresponsible. If people who recognise that they are affected negatively by systemic problems such as racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia see people who aren’t affected in the same way posting about “the transgender ‘argument’ ” or “reverse racism” or “straight pride” or the “myth” of the wage gap or poverty being ‘self-inflicted’ because an individual hasn’t “pulled themselves up by their bootstraps” they see that their plight for justice is not supported by the poster.

Not only is it not supported, it is trivialised and it is made more difficult, it is evidence of this being a common opinion in the populous, it is aggressive towards the very real struggle for equity for those who are oppressed.

Justified anger coming from someone who is directly affected by these widespread problems is framed as “irrationality” and as “getting too emotional”, and this leads the poster to dismiss their arguments – this is tone policing.

I posted this because I was angry, because I saw something on Facebook this morning that I knew to be blatantly untrue and the poster spouted it with a self-assured grandiosity that pissed me off. It’s not the first time he’s done it and I haven’t commented, although I did spend time finding a concise and informative video on the topic to which I was going to link in the comment thread.

I had to weigh up whether or not I was going to get involved, I had to make that decision based on whether I have the energy to educate someone on something I don’t think they really care about because they don’t think it affects them directly.

I had to see videos coming from the opposite side, perpetuating the same myths he was sharing, I had to see movements I hold dear called “cancer” by the same content creators.

I had to discuss with a close friend, whether I should reply, just to get it off my chest and feel a sense of support and validation coming from someone I respected.

I had to feel myself getting angry and consider the consequences of the argument, would his friends all rally around and insult me personally, would they send me harsh, threatening messages about my appearance, my sexuality, my gender? Would relationships with mutual friends be complicated?

Was it my duty to respond as a form of activism? Would I feel better or worse once I pressed the enter key? Would it be better to prioritise my own mental health? I don’t know, and as of yet I haven’t acted, but it puts the poster in a category in my brain: can’t be trusted, ignorant of important issues, impulsive with misplaced self-importance and limited restraint, despite vastly empty knowledge of the significance and complexity of the societal structures that contribute to human suffering.

All in the amygdala (and in the world). Spreading the word about the internet community “the red pill” and it’s effect on actual living humans. Content warning: abuse, PTSD, the red pill

I just saw on article about “the red pill” shared by The Body Is Not An Apology on my Facebook feed and my body went limp around my over laboured heart as the violence came flooding back.
It was difficult to write this post, had to lay on my side and practice breathing slowly and with conviction.

When people make fun of content warnings and safe spaces it reeks of a lucky life untouched by trauma and the after effects and it quite heavily annoys me as it undermines my experience of life as someone with PTSD. Either that or they’re just ignorant of the meaning and purpose of procedures that help preserve people’s choice to be exposed, or not, to content that might make them go to a scary place.

If you don’t know what the red pill is, the article is here. I haven’t read it because I can’t but I trust the source that shared it, The Body is Not an Apology.  (NB: If you need a resource I would recommend this website and it’s affirmations of “radical self-love”.)

When I get like this I have to assert my own worth to myself as my body aches and tires from the vivid muscle memory of abuse.

The doctrine of the red pill is one of dehumanisation and allows people to be humiliated, manipulated and mistreated at the hands of people they should be able to feel safe with- intimate partners. It creates a place where boastful discussion of abuse is met with applause and fraternal approval, and it normalises disturbing notions and behaviour.

I’ve had to talk about it in therapy before but I feel it is widely unknown about even by professionals in mental health, I’ve had to explain what it is more than once to counsellors.

Anyway, I suppose I want people to know about the damage things like this can cause because the Internet and groups that form or congregate there are part of our real life and they have real life consequences on real life brains and bodies and the daily lives of human beings.

I feel vulnerable writing this so I just want to do a little heart to share the love ❤ . Remember that your worth is not affected by the things you suffer through.

H x

P.S. The amygdala is the place in the brain that is responsible for fight/flight and freeze responses, it sort of processes trauma and makes your body act and feel as if you are in a dangerous situation even if you are not.

It does this by recognising flags such as particular sights or sounds that remind one of previous experiences of trauma and fear. It works to help us survive but it’s response is often unneeded and excessive in the case of PTSD.